Home & Garden

Enter secret gardens: Academy of Children's Theatre tours 7 area gardens

A treehouse, a riot of colorful roses framed by a headboard and a hillside tamed by terraces are just a few of the highlights of the Academy of Children's Theatre Secret Garden Tour on June 13-14.

The seven gardens on the tour range from a sprawling third of an acre to a tidy hedged yard to the flower and herb beds at a Richland winery.

"The gardens on the tour this year reflect a wide variety of styles and designs. No matter what your taste, you're sure to find something, some idea that you'll want to go home and re-create," said Linda Hoffman, the academy's executive director.

The treehouse, along with a fountain, grape arbor, raised flower beds and many, many hanging baskets are all the work of Kelly Bryan of Richland.

She and her husband, Rick, live on a third of an acre in one of the older government homes.

Gardening is a family project. Rick does the vegetable garden, fruit trees and berries while Kelly loves flowers, especially rhododendrons.

"We're always taking out grass. It's just green concrete," she said.

About 90 percent of the lot is backyard, she said. It backs up to the levee and bike path along the Columbia River, so it's a very public garden. Yet even if you've seen it from the bike path, you may not realize their garden also is home to a rabbit and four Rhode Island Red hens.

Hedges surround Rob and Judy DiPiazza's home in Rancho Reata in Kennewick, but they still didn't block the wind. They've spent years creating an oasis with rainbow-hued flowerbeds out front and a peaceful koi pond in back.

Others on the tour -- like Tamra and Leon Mathews of Pasco -- enjoy adding new color to their landscaping every year.

And Kay Hayes of Pasco sees design possibilities where others see junk. Three old doors provide a rustic screen in one of her garden sitting areas. A headboard frames a bed of fragrant roses in another.

If you're looking for ideas on how to sculpt a hillside, check out Juanita and Allen Johnson's landscape. They live on a spacious, but multilevel, lot in Country Ridge.

"We've been in our home over 20 years, so some of the landscaping is quite mature, especially the trees. One section of the yard looks like a mini forest and is more shaded, while other sections of the yard are wide open," she said.

Quite a few of the trees and shrubs are identified, "at least most of the more exotic ones," Johnson said.

A "stream" of river rock runs around the side of the house, and in the back there's a section where Johnson is working on a garden with an Oriental theme.

Two of the featured gardens are open for viewing year-round. One surrounds Anthony's restaurant in Richland, and the gardeners who care for the landscaping will be on hand during the tour to answer questions on the various shrubs, perennials and annuals.

The second is at Bookwalter Winery in Richland, where Jean Bookwalter has created an oasis for her family and visitors. Make it your last stop on the tour, present your stamped ticket and you'll get half off on a glass of wine.

Two artists -- Lisa Hill of Richland and Janice McIntyre of Kennewick -- also will be displaying their watercolors in gardens on the tour. One of Hill's paintings of hot pinkish-purple rhododendron blooms called In The Pink will be raffled during the event.

The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets cost $12 and include a map to make finding the gardens easy.

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," Hoffman said.

Purchase advance tickets at three Richland locations: Beaver Bark and Rock, 607 Aaron Drive; Bookwalter Winery, 894 Tulip Lane; and Groovy Tuesdays, the Academy's thrift store.

You'll find Groovy Tuesdays on the Williams Avenue side of the Uptown shopping center.

On the days of the tour, there will be a handful of tickets available at each garden. "So if a friend wants to join you at the last minute, chances are good you'll find a ticket to buy," Hoffman said.

Proceeds from the tour go toward the group's arts education programs, which include classes, workshops and camps for youths 31/2 years old through high school.

The nonprofit theater group presents four plays a year that involve hundreds of youths in the production -- from script writing to acting, lighting to stage managing. "We work with literally thousands of children and teens every year," Hoffman said.

For more information on the tour or the academy, call the office between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 943-6027.

Or go towww.academyofchildrenstheatre.org.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com.

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