Ever wonder what’s behind the formidable circular stucco wall surrounding that uniquely central home in Modesto, where Griswold Avenue breaks up Sycamore into a one-way roundabout?
You’ll get your chance to find out during the Modesto Garden Club’s Spring Garden Tour, an annual fundraiser that this year is planned for April 16.
The garden club will show off the landscapes at seven Modesto homes, all in the central city area of McHenry and Morris avenues.
The most unusual house on the 2016 tour, according to club president Dan Yockey, is that 6,000-square-foot Craftsman on Sycamore Avenue that was built between 1907 and 1913 in what once was an olive grove outside the city. The olive grove was subdivided as the town grew and the home was left alone in the center of the meeting streets.
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Calling it “the house in the middle,” Yockey said the current owners have lived there 40 years and have made substantial changes over time.
“We’re fortunate to be able to get behind that fence,” Yockey said. While the front yard is small, the backyard holds “surprises,” according to a garden club press release, including game and conversational areas.
The tour also will feature a house built in 1922 from a kit bought at Sears, Roebuck and Co. The bungalow kit cost $1,830 with the model name “The Clyde.”
The hope is that these gardens will inspire you, give you the courage to try something different in your own garden.
Gerry Yockey, one of the tour organizers, in a press release
“That’s a cute little one, really unique,” Yockey said of the kit house.
In addition, drought resistance will play prominently among the landscapes on display, he said, with at least four yards with “drought-conscious plantings,” two of which have all drought-tolerant plants and no lawns.
Yockey said show organizers wanted to highlight drought tolerance on the tour so ticket holders could see those types of plants once they’ve reached maturity instead of relying on “plants in a little pot at the nursery.”
There will be garden club members serving as docents at each home during the self-guided tour to help explain to people what they’re seeing and some of the history behind the yards and homes. In addition to the homes, the Modesto Garden Club office at 622 14th St. will be open, a remodeled bungalow in downtown with a number of demonstration gardens.
There are about 560 Modesto Garden Club members now; about 250 generally turn out for the monthly meetings. The tour is the club’s main fundraiser each year, paying for six $1,500 scholarships as well as numerous city beautification projects.
The tour usually attracts about 1,400 attendees, Yockey said. In years when they get a significant number above that, they hand out additional scholarships, or increase funds to their city projects.
Garden club tour organizers suggest homeowners plant annuals in October so the plants fill in for the April tour.
Yockey’s wife, Gerry, found the homes featured on the tour pretty much by knocking on doors, he said. Some homeowners are immediately excited, others simply have a thanks-but-no-thanks type of response.
In addition to the docents, many of those more excited homeowners likely will be on hand during peak hours of the tour (if not all day) – a nice touch, Yockey said, and an opportunity for them to hear firsthand the positive feedback often relayed by tour-goers.
“It’s really nice because the people really enjoy it, and you can see it as icing on the cake for all the work they did” getting their homes ready for the tour, he said.
Indeed, many homeowners spend $500 and up to get their homes tour-ready, he said. “We don’t really ask them to spend a lot of money ... but they want it to be perfect.”
One of the homeowners has gone so far as to prepare a site map of plants to help tour-goers if they then want to go out and buy the same types of plants.
“Getting ideas,” Yockey said, “is the main thing of going on these garden tours.”
Pat Clark: 209-578-2312
Spring Garden Tour
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16
Where: Map supplied with ticket purchase
Tickets: $20 general, $10 under age 10 (no strollers allowed)