7 homes in Oakwood, Kettering, Washington Twp. part of Garden Gems Tour

A “She Shed,” a giant chess board game and lots of unique foliage will be on display at this year’s Garden Gems Tour presented by The Garden Club of Dayton.

The tour has been wowing lovers of plants, beautiful backyards and porches since 2019. This is the fifth year for the event as the tour was canceled for 2020 due to COVID. The Garden Club just celebrated its 100th year in 2023.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8 and includes seven homes in the Oakwood, Kettering and Washington Twp. areas that patrons can tour at their leisure throughout the day. According to Lisa Reeder, chair of the 2024 Garden Gems Tour, the homes are chosen by word-of-mouth.

“Someone will say ‘you should go see this garden,’ and we’ll take a look at it. We definitely want a variety of large and small because we like to show that you don’t have to have an estate to have a wonderful garden,” Reeder said.

There are some specific criteria for the homes, which include water features, outdoor living spaces, adult spaces, artwork or sculpture, native plants, horticulture, pollinators, outstanding plants, manicured gardens, estate-like homes and family outdoor space. One of the homeowners on the tour this year, Candace Holthouse, said the garden needs to draw people into it.

“Coming in and seeing a winding path is a big deal. Having different zones or rooms they talk about that you can divide. It makes it more interesting by nature to have a sloped yard. Because when you look at just a flat yard, it’s hard to break it up or make layers,” Holthouse said.

Being able to enjoy the homes and gardens doesn’t mean a person has to be a plant buff. Holthouse said she got into gardening later in life. Her family was more into farming and planting vegetables. However, that didn’t stop her.

“I’ve always liked to be outside. I like digging in the dirt and making mud pies. I’m not a big studier of plants. I like more garden design. I like reading books about French garden design and British garden design,” Holthouse said.

During the tour, patrons will learn a lot about different types of plants. While someone doesn’t have to be a gardener to enjoy the tour, Susan Riordan, member of the Garden Club, said that there are many benefits to gardening and just being in nature.

“My husband always says that he can tell when I’ve been in the backyard. It just makes me so happy when spring comes and you can really start putting things out in your yard and making it a beautiful place to look at and also to come outside and listen to the sounds around,” Riordan said.

One important aspect of the tour is the inclusion of native plants. According to the U.S. Forest Service, native plants are “indigenous terrestrial and aquatic species that have evolved and occur naturally in a particular region, ecosystem and habitat.” Riordan, who is also a Master Gardener, said non-native plants can take over a garden.

“If it’s native it is going to be a more controlled habitat. It’s going to be more conducive to local animals that want to nest in it and it’s just going to be almost more predictable as far as how it’s going to grow,” Riordan said.

Last year, Reeder said around 700 people walked the tour. She advises it is best to create a route and start early. Anyone on the tour should be entering their final garden by 2:30 p.m. And of course, good weather is something she hopes for.

“I’m confident that our gardens are going to be enjoyed and then just a good turnout. The goal of this is obviously to enjoy the gardens, but it’s also to raise money to give back to the community,” Reeder said.

The Garden Club helps the community in many ways through grants and the work they do in the community. The club works to maintain the Marie Aull Tribute Garden at Carillon Park and the Wright brothers’ gravesite at Woodland. Recently, the club awarded grants to various local groups for their efforts.

Tickets for the event are $30 per person in advance and $35 per person paid in cash on the day of the tour. Addresses for the homes will be provided to those who purchase tickets online once they download the tickets and print them out. A booklet with the gardens’ addresses and a map will also be provided. Mobile tickets will not be accepted.

The event will take place rain or shine, and no refunds will be given. Some gardens are not wheelchair accessible, and some will have stairs and uneven terrain. It is advised to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. Although the gardens are close in proximity, it is recommended that visitors plan to drive from garden to garden.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.gardenclubdayton.org.

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