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Pots of marigolds or geraniums all lined up, rows of squared-off privet hedges, or little plastic pieces of “garden art” strategically placed throughout a yard don’t typically result in the kind of garden people want to tour.

What does make up such a garden is a space that’s uniquely inviting.

It might have a wide variety of flowers at different heights and in varying textures and colors; or maybe it features garden beds in an array of shapes and sizes, perhaps with themes.

Because gardening is such a popular pastime, there are plenty of striking spaces throughout the state. The good news is, you don’t have to hunt them out yourself.

Every year members of garden organizations band together to hold tours featuring some of the most beautiful gardens in their areas.

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From Japanese zen to wildflower gardens

Rosemary Stehlik, a committee member who does publicity for the Racine Garden Club’s Summer Magic Garden Tour on July 8, said gardens on her tour are far from average and don’t just contain “your basic annuals and perennials.”

“We have both small city gardens as well as well as homes that have large spaces that are filled with flowers,” she said, “and we have a variety of inspiring themed gardens, including a formal European garden, a native wildflower prairie, all-American gardens with our favorite perennials and annuals, and a Japanese zen garden.”

She said another garden on the tour has a wide ravine filled with hostas, and that there are several properties with koi ponds, and one that has metal garden art.

“There’s also a garden with succulents in containers, rose gardens, medicinal herb gardens and a garden that has beehives,” she said.

History in full bloom

At the Vernon Evangelical Lutheran Church’s tour June 30, gardens at historical areas will be featured, said Carol Mainwaring, who handles publicity for this tour.

“This year we have a garden that is a 1920s resort property on Phantom Lake, and tour goers will be able to see beautiful gardens as well as some of the original cottages that have been lovingly restored,” she said. 

“In several places there are traces of old flower gardens that have inspired the current gardens. (There are) paths throughout the grounds and a large piece of garden art that is surrounded by plants and a sitting wall.”

She said the property spans three acres and that the gardens are extensive.

“They are cottage-type gardens — old-fashioned gardens — and the owners worked with plant expert Betty Adelman of Heritage Flower Farm (in Waterford) to add heirloom plants,” she said.

“We also have a historic site that’s in the city of Mukwonago where the homeowners turned a lot that had been empty for 40 years into a beautiful new home with extensive gardens that include an old two-sided mason brick wall as a tribute to the past. 

“Those gardens are filled with a lot of different kinds of plants, and there are many native plants that are unique.”

South Milwaukee has ponds, artist

Patti Bergeson, who heads the South Milwaukee Historical Society Garden Tour on June 23, said each garden on her tour has a different look this year.

“One of the homes has a backyard with two koi ponds, a gazebo and a beautiful patio, and it’s filled with all different kinds of flowers,” she said.

“We have one garden that is created by an artist. She loves to plant flowers and she paints flowers and will have her artwork in her gardens for sale. She also has hand painted pillows on benches and makes unique garden art. It’s a small yard, but has lots of charm and character.”

She said another garden that tour goers will want to see is a hosta garden that has been on the tour previously, but is being included again because it’s so popular.

“It’s a beautiful hosta garden that has more than 200 hostas, and the homeowners also run a hosta business, so people can see all the different kinds of hostas and how they look in a garden and then buy them for their own gardens,” she said.

Garden tours to fit everyone’s taste, location

Here are some tours happening this year. In some cases, websites won’t be updated until closer to the date of the tour. For more photos of gardens on tour, go to jsonline.com.

JUNE

Palmyra Annual Garden Walk: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 16. Four gardens, plus the Environmental Learning Center, located in Palmyra and Eagle. Tickets are $10 at the Powers Memorial Library, where the walk begins. For information, see palmyra.lib.wi.us or call (262) 495-4605.

10th Annual South Milwaukee Historical Society Garden Tour: Tour seven South Milwaukee gardens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 23. At one garden, hostas will be sold. There will also be garden items by local artisans on sale at the South Milwaukee Historical Society Museum (717 Milwaukee Ave.) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a plant demonstration at 9 a.m. by gardening expert Casey Lynn Lawrence titled “Container Gardening with Vegetables and Flowering Annuals.” 

Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the tour at the Historical Society. The first 50 people to buy tickets the day of the tour will receive a gift, and those who donate to The Dementia Foundation of America at the McKendry’s Garden will receive a voucher for a free pink rose. For information, call (414) 768-9549, see southmilwaukeehistory.org, or e-mail pbergeson55@gmail.com.

Menomonee Falls Community League 2018 Garden Tour: Tour six gardens in the Menomonee Falls area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 23. Advance tickets are $8 at some area businesses. Day-of-tour tickets are $10 at the Shady Lane Nursery, W172-N7388 Shady Lane, Menomonee Falls, and the gardens. There also will be raffles and exhibits. Call (414) 581-0352, see communityleague.com/gardentour.html or e-mail cleague@communityleague.com.

Oshkosh Garden Walk: Noon to 5 p.m. June 24. Five private gardens to view with owners on hand to answer questions. Tickets are $8 in advance at some area businesses, $10 the day of the event at any of the gardens. Free for those under 18 years old. Proceeds support local gardening projects. For information, see oshkoshgardenclub.org or call (920) 237-0416.

Vernon Evangelical Lutheran Church Eighth Annual Garden Tour: Tour four gardens within driving distance of the town of Mukwonago. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 30. Tours start at the church, at S90-W27550 National Ave., Mukwonago. Tickets are $8 at the church the day of the tour. For advance tickets or more information, call the church office at (262) 363-7131 or see vernon-elca.org.

JULY

Riverwest 10th Secret Garden Tour: Tour 17 gardens in the Riverwest neighborhood from noon to 4 p.m. July 8. Tickets/maps are $5 the day of the tour at the Riverwest Farmers Market in Garden Park at the corner of Locust and Bremen streets. Children under 16 admitted free. Call (414) 562-9025, or see riverwestsecretgardentour.com.

Racine Garden Club’s Summer Magic Garden Tour: Driving tour of seven gardens in the Racine area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 8. Owners will be on hand to give information. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the tour. Advance tickets available at area businesses. Day-of-tour tickets at the gardens. Call (262) 637-5751 or see racinegardenclub.org.

Olbrich’s Home Garden Tour: Tour seven gardens throughout Maple Bluff and the historic Tenney-Lapham neighborhood of Madison from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 13 and 14. Tickets are $13 for Olbrich members, $15 for nonmembers at Olbrich. Tickets will also be available at one garden the day of the tour. For locations, see olbrich.org or call (608) 246-4550.

The 17th Annual Garden Walk, sponsored by the North Central Wisconsin Master Gardeners Association Inc.: Tour six gardens in the Stettin area of Wausau from 1 to 7 p.m. July 13, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14. Tickets, at $10, can be purchased at any of the gardens during the event. Advance tickets will be available after July 2 at the Marathon County UW-Extension office, 212 River Drive, in Wausau during regular office hours. For more information, see the organization’s Facebook page or call (715) 571-4757.

24th Annual Greendale Garden Gazing Walking Tour: A free walking tour of more than five gardens in Greendale’s historic B Section. From 8 a.m. to noon July 14. Tour starts at the gazebo in the village center, where there will also be a green market and other activities. Call (414) 421-3362 or e-mail janseitz53@yahoo.com.

22nd Annual Sheboygan Area Garden Walk: Driving tour of nine gardens in the Sheboygan area from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 14. Tickets are $10 at the gardens the day of the tour. No strollers or pets. There will be quilts on display at one garden and floral bouquets for sale at another. For information, call (920) 946-3883, email gardengalsue@charter.net, or see sheboygangardeners.com.

Port Washington Garden Club Garden Walk: Cooler Near the Lake: See six gardens in the Port Washington area along the shores of Lake Michigan at the north edge of town. All are within walking distance of each other, and owners will be on site to answer questions. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14.

Tickets are $5 the day of the event at the gardens. No charge for students or children. Proceeds benefit community projects and scholarships. For information, see portgardenclub.org or call (262) 284-7451.

2018 Hartford Lioness Club’s Garden Walk: Tour six gardens in Hartford. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14. Tickets with maps are $7 in advance, $8 the day of the tour at the gardens. Call (262) 336-8284 or see hartfordlioness.com.

