Garden lover’s delight

Sue and Warren Fessenden’s garden will be featured in this year’s tour. Their garden boasts easy-care, fast-growing grasses, shrubs and perennials, a garden shed and a sophisticated composting system. - Breeana Laughlin
Sue and Warren Fessenden’s garden will be featured in this year’s tour. Their garden boasts easy-care, fast-growing grasses, shrubs and perennials, a garden shed and a sophisticated composting system.
— image credit: Breeana Laughlin

There are private gardens on South Whidbey so splendid that one has to resist the temptation to knock on the owner’s door and ask, “How’d you do that?”

An upcoming garden tour is giving the community a chance to check these gardens out without experiencing the awkwardness of being an overzealous stranger. Instead, they’ll be welcomed with enthusiasm.

The Whidbey Island Garden Tour opens five private gardens to the public, each encompassing a variety of distinctive traits.

The gardens vary from serene to radiant. They include features such as flowers and shrubs, sculpture and rock gardens.

The garden tour doubles as a good cause. It was established as a non-profit group in 1996. In 10 years, the tour has raised more than $165,000 to gather money for groups that work to improve the island’s common habitat.

Sue Fessenden has gone to every one of the annual garden tours.

“There’s some fabulous gardens that I’ve seen over the years,” she said. “There’s always different kinds of gardens, and it’s always fun to see what other people have done.”

This year Fessenden and her husband Warren will have their garden on display for the first time.

Their garden features old apple trees combined with a variety of new and easy-to-care-for plantings. Fast growing grasses, shrubs and perennials splash across the one-acre property, creating a series of colorful and richly textured gardens.

The Fessenden’s garden is four years old. Despite its youthful age, it features a variety of plants.

“This particular garden shows how to do a mixed-shrub border with low-water needs,” Fessenden said.

The Fessenden’s property allows its owners to enjoy the setting without becoming slaves to the garden.

“That’s important in today’s world because people are interested in not doing as much work.” Fessenden said. “Shrubs can give you a variety and interest and still keep the maintenance down.”

The diversity of garden climates and themes is sure to provide ideas for all types of gardeners.

The Fessenden’s garden has taken on its own unofficial theme.

“I like grasses. I like a lot of the purple plants, and the gold foliage,” Fessenden said. “I seem to kind of hone in on those two.”

Having a variety of vegetation is also important to the gardener.

“I like flowers, but I want the texture of the foliage to be more important,” she said.

In addition to the public viewing of private gardens, tour participants will get the inside scoop about their colorful features. Tour-goers could ask for tips about how to grow certain plants, learn which plants thrive in certain conditions or how to prepare soil and keep weeds to a minimum.

Fessenden has some tips of her own.

“Don’t ever let shotweed go to seed,” She said. “Get it before April 1 — that’s the time it’s getting ready to shoot.”

Once that’s accomplished, the gardener won’t have to spend all their time weeding.

Before planting, Fessenden said, there is one thing every gardener must do.

“I say soil prep is the most important thing you can do,” she said. “There is nothing that you can substitute for it.”

Fessenden said she’s been gardening since she was just a little girl. She’s had several gardens and is trained as a Master Gardener.

Gardening is something she has never — and most likely will never — get tired of.

“I just enjoy all aspects of it. It’s very relaxing. It takes away a lot stress, even doing the nasty things like weeding,” she said. “And when I’m done for the day I like to sit down and look around and take pleasure in the work I’ve done.”

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