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Pardon My Garden sprouts new mid-valley tour

By Sue Coyle

Sopris Sun Contributor

Despite its unassuming name, the Pardon My Garden club is 80 members strong, all living and gardening throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. This summer, for the first time in its 20-year history, the non-profit organization is planning a tour featuring 11 gardens stretching from Watson Divide to El Jebel.

The first annual Garden Tour, billed as “Ornamental and Edible Gardens of the Mid-Valley,” will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 27. In the past, the club has held plant sales and donated the proceeds to individuals or local organizations, typically giving grants totaling between $5,000 and $7,000 a year. The ticket sales from this summer’s tour will be used for the same purpose.

Club president Kathryn Rooney said the tour was planned for late summer, rather than spring, in order to see vegetables in production. The 11 sites featured on the tour, including residential and municipal gardens, exemplify the ingenuity and dedication required to grow gardens in an arid, high-altitude environment. One example, said Rooney, is an El Jebel resident who produces gardens using only one hour of ditch water a week.

“It’s hard to grow vegetables in this area,” Rooney said. “If it were easy, we’d call it planting.”

Another highlight includes the indoor and outdoor gardens of Amory Lovins and Judy Hill, who grow tropical fruits such as bananas year-round in their greenhouse.

Although the tour is self-guided, each site will have a property owner to greet visitors and answer questions. Lisa DiNardo, horticultural manager for the town of Basalt, will act as guide at Basalt Town Hall. “Lisa is one of the gardening rock stars in our valley,” said Rooney.

Pardon My Garden members range from professional gardeners and landscapers to “newbies,” according to tour publicity chairperson Rachel Dayton. “We all are passionate about digging in the dirt and growing environmentally conscious flower gardens and landscapes, as well as organic vegetable gardens,” Dayton said.

The club plans to hold next summer’s tour in the Carbondale area.

Money raised has been used to support gardening, tree care, vegetable production, sustainable ecology, best practices for landscape care, conservative use of water and beauty in public spaces. Included in the list of the club’s grant recipients are Heritage Park Care Center, Roaring Fork High School’s Grow Dome project and libraries in Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs.

Tickets for Saturday’s tour can be purchased for $10 at pardonmygardenannualtour.eventbrite.com, or the day-of for $15 at Eagle Crest Nursery in El Jebel until noon.