Roots and Branches Gardens of West Bend Tour: Tour six gardens in the West Bend area. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14 and noon to 3 p.m. July 15. Tickets are $8 in advance at some area businesses or though the website. Day-of-tour tickets are $9 at the garden art sale at the corner of main and vine. For information, call (262) 335-5083, or see rootsbranches.org.

10th Annual Cedarburg Garden Walk: Tour four Cedarburg-area gardens from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14 and 15. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the tour. Advance tickets at some area businesses, day-of-tour tickets at the gardens. For more information, including garden locations see cedarburgwomansclub.org or call (262) 387-0192.

6th Annual Eastside Milwaukee Garden Tour: A free tour of more than 20 gardens in the area bordered by North Ave., Lake Michigan, Edgewood Ave. and the Milwaukee River. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15. Maps available at the North Point Lighthouse, the Urban Ecology Center, and Downer Ave. Hardware. Master gardeners will be at the lighthouse to answer questions. Presented by the Eastside Milwaukee Community Council. For more information see eastsidemke.org call (414) 467-2543.

22nd Annual Agnesian HealthCare Foundation Annual Garden Walk and Art Fair: Tour six gardens in the Fond du Lac area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15. Tickets are $15 in advance or at the gardens the day of the tour. Tickets include admission to an art fair at one of the gardens. See agnesian.com/gardenwalk or call (920) 926-4959. 

Elm Grove and Mayfair Park Garden Clubs Tour le Jardin: See five gardens in a compact area in Wauwatosa and Elm Grove from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21. Tickets are $8 in advance available by mail through July 8 at some area businesses in Elm Grove. Day-of-tour tickets are $10 at the Sunset Playhouse, Elm Grove. There will be plein-air artists at some homes, and garden and home-related products and plants at the playhouse. For information or locations, call (414) 828-2583, see elmgrovegardenclub.com e-mail tourlejardin@gmail.com.

Greenfield Beautification Committee: A Day at Radler’s Botanic Garden and Rosarium: Self-guided tour of Will Radler’s garden. He is the breeder of the world famous Knock Out roses and will open his 2-acre rosarium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21. No entry after 3 p.m.

Tickets are $8 per person or $15 for two people. Tickets available at the garden or online at gbcinfo.org/news-events. The website includes a map of the garden. Staff will be on hand to answer questions. For information, see the website or call (414) 545-3381.

Oconomowoc Woman’s Club Annual Garden Tour: Tour six Oconomowoc-area gardens from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 21. Rain date July 22.  Tickets are $12 in advance at some area businesses. Day-of-tour tickets are $15 at the gardens. Call (262) 443-0251. 

Lakeside Garden Tour: Visit about 20 gardens on Milwaukee’s east side from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 29. Meet gardeners who designed and created unique small spaces. Free, self-guided tour. Maps available a week before the tour at 2918 N. Maryland Ave., or at Downer True Value, 2629 N Downer Ave. For information, see Lakeside Garden Tour on Facebook or call (414) 331-1270.

58th Annual Door County House and Garden Walk: Tour five homes and their gardens in the Door County area. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 31. Advance tickets are $30, $35 the day of the event. Sponsored by the Door County Medical Center auxiliary. All proceeds go to the medical center. For information, including advance tickets, call (920) 746-1071 and ask for Robin.

AUGUST

Aquatica’s 18th Annual Water Garden Bus Tour: Tour about eight water gardens in Southeastern Wisconsin by motor coach from noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 4. Tour lasts about five hours. Beverages, snacks and dinner provided. Meet at Aquatica Retail Pond Shoppe, 227 James St., Wales. 

Tickets are $45, or $40 if you bring an item the day of the tour that is listed on the “Wildlife in Need Center’s wish list.” Proceeds donated to the center. For information call (262) 968-5540 or see aquaticaponds.com.

Dahlia Society of Wisconsin Tour: A free tour of dahlia gardens in the Milwaukee County area from 1 p.m. to about 4 p.m. Aug. 19. For information on the number of gardens and their locations, call (414) 327-1759 closer to the date of the tour.

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