Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Kids and adults can paint their own birdhouse like this one at Friday night’s Summer Blast event at the Benson Grist Mill.

June 8, 2017
Join the Garden Tour with kickoff Friday, tours Saturday

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the last Garden Tour, but this great annual event is here, once again, this coming weekend.

One would think that as time went on, that the tour committee would run out of locations to feature, but that hasn’t happened. Each year, there are more and more great yardscapes that are ready for show time.

As event organizer with Tooele Master Gardeners Association (TCMGA), I get to see a lot of beautiful gardens, and I can foresee what the plants will look like when they are mature enough to put on display in the not-too-distant future.

The growth in our valley is far from over — in fact it is just ramping up. Part of the mission of the TCMGA is to provide resources and education to assist people in creating yardscapes and garden plots that become an asset not only to the homeowner, but to the community at large.

The TCMGA would like to think that we’ve had a small part in stimulating some of the great gardening interest that continues to develop around here.

One of the most enjoyable things about going on the Garden Tour (beyond enjoying a relaxing day in some beautiful settings) is that you can get great ideas. This applies both to the types of trees, shrubs and plants that do well here, as well as great décor and hardscape ideas. It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that certainly rings true when it comes to visiting a Garden Tour site.

You will find that from year to year, there are some sites that have been on before. If that’s the case, either plantings have significantly matured or new areas have been added. While the vast majority of the gardens are making their first public appearance, there are some legacy sites that we feature each year due to their scale, significance and splendor. Both the Speirs Farm and the Fawson Preserve are tour locations, and double as ticket outlets every year.

These locations are sizable and entirely inspiring and can be visited year after year with the same level of enjoyment and wonder. They serve as a great introduction to the Garden Tour. Those who have attended these sites in the past are often so inspired and delighted that they bring their friends with them on future tours.

The Fawson Preserve was a preview site to the tour just last month at a “Walk and Talk” guided experience. There were many from the community that hadn’t seen this magical place before. I suspect many of them will now be coming to this Saturday’s tour.

Mark Watson was kind enough to write a feature on the tour in Tuesday’s Transcript Bulletin edition, giving a bit of history and glimpse of what is to be expected this weekend. There was a listing of the locations included to show the diversity of gardens around the area.

Just a gentle reminder: this event is a TCMGA fundraiser for Arbor Day events and horticultural education. Admission is $7 per adult, and children 12 and under are free. You’ll get a tour guide book with full garden descriptions and driving directions — which will allow you to go to the gardens you’d like and in the most convenient order for you.

Heck, if you have one of them newfangled smart phones, you can scan the QR codes in the guide book and your map application will guide you right to the locations. A sign in front of the tour site will  immediately confirm you are at the right place.

What should you expect to see at these locations? Diversity. There are a lot of styles, themes and sizes. There are large scale properties and quite compact ones. Some are highly ornamental; others incorporate significant food production and related crafts, such as beekeeping or backyard poultry.

Another interesting contrast you’ll see from location to location is that some are quite open, with everything readily seen from only a few vantage points. Others are much more segmented, consisting of pockets and plantings that screen and seclude certain areas.

Did you know that one of the requirements to be on the Garden Tour is that you’ve had to do much of the design and actual planting and care of the yardscape? Why? This assures more intimate knowledge of what has been planted and when.

Many tour host sport a photo album of what their place looked like before they started on their particular horticultural adventure. This year’s batch of hosts is no exception.

At our Host and Committee BBQ last Friday night, the hosts brought photo albums to share. I can say with absolute confidence that you will enjoy examining what they have accomplished so far.

Another benefit we’ve seen with “home-grown” landscape design and plantings is informality. Commercial landscaping is just fine, but applying symmetry and straight lines in a yardscape can get pretty boring — and fast.

The tour locations possess a lot of “whimsy.” There are mixed plantings and naturalization of plants that more closely mimic nature, with a minimum of set patterns. This type of yard is to be experienced, rather than simply viewed.

In fact, one of the most enjoyable facets of creating outdoor settings is when they come alive with birds, butterflies and earthworms. This is proof that a legitimate habitat has been created where outdoor citizens readily take up residence.

So, how do you participate in this weekend’s activities? First keep in mind that there is both the actual Garden Tour on Saturday, and the Summer Blast launch event the night before. While the tour is in its 19th year, this is the second Summer Blast — validated after a fantastic community response in its inaugural year.

The Summer Blast begins tomorrow night at the Benson Grist Mill at 5 p.m. Come and enjoy food trucks, a classic car show, firetrucks and crews, Sheriff’s Mobile Command Unit and Officers, the Air Med Helicopter, Smokey the Bear and the BLM Hotshots, vendors, demonstrations, pony rides and a petting zoo. This year, young and old can enjoy painting their own birdhouse for $10. The whole experience will bring a smile to your face.

There are several ways you can purchase admission tickets. First, you can come to the Grist Mill Summer Blast and get the tickets the night before the tour. We highly recommended this so you can get an early start at the location that interests you the most. Or, you can visit one of the three ticket locations the morning of the tour: the Tooele Valley Nursery, at the intersection of Cimmarron Way and Highway 36; the Speirs Farm, at 394 W. 200 South in Tooele; or the Fawson Preserve, at 187 Waterhole Way in Grantsville.

You can also purchase tickets online and print out a guide book at

The weather promises to be delightful, and there are some great hosts expecting you. I hope I cross paths with you on Saturday.

Jay Cooper can be contacted at, or you can visit his channel at for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>