Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 2, 2016
Here comes the Garden Tour!

Editor’s Note: This week’s Garden Spot column was written by Maggie Cooper, wife of regular columnist Jay Cooper.

Hopefully you have seen banners and “Burma Shave”-style consecutive signs lately along the roadside announcing the Annual Garden Tour to be held Saturday after next, June 11. There are 11 locations on the tour this year, ranging from beautifully designed neighborhood yards to acres of trees, gardens and ponds at the Fawson Preserve in Grantsville. Homes on this year’s tour are located in Tooele, Erda, Stansbury Park, Lake Point and Grantsville.

You can purchase your tour book and pay the $7 fee per adult — kids 12 and under are free at any of the three ticket locations beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday — in Tooele at Speirs Farm (384 W. 200 South), Tooele Valley Nursery (425 E. Cimmarron Way) and the Fawson Preserve (187 Waterhole Way in Grantsville). The tour is self-guided so you can start anywhere you choose. Over the years, our Tooele Valley tour has become known up and down the Wasatch Front and, in the last few years, we have had visitors travel from as far away as Hurricane to attend.

We hear rave reviews, so you won’t want to miss this treat right here in your own backyard — so to speak.

The 2016 Garden Tour is the 18th of its kind in Tooele Valley. It started years ago as a fundraiser to plant trees for Arbor Day as well as an opportunity for gardeners to display their handiwork and share ideas with each other. Three current members of the Master Gardeners — Barbara Barlow, Joyce Tate and Mae Freestone (along with Ilene Buckley, who now lives in southern Utah) were the founders that planned and implemented the first tours and we, as a community, are so glad they had the foresight to begin this legacy! Even though this is the 18th tour, we are already planning for the 20th Anniversary Tour in 2018 — it will be quite spectacular!

The Garden Tour was one of the first community events Jay and I attended after we moved to Erda 15 years ago. We read about it in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin and thought it would be a great way to spend a spring Saturday (it was). Never did we dream that, years later, Jay would be writing the weekly Garden Spot article for the Transcript Bulletin. I remember walking up to the ticket table at Speirs Farm and being greeted by a friendly Master Gardener who was happy to fill us in on what the tour was all about.

We met Barbara Barlow, the founder and caretaker of Speirs Farm who not only provides our community with a beautiful wedding and gathering venue, and a museum inside the original Speirs log home — she also provided Tooele an incredible green space when she was granted a sesquicentennial park designation for Speirs Farm.

As we toured the gardens and landscapes around the valley that day, we were amazed and inspired by what could be grown in the high desert of Utah. We also learned about the Master Gardener Program that was available through the Tooele USU Extension office. It wasn’t long after that Jay enrolled in the next Master Gardener’s class and completed his studies two years later.

Part of completing the Master Gardener program is serving a required number of volunteer hours each year. This can be done in number of ways — by working at the diagnostic clinic (held every Wednesday, May through September, from 3-6 p.m. at the Extension office), or volunteering for other Master Gardener events like the annual Garden Expo. Another way to get hours is to volunteer for the Garden Tour. Our home in Erda was actually on the Garden Tour a year after we attended it for the first time, and it was such an awesome experience that Jay volunteered to chair the Garden Tour the following year.

We were blessed with such a terrific committee, who has worked so well together planning the tour, that we’ve continued on as a group every year since!

You might be wondering how we find the homes and what the requirements are to have your yardscape included on the tour. Some of the tour homes are recommended to us by other Master Gardeners or community members. Others are the homes of people who previously attended the tour and were so inspired that they made a personal goal to have their yardscape on the tour in future years. Yet others are locations that are spotted by a Garden Tour committee member and reported back as a recommendation. Some tour homes are discovered through “friendly stalking.”

Jay and I actually “discovered” a historic home in Grantsville that will be on the tour this year just by exploring (some might call it snooping) around town. We stopped in front of the house and were gawking through our car windows for a while. Then Jay backed up and pulled into the driveway. We sat in the car and debated about knocking on the door — and before I knew it, Jay was walking up the sidewalk.

Luckily, gardeners are some of the nicest people in the world and we’ve yet to have the police called on us when looking for potential tour homes. The Andersons invited us in and we spent about an hour learning about them and they about us. It turns out they have been lovingly restoring their historic registry home and landscape for the last 20 years and not only did they agree to be on the Garden Tour this year, they are allowing tours of the inside of their home as well!

One trait every Garden Tour host has in common is humility with regard to their accomplishments. I’ve never visited a tour home where the host didn’t apologize for something that he or she felt wasn’t up to standard in their yard. The truth be told, no yard is ever finished! There’s always something to add, change, improve. There’s an ancient Asian saying, “The man who finishes his house, dies” — I’d say that applies to us gardeners as well!

Because the tour has continued to grow year after year, and the response both locally and along the Wasatch Front has increased, we have added a Friday night event this year called Summer Blast. It’s free and will be held at the Benson Gristmill from 6-9 p.m. June 10. There will be a Master Gardeners General Store where you can purchase your tour books for Saturday, participate in a plant diagnostic clinic, purchase garden tour T-shirts and other gardening- and home-related items.

Enjoy dinner out that night with your choice of several food trucks including Waffle Love, Mama Africa, The Taco Man, Tony’s Smoke Shack BBQ, the Snowie-Shaw Shack as well as cupcakes and cookies from Sherry’s Sweets. The kids will enjoy face painting, a petting zoo, pony rides, fire trucks from NTCFD, BLM Hot Shots with Smokey the Bear and for older kids, the Utah Highway Patrol’s “Seat Belt Convincer” simulator. You adults will enjoy a classic car show sponsored by Cruzin’ 435, Living Gristmill re-enactors giving tours of the specialty dye, kitchen and medicinal gardens, as well as many vendors offering landscaping to honey to metal art to self defense to essential oils, personal care, jewelry and art.

One more exciting addition to the weekend is a live remote by 1430 AM Talk Radio’s Joy Bossi of the “Joy in the Garden” show. Joy will be broadcasting from the Tooele Valley Nursery on Saturday from 8-10 a.m. There will be refreshments and a chance to meet Joy at the nursery. You can stop by and buy your tour book, meet Joy, take a look around the nursery (it’s quite a treat!), and then get to your first tour destination by 9 a.m.

It’s an exciting time for the little garden tour that started so many years ago. For more information, visit or We’ll see you June 10-11. Don’t miss it!

Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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