This year marks the 18th anniversary of one of Dunn County’s most popular events – Stepping Stones’ Garden Tour.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, visitors will be treated to a panoply of lovely and unique gardens guaranteed to delight all their senses.
“Stepping Stones feeds, shelters, and provides support services to people in need,” said executive director Katherine Dutton.
“The Garden Tour feeds people more figuratively with a huge helping of beauty and joy in nature. We hope you can join us as we ‘dish up’ a day to savor and, by your support, help us continue to be able to stock the pantry shelves with literal food!”
About the gardens
Six Menomonie area gardens are included in this year’s route. All of the hosts will be on hand to answer questions as they welcome the day’s special guests to their lovingly tended outside homes.
When Jen and Tim Engel moved to their eastside Victorian home nearly 20 years ago, their corner lot didn’t feature much more than a few green hostas under five large black walnut trees. It wasn’t long before they discovered the difficulty of growing plants and grass near walnut trees.
“Determined to have a beautiful space to raise our boys, we began to amend and change our landscape to create the cottage-style garden and relaxed feeling we have today,” Jen recalls. “Several perennials, shrubs and trees have become the bones of our gardens with sitting areas for every part of a summer day. We are self-taught gardeners who have learned a lot over our years about the importance of planning, preparing, timing and patience!”
Yvonne and George Nelson purchased the property between their home and the Engels. They admit it was a struggle to get rid of the weeds that came in with the fill when the long-neglected house was removed from the lot.
“We tried to design the garden so there would be something blooming all season long,” the couple said. “We invite you to wander down the brick paths to see what is in bloom. Benches and chairs invite you to rest while you look. Some of the gardens are shady, while others get full sun. Our pond collects rain water from the roof and attracts birds to play in the water.”
According to Sue and Brian Wheeler, their large garden “features a pond and stream along with an abundant variety of annuals, perennials, hostas and shrubs bordered by a wooded area.”
Vicky and Scott Sinz say their eclectic garden was born of a desire to fill an empty nest after the kids left home. The result is a unique combination of color and texture that meanders through the entire lot: “The flowers became beloved children to nurture, provide for and protect. Every turn offers a new perspective on common well-known plants. Some are left to intrude upon their family members and others jump to add color to another grouping of siblings!”
The Sinz’s goal is to delight the eye with shabby chic and “imperfectly perfect” metal art and repurposed structures that are scattered throughout the flowers to add depth and dimension along with the recent additions of a rain barrel, water fountain and a painting on the back fence.
The spring after Steve Friede and Sharon Smith moved to Menomonie in 2012, they embarked on a journey of hardscaping, landscaping and recreating portions of their yard that remains a work in progress. Awaiting the visitor is “a bit of whimsy, a touch of Asian, perennials, annuals, yard art and a pretty garden shed.
The highlight of what are predominately shade gardens are Steve’s Bonsai trees that illustrate the Asian art of cultivating tiny trees in a pot. For many years, he has enjoyed the patient and relaxing art of Bonsai and is looking forward to sharing his passion with demonstrations throughout the day of the tour.
Three distinct types of terrain characterize Sandy and Greg Winter’s garden. In the flat and sunny front yard, Sandy has designed “a cottage-type garden that includes year-round pines and flowering shrubs.”
Then there’s a three-year-old hillside garden planted with flowering shrubs, slow-growing pines of different sizes, shapes and colors. Shaded by huge pine trees, the third garden is populated mostly by hostas in every shape and size, along with a few ferns, hydrangeas and astilbes thrown in for color.
Ticket booklets include garden addresses and directions. There’s a suggested route, but participants can start at any garden and tour at their leisure, visiting all six or as many as they choose.
Silent auction, Garden Market
Each garden site will feature a silent auction. Among an abundance of unique items – many created and donated by local artists and craftsfolk – on offer to the highest bidder are watercolors, jewelry, garden items, gift baskets and more.
Featuring a wide variety of plants and other outdoor items, the annual Garden Market will once again take place outside Stepping Stones (1602 Stout Road) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 27-28, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the day of the tour.