For 23 years Tooele County’s home gardeners have been able to annually visit gardens planted by local horticulturalists and master gardeners and learn more about gardening in Tooele Valley.
Each year in June the Tooele Valley Garden Tour highlights around a dozen gardens spread throughout the Tooele Valley during two sunny days. Gardening enthusiasts are able to visit the locations, ask questions, find out what grows well in the area, and become inspired to plant.
The 2022 Tooele Valley Garden Tour was held June 10-11. It featured 12 sites around Tooele Valley.
Each year new gardens are added to the tour and no garden is on the tour two years in a row, except for the Spier’s Farm.
Spier’s Farm is on 200 South in Tooele and is owned by an almost 90-year-old lady named Barbara Barlow who, along with her friend Joyce Tate, organized the first garden tour in 1999.
“We were taking a master gardener class down at Thanksgiving Point and Barbara convinced me that I needed to take the class,” Tate joked. “I had already taken some master gardener classes. I didn’t think that I needed any more. I thought I knew everything I needed to know, but Barbara is very convincing and you don’t tell her no often…We were down there [at the class] and one of the things we had to go was go to a garden tour in Provo and Orem, and they had these gorgeous, beautiful gardens. The landscapes were just unbelievable. Barbara said we ought to do that in Tooele and I thought ‘In Tooele?’ We haven’t got any gardens in Tooele, but Barbara said that we have some lovely gardens in Tooele, so she took me around, and showed me these gardens, and they were lovely…So, she convinced me that we ought to have a garden tour.”
Although Tate was skeptical, the first year was successful.
“I kind of laughed, I thought, ‘There are people who will pay to see gardens!’” Tate said. “When we went to see the gardeners after the first tour was over, they were so thrilled that people wanted to come see their gardens…So, we decided to do it the next year.”
From there, the tour became more successful each year and more locations were added.
“It’s just boomeranged,” Tate said. “It’s grown so much further than what we ever thought.”
For 13 years Barlow and Tate ran the tour.
“I love the ingenuity of people and the vision that they have,” Tate said. “Some of the ideas that people have are amazing.”
“I like seeing everyone’s beautiful creativity,” Barlow added. “Everything is all so different. There are so many unique things that people think of.”
Jay and Maggie Cooper took over the tour 10 years ago after visiting tour locations one year and then hosting a tour location at their home.
“We kept seeing this garden tour, so we went on it and had such a delightful experience and met a lot of people,” Jay Cooper said. “It became our aspiration to be on the tour. After a few years, we took it over.”
Jay and Maggie Cooper are both passionate about the tour and gardening.
“I love taking disorder and turning it into order,” Maggie Cooper said. “There is so much beauty in natural landscape, you know?”
The Cooper’s used to be with the Tooele County Master Gardeners Associations but last year they chose to leave the organization and create the Tooele Valley Gardening Association.
Each year the Coopers spend a great deal of time looking for new gardens to add to the tour.
“We do a lot of driving around, door knocking, and people recommend locations or ask to be a candidate,” Cooper said. “We are always finding more and more outdoor settings that people have put a lot of time and talent into.”
The tour includes much more than just basic gardens.
“Sometimes there are special interest locations on the tour,” Cooper said. “It’s not just beautiful gardening spots. There are urban sports, suburban, rural, different scales — highly adaptive planting, sunny places, shady places, and some that have a significant amount of turf.”
More and more people are taking an interest in gardening and each year more than 150 people go on the garden tour.
“There is a very strong interest starting in creating outdoor spaces, and horticulture, and gardening in this valley,” Jay Cooper said. “So, it’s a growing community.”
2023’s garden tour is scheduled for June 9-10.
“This is a way to meet new people and you run into friends. The tour is a great way to get ideas about what will grow in your elevation and location,” Maggie Cooper said. “It’s just very educational.”
“It’s a great way to get acquainted with your community,” Tate said. “It’s a good idea to see what’s here and give you some ideas, especially if you don’t know anything about gardening…We hope people would enjoy coming and seeing what they can do to their yards.”
The tour is sponsored by Adobe Rock Products, Tooele Valley Nursery, Dirtfarmer Media, and the Transcript Bulletin.
To learn more about the garden tour, please visit annualgardentour.info or join the Tooele Valley Gardening Association group on Facebook.
“I just hope this is able to continue,” Barlow said.