Lush greenery, bubbling water fountains and colorful fragrant flowers — all surrounded by noisy, busy streets. That is what an urban garden looks like, and Old Town is ready to show off some of the best ones in the area.
The gardeners of Old Town are showcasing their small pieces of paradise within the urban city limits to help fundraise the revitalization and maintenance of Old Town. The second annual Urban Garden & Patio Tour takes place this Saturday, July 8.
This year, the tour will be branching out a little farther than Old Town, with some locations as far as Lake Lansing Road. There will be total of 14 urban gardens and patios, some from last year, and some new.
Visitors will be given a brochure with all of the locations and directions to each urban garden and patio within the tour, then they are free to go to the different locations and witness the magic.
“I call my garden the Key West North because of the feel of it. I have many tropical plants, including the palm tree in the front yard. This garden makes living next to a busy street bearable,” said Michael Beebe, coordinator of the event and a featured gardener.
A passionate gardener, Beebe was inspired to create the Urban Garden and Patio Tour because of the many gardens in the area. He also thought a tour would make a great fundraiser and event for Old Town.
Beebe said he enjoys being a resident in Old Town, but his garden gives him his own piece of paradise. He is happy to share with visitors during the tour. His North Street garden has been a work in progress for 27 years.
“There was nothing here when I first moved in. Everything here, I did,” Beebe said. “I built the pond myself with the help of friends. Every year there is something new in my garden. I don’t have much space, but I try to utilize every bit of space I have.”
The maintenance that comes with having a lush, green, garden keeps Beebe busy. He said he can rarely leave in the summer because all of the plants take a lot of attention. If some plants aren’t regularly watered, they could dry up within a day. During the winter months, Beebe has to bring all of the potted plants inside. He said some go in the basement and some go upstairs within his garden room. The palm tree, which cannot last the harsh Michigan winter weather, remains in a pot, and stays in an office until summer returns, then it is brought back to Beebe’s front yard.
Another garden that is a part of the tour would be Joe and Pat Droste’s. Walking into the backyard, Joe Droste described the massive garden as his living room, and his wife as the landscaping architect.
“Every plant in this garden is from someone in my life,” Joe Droste said. “I got roses from my grandmother and some plants from my beekeeper instructor. Every time I walk through, it's like walking through memory lane.”
Due to open heart surgery last year, Droste wasn’t able to keep up with his garden last summer so he was determined to do so this year. Droste made use of every area in his yard for all different kinds of plants and trees, some more exotic than others.
“Some flowers, I don’t know what they are,” Droste said. “I am hoping that some of the visitors are also identifiers so I can ask them what they are.”
Besides gardening, Droste is also a beekeeper with two active colonies as well as a grandfather. The scarecrow that helps keep the deer out of his garden was created with help from his granddaughter.
Droste’s garden is a mix of vegetables and flowers, with even silk flowers making appearances around the front and backyard.
“I live on a busy road, but I don’t really see it,” Droste said, because his garden creates an oasis within the city he lives in.
On the tour, each host will provide refreshments and entertainment. Some will even have local artists painting in the garden while the tour takes place. Beebe said Tom Nelson, a local artist, will be painting in his garden while George Howard plays his saxophone.
There will be floral vendors when visitors purchase tickets for the tour. If visitors are interested in learning more about gardening, they can ask the vendors more about how to create their own paradises in the city.
“I hope to keep getting more gardens involved,” Beebe said. “I want to expand (the tour) next year, maybe adding a farmers market or garden market.”
Urban Garden & Patio Tour
12-6 p.m. Saturday, July 8; Rain Date Sunday, July 9th. $15 in advance/$17 day of Old Town oldtownevents.com