KENNEWICK -- The musical sound of water cascading over falls, the serenity of shady gardens and the perfume and color of an acre of perennials are all part of this weekend's Secret Garden Tour.
The tour, the 14th organized by the Academy of Children's Theatre, is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
One of the six gardens on the tour was started 38 years ago by Bob and Trish Martell of Kennewick. It features many mature shade trees with a few sunny areas for flowers. Meander along the walkway from the front, around the house and into the backyard where there is a 5,000-gallon koi pond and waterfall.
"I came home one day and here was my son -- who's a landscaper -- digging this huge hole in my back yard. He just grinned and said, 'Mom, I'm just enlarging your pond for you,' " she said. "From the look of the hole and the size of the mound of dirt next to it, I thought he was digging a lake."
It's not quite a lake, but the Martells and their family enjoy watching the koi while relaxing on the pergola-shaded patio.
Don't leave before checking out the extensive fruit, berry and vegetable garden tucked behind the backyard fence.
Next door, is Ina and Tut Hikido's acre of perennials.
"We took all the grass out in 2001 when we had that drought," said Ina. "Looking at all that dirt, I just thought perennials and began planting. It just snowballed from there."
"We love it. No mowing, no fertilizing, no hassles."
Ina Hikido said she started out making one bed of yellow plants, another of lavender, a third with white.
"But plants grow where they want, so I gave that up, so now I have a mixture of lilies, roses, poppies, foxglove, larkspur, hostas and more. It's a lot of work but more enjoyable than lawn. I'm usually out there all day," she said.
One of the Richland gardens on the tour is Jan Jordan's. She's a longtime member of the Mid-Columbia Koi & Pond Club and has multiple ponds and water features scattered throughout the yard.
Jordan also is selling some extra pond plants and will be happy to share her tips and secrets to successful water gardening.
Tickets for the tour are $12 and include a map to make finding the gardens easy.
Owners of the gardens will be on hand during the tour. If you want to know more about a plant or how the garden was laid out, be sure to ask.
You're welcome to tour some gardens one day and finish the tour the next.
"But the tickets are good for only one visit per garden, so take your time at each one," Paris Rodgers said.
While at the gardens, be sure to buy a $5 ticket, or more, for the drawings.
One package, from Heritage Nursery and Garden Center in Kennewick, has everything you need to create your own secret garden nook -- breakfast bar and stool, arbor and gazing ball. There also are four one-day passes to Disneyland and a basket of summer yard games.
Proceeds from the tour go toward ACT's mortgage and arts education programs, which include classes, workshops and camps for kids ages 3 1/2 years through high school.
"The fundraisers we do help us to keep our tuition down, which enables more children and teens to participate," Rodgers said.
The nonprofit group presents four to seven plays a year that involve hundreds of students in script writing, acting lighting and stage managing. Students gain life skills and theater experience.
Tickets are available at Heritage Nursery and Garden Center, 2816 W. 27th Ave., Kennewick, through Sunday.
Extra tickets also will be available at each garden.
For more information, call 943-6027 or go to www.academyofchildrenstheatre.org.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com