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June 16, 2012

Howard County Master Gardeners Association’s Garden Stroll returns Saturday

Just to be clear, Marian Cable said, the focus of this year’s  Howard County Master Gardeners Association’s Garden Stroll is the gardens.

The stroll is, and always will be, about plants, she said.

But this year, the group has a little something new in store.

“We’ve got some stuff going on you’re not going to believe,” she said. “We’ve kind of gone all out this year.”

The annual peek into the private gardens of the area’s top gardeners returns Saturday with a few new surprises — including a bonus garden, a contest, lectures, music, plant sales and more. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at seven spots throughout Howard County.

“We’ve always had good strolls, but this is taking it a little different direction,” said Cable, chairwoman of the event. Woven through the fabric of this year’s stroll is a story-book theme, and each garden will feature characters from favorite story books.

This year’s stroll includes the traditional gardens to visit throughout the day Saturday but also includes an eighth bonus garden, featuring a 600 varieties of daylilies, that can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 7 only. Ticket stubs to Saturday’s event will get participants into the bonus garden for free, or a special ticket only for the bonus garden is available for $5.

Visitors to Saturday’s gardens will also have the chance to compete in a treasure hunt-style contest contained on the back of the event program, matching a clue to the garden in which it was seen. Contest entries can be left at any of the gardens on Saturday’s stroll or at the welcome center. The first ballot pulled with all the correct answers will receive a $350 landscape design package by Sabrina Parnham of Belle Louise Designs.

Cable said visitors Saturday are in for a wide variety of garden types and plants themselves.

“You’re going to see a lot of different varieties of plants,” she said. “We are not all about daylilies and hostas.”

The Kings’ garden features a raised vegetable garden, and the Reeds’ garden features a prehistoric species of redwood.

Kent and Jeanette Land’s home features a special fairy garden with handcrafted birdhouse, and what Cable calls a “Hobbit house,” cut right into the hillside.

“It’s right out of ‘Lord of the Rings,’” she said.

Cable said everywhere you turn on the Lands’ property, there’s another charming piece or special addition that speaks to the increasingly popular fairy garden theme.

“This is a great project,” she said. “We’ve found people are doing them with their grandkids.”

The wealth of knowledge at this year’s stroll will be another draw for plant lovers. Garden owners and master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions throughout the day, and the bonus garden on July 7 will feature a full day’s worth of lectures.

“If you study gardening all your life, when you die, you’ll still only know 1 percent of what’s out there,” Cable said. “It’s so vast.”

As always the association will host a plan stale at the event’s welcome center, First Christian Church, located at the corner of Malfalfa Road and Sycamore Street. The First Christian Church Mission Team will also offer breakfast and lunch at the welcome center, and students of Becky’s Art Barn will offer their garden art for sale.

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