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Nine Willmar gardens open for viewing

Tribune photos by Donna Middleton Steve Cederstrom has espaliered an apple tree next to the west wall of his house. He's also added a potting shed and decorates the fence around the patio. (Tribune photo by Donna Middleton)

City gardens are featured in the 2009 Garden Tour presented by the Kandiyohi County Horticulture Society.

The free tour is set for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, all in Willmar. It was organized by Sandra Pierce with mentoring from veteran tour planner Donna Middleton.

Finding gardens always is an experience.

Eunice Pearson is back for a repeat performance. She has completely redone her yard since the first open house tour 10 years ago. She has also expanded on her small lot by sharing gardens with next-door neighbor Bob Pelkey. These two gardens are on the north side of Willmar, across from Northside Park.

Two of the gardeners in southwest Willmar declined when originally asked in 2003.

Donna Hoffman was teaching evening summer school but said, "Ask us again -- after I retire." I am pleased to say she is now retired and she and her husband, Al, said "yes." Their garden was the one most often suggested when we were planning a tour.

Steve Cederstrom was re-doing his entire yard six years ago, but he also agreed this time. He built a storage/potting shed this summer and his espaliered apple tree is the only one I have ever seen in Willmar; that is -- trained to grow flat against a support (as a wall).

Kaye Jacobson was an easy addition to the tour. She volunteered. She claims to garden for herself and hopes you will enjoy her yard.

Corby Newman has been doing more gardening on his corner lot since retirement. He also helps to maintain the memory garden on the south side of Vinje Lutheran Church in the entrance circle; it will also be open Tuesday night.

The Rev. Steve Verhelst was planting at the Church of St. Mary one evening when approached to open his garden. I started by asking, "When are you going on vacation?" Since Monday is the church's golf tournament, he said he would be in town and he readily agreed. He has spruced up the foundation plantings with easy care perennials and shrubs around his house. His containers -- overflowing with plants -- fit with a priest's mobile lifestyle.

There are two "public gardens" on this tour. The 32 plots at the community garden located at the Willmar Community Center, formerly the Senior Citizen's Center, will be open, along with the YMCA grounds and Day Camp garden.

Finally, my husband, Rand, and I will have our garden open for the third time. It is hard to ask others to open their yards if you are not willing to do so. Since 2003 we have removed most of the grass and turned the front yard and boulevards into gardens.

Maps will be available on the day of the tour, held rain or shine, at all locations. You may want to take a water bottle, umbrella and bug spray. This particular tour sets up well for those who live in Willmar and like to ride bicycle.

1. Eunice Pearson, 501 12th St. N.W., and Bob Pelkey, 509 12th St. NW

Over the last two years, Eunice added hardscape to her yard. The corner house sits well above the street. She has a terrace along the street side, a backyard patio and terraced beds. The lot line between Pearson and Bob Pelkey is blurred with several beds straddling the line, including a large perennial bed between the houses, a vegetable garden (Eunice's), retaining walls for the garage (Bob's) and more. Bob has many shade plants and mows both yards. Eunice was on the first tour 10 years ago, but it is not the same yard.

2. Al and Donna Hoffman, 921 Becker Ave. S.W.

The corner house is watched by 10th Street drivers year-round for the season-changing gardens along the house and around the trees. The old "wagon" out front gushes with color in the summer and is also decorated for the winter. Behind the arbor gate is a small world -- a patio with a side yard garden and fountain -- delightful details wherever you look. Al made the arbor and gate, old-fashioned screen doors and other details on the house.

3. Rand and Donna Middleton, 617 8th St. S.W.

In the past five years, the Middletons removed the grass from most of the front yard and boulevard and planted shade plants and lilies. Two years ago the front changed again when the city removed the large elm tree (along with a 12-year-old maple when the elm fell). This past winter the 70-year-old walnut and a 25-year-old hackberry had to be removed in the semi-wild backyard overrun by creeping Charlie and rabbits. There is an Accolade elm on the boulevard the city planted. It is supposed to be Dutch elm disease resistant. The "Hedberg Rock" is bordered by golden creeping jenny.

4. Kaye Jacobson, 701 15th St. S.W.

Kaye's front-yard garden is the former driveway. It contains shade and sun plants along with an "angel" for each of her siblings who have died. On Willmar Fest weekend the large tree next to the garage came down in the wind and she now has lots of sun in the back yard. It gave her a chance to plant petunias next to the stump.

5. Steve Cederstrom, 1424 16th St. S.W.

When Steve was asked to be on the tour six years ago, he was just starting to redo his entire garden. He declined; now he is gung-ho. The large bed on the south side of his yard is sun plants on the outside of the curve and shade plants on the inside. Inside the white picket fence, there is a large patio with a "Sweet 16" apple tree espaliered against the west wall. This summer, he built a "potting" shed and storage building

6. Fr. Steve Verhelst, 1000 13th Ave. S.W.

Since he is just a long-term "renter" at the house on the corner of 10th Street and 13th Avenue, while serving as pastor at St. Mary's in Willmar, he has many unique pots he can take with him. The backyard patio is surrounded with overflowing containers. He has spruced up the foundation plants and added the beginnings of a hedge with long-lasting perennials, designed for easy upkeep. He also planted the containers, hanging baskets and the angel fountain garden at St. Mary's Church.

7. Corby Newman, 1140 Florence Lane S.W.

The small corner lot on Willmar Avenue and Florence Lane is a restful place to stop. The centerpiece of the backyard is the picnic table he gave his late wife, Mary. He also helps to maintain the sidewalk circle "memory" garden on the south side of Vinje Lutheran Church, across the street, which will also be open.

8. YMCA Day Camp, 1000 Lakeland Dr. S.E.

The YMCA is featuring the Day Camp garden that is off Olena Avenue. The garden is maintained by day campers with Thursday being "Garden Day." YMCA employee Tim Daniels and volunteer gardeners, Mona Bonham and Doreen Mages, spearhead the other YMCA volunteers. They sell the vegetables at Becker Market with the proceeds going to YMCA International for a site in the Dominican Republic. Across from the garden, Daniels has planted wildflowers around the water retention pond. Elsewhere, he has roses and a selection of Stella 'd oro's that were originally purchased at the KCHS April plant sale.

9. Community Garden, Willmar Community Center

The Community Garden at the Willmar Community Center has 32 plots. Most gardeners use it to grow vegetables and pay $10 for a 10- by 15-foot plot in a sunny spot. LeAnne Freeman of Willmar Community Education and Recreation is in charge. Some of the gardeners will also be on hand to answer questions.

Donna Middleton

Coordinates calendars/listings (Church, Good Neighbors, Arts, Around Our Region) along with School and Students and handles letters to the editor. Began working part time at West Central Daily Tribune in 1975, working evenings in the sports department. Moved to news department fulltime days in September 1994. Married to retired Tribune sportswriter/photographer Rand Middleton. 2 grown children.

(320) 214-4341