Grand Forks Horticultural Society to host annual Garden Tour this weekend

·4 min read

Jul. 22—The 37th Annual Grand Forks Horticultural Society's Garden Tour and Plant Sale event, set for Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, should inspire visitors with lots of ideas to improve their own yards.

Ticket-holders may tour six residential gardens and the Myra Museum flower garden, all in Grand Forks, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets, which may be purchased with a freewill donation, and maps of the garden will be available at the Myra Museum, 2405 Belmont Road, during tour hours. The ticket is good for both days. Masks are not required.

Also at the museum, plants donated by horticultural society members will be available for purchase with a freewill donation during the tour hours both days.

A "plant doctor," Carrie Knutson, will be on hand from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Myra Museum to answer questions about plants. Knutson is an extension agent with NDSU Extension, Grand Forks County office.

A small group of musicians, members of the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, will perform at a featured garden for about 90 minutes Saturday and Sunday.

Among the yards on display is one with an irrigation system for a perennial bed and tiered stonework, according to Sharon Opdahl, committee chairwoman for this year's event. The owners "have hosta beds which are low maintenance," she said.

"I think a lot of people are looking for ideas to create a nice yard, but one that is low maintenance."

Owners of a century-old house in a historic part of town used original brick they found in developing their property, Opdahl said, and used it to make a pathway for the home's exterior which has "a long, skinny yard."

The yard also features plants that were common in the early 1900s and the owner's mother's playhouse, which she played in as a girl, she said. The owners moved it to this location from another town.

Visitors will also see a wisteria that has been trained to grow over the top of a pergola, Opdahl said. "I'd never seen anything like that before."

As another example, in Opdahl's own yard, which is part of the tour, visitors will see a "certified pollinator garden," a designation granted by NDSU Extension. The garden is maintained according to specifications which limit the types of herbicides and pesticides that could be harmful to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

When she and her husband, Brian, bought the property in the late '90s, it had two peony bushes, plastic flowers in the front entry planter, and a cottonwood tree behind the garage.

"It was a big blank slate — my wheels were turning," Opdahl remembered. "I said, I think I can make this work."

Among the many improvements they've made is a drip irrigation system for numerous potted plants. When they're out of town, they use a cellphone app to control the watering duration and timing.

The yard is decorated with a wide assortment of planters and plant stands, including statuary, ceramic pots, and a pot stand made from a bird bath that broke, Opdahl said.

Her husband laid bricks for an expanded, curved walkway and patio near the front door and a walkway to the back yard, which is accessed through an archway covered with leafy and lush Engelmann Ivy.

A retired music teacher, he also constructed a storage building for the backyard, and installed tubing for the drip irrigation system and edging for the yard.

The painted daisies, or echinacea, and purple salvia as well as Bees Knees yellow petunias and Monarda plants add bright cheerful color to the backyard.

Along with the familiar geraniums, impatiens, begonias, hydrangea and a variety of hostas, visitors will notice some possibly lesser-known plants, such as an upright fuchsia, maidenhair ferns, birds nest yew and goat's beard flower.

Whiskey barrels, metal art and large rocks add interest and whimsy to the setting.

In the backyard, a water feature, with water trickling from a mound embedded with rocks, is ringed with a profusion of plants, interspersed with clay stepping stones — made by their eight grandchildren, each displaying the child's name, handprint impression and date it was produced.

As an accomplished gardener, Opdahl has built on the knowledge she gained as a child, working in her grandmother's garden in Tower City, N.D., she said.

She gets the most satisfaction from the creative process of gardening.

"I like designing, the beauty of it, figuring out what plants and colors are going to go together," she said. "And finding people who are going to enjoy it."

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