COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Garden tours provide free, take-home advice

Marianne Binetti will be speaking Saturday at the Gig Harbor garden Tour. Go to for information.

The last weeks of June are among the best times to enjoy local color as roses, perennials and some flowering shrubs all compete with color in western Washington. This is also the time you can find garden tours (that are raising money for charities) in Gig Harbor, Vashon Island, Bainbridge Island and the SeaTac area.

Garden tours are great ways to glean practical ways to dress up your own garden, using plants that you know will do well in our climate.

The Gig Harbor Garden tour is July 26 and 27 and the tickets are available at the Tacoma Community College Gig Harbor campus or by going to You can also get discount tickets by phoning 253-460-2399 and using a credit card.

The Gig Harbor collection of gardens is called “A Tour for Literacy” as it benefits adult education.

Here are some short cuts to a "show garden" inspired by the various garden tours in the area:

Place pots in the garden beds

Colorful containers aren’t just for the porch or patio. Set a large container in the middle of a garden bed elevated slightly by placing it on a stack of square stepping stones or bricks. The color of the pot can coordinate with the trees and shrubs already in the bed. I love seeing a deep red container placed near a Japanese maple, filled with blooming pink and white flowers. Don’t contain your enthusiasm; be creative with containers.

Paint your garden accents.

A can of purple spray paint changed one garden scene from boring to bodacious. You can use spray paint in your own garden to re-style your outdoor furniture or turn an old wheelbarrow, garden tools or even rusty metal junk into garden art. At one garden tour I enjoyed a collection of shovels sticking out of the lawn. All the shovels were spray-painted yellow then linked with bright red ribbon from shovel to shovel. It was original, I will say that much.

Use oyster shells as a garden mulch.

It was at the Gig Harbor garden tour a few years ago that I first saw oyster shells used as a garden mulch around lavender plants. The lavenders appreciated the sunlight that would reflect off the white shells and the oyster shells also add calcium to the soil as they decompose. These are the type of take-home, practical ideas you can learn at local garden tours.

Create secret gardens

You don’t need a large estate to create a secret garden area. In one small garden in SeaTac, the owner used a section of fence to screen off a corner of the yard. By following the stepping stones visitors were led behind the fence where suddenly they found themselves in a hidden garden room complete with sitting area and carpet of blooming groundcovers. Fragrant lilies competed with antique roses to fill this tiny secret garden room with fragrance.

Invite the fairies to your side garden

Another show garden in Gig Harbor used the oft-forgotten side yard as a place to build a miniature garden, complete with garden fairies displayed on flat rocks and sitting on miniature benches. Craft and garden gift stores sell these miniature garden furnishings that will enchant any child and make landscaping fun, even if all you have is a tabletop garden.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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