Gardens can be quirky.
By SU BACON
Special to The Star
Favorite flowers, faithful for many seasons, suddenly tire out and forget to bloom. Others decide to relocate and migrate to another area of the yard. And some make a joyful showing of an unintended hue.
“I’ve learned that perfection is not a part of gardening,” said Beth Reynolds of Kansas City, North, whose yard is one of five in Country Downs featured on the annual Northland Garden Tour on Sunday.
This year’s event is a walking tour from 1 to 5 p.m. Tourists can park on the street and start the tour at any of the five gardens.
5022 N.E. Sherwood Court
Beth Reynolds and her husband tend nearly an acre in the southern Clay County subdivision of some 50 homes.
Reynolds has a degree in horticulture but the most valuable lesson she has learned about growing things came from her own backyard: coping with the unexpected has taught her to “be at peace’’ with imperfections.
Some of the quirks they’ve planned for in their garden — rocks unearthed from home construction sites they lugged home to form edging and a retaining wall, replanted hostas they moved with them from Iowa and a strategically placed sign reminding Reynolds that gardens aren’t made by sitting in the shade.
Other quirks are happenstance — like Ralph the bullfrog, who has taken up residence in the goldfish pond, and a tree peony emerging where a herbaceous peony was planted.
4938 N.E. Sherwood Drive
The small greenhouse in the backyard of Robert and Judy Kile is where lush tomatoes, sweet green peppers and other fresh produce grow for the Kiles’ church’s outreach vegetable garden and a Kansas City area community kitchen.
Because the seeds become food for the hungry and homeless, Robert Kile said his favorite tomatoes are Jet Star, Big Boy and Celebrity, which “perform well year after year.”
In contrast to the predictable growth in the greenhouse are the surprises that delight the eye in the garden where Judy Kile’s affinity for repurposing can be seen in the transformation of antique laundry tubs into a potting table.
5008 N. Monroe Ave.
Clumps of long-legged, dainty flowers appeared this year in the backyard of Will and Ida May Willhaus.
“They’re some kind of yellow weed,” Will Willhaus said.
He didn’t plant them and can’t identify them. But that doesn’t matter. What’s important is that his honeybees like them.
Weeds and other volunteers like clover are welcome in the Willhaus’ world, where flowers flourish without mulch or spray, out of concern for the health of the honeybees in the hives.
Catering to the quirks of the bees, Willhaus maintains an organic landscape of wildflowers and native perennials and keeps fresh water flowing from a waterfall.
5118 N. Monroe Ave.
A more formal style of gardening can be found in the backyard of Ernie and Dee West.
Dee West, president of the Northland Garden Club, said the flowering shrubs, boxwood, tall shade trees, ornamental iron and concrete artwork were inspired by the gardens of the South.
West likes to plan her plantings but has come to realize that gardening isn’t a pursuit for “control freaks.”
The peonies blooming a vibrant red in mid-May, for example, weren’t the color West said she would have chosen. “But you have to learn to go with the flow in gardening,” she said.
5120 N. Monroe Ave.
Next door to the Wests are Sam and Denise Cariddi, who garden with an eye toward outdoor entertaining and their own private enjoyment of the outdoors.
“We eat breakfast out here,” Sam Cariddi said of the covered patio that overlooks a swimming pool, a hilly backdrop of roses and perennials and beyond that, acres of green pasture and sometimes horses on a nearby estate.
Completing the comforts of the backyard are a cabana, pool house and a fireplace.
In the front yard, evergreens, shrubs and boxwood have matured into a privacy screen of greenery.