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Green thumbs: Local garden tour blossoms on July 9

A rustic garden gate welcomes visitors to the backyard garden at Beve and Jerry Vajgrt's Lake Avenue home. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington boasts a plethora of pretty parks, but some of the most beautiful spots in town are not public spaces, but private gardens, mostly hidden away from view.

A garden tour, hosted by PEO Chapter DW, will provide entry to four such spaces on July 9. Money raised by the event will go toward a scholarship.

"A year ago we decided to give a local scholarship," explained PEO DW member Lori Grafing, one of the organizers of the tour. "PEO is all about education for women, supporting education for women. When we give money to projects, the money is dispersed through the state or international organization. ... We decided it would be nice to give a local scholarship, so we can see directly where it goes, and were looking for a fundraiser to support that."

Grafing, an avid gardener herself, broached the idea of a garden tour, and it was enthusiastically received by her fellow PEO members.

Four local homeowners with unique garden settings agreed to showcase their properties:

VAJGRT HOME: Beve and Jerry Vajgrt's lakeside home includes tree lilies that grow to more than 6 feet tall and a backyard shade garden featuring many varieties of hostas. Unique features are a backyard potting shed that Jerry fashioned from a deer stand that he salvaged from a farm field in northern Minnesota and a tiered fountain that was a 50th anniversary gift from their children.

LESNAR HOME: Perched on the edge of town, the extensive grounds of the Kathy and Jim Lesnar family home incorporate several tranquil areas for faith and reflection. An area dedicated to the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary is adorned in soft shades of white and pink. St. Francis of Assisi -- the patron saint of animals and the environment -- watches over another space.

SCHISSEL HOME: Terry Schissel's home on the south shore of Lake Okabena is a festival of color and labor of love. In 1999, she and her late husband, Lowell, dug a pond and designed a waterfall that are now an enticing environment for birds, frogs, plants and more than 30 goldfish. Lowell, with the help of a friend, also built a garden shed. In 2010, the Schissel children created a Love Garden in memory of their father in the corner of the backyard.

BASCHE HOME: Lake Ocheda provides a backdrop for a country garden at the Marcia and Don Basche residence south of Worthington. The garden features many varieties of annuals and perennials, and a recent addition is a rain garden, which manages runoff from the home's driveway. Repurposed treasures are hidden among the various floral settings, and an old garage has been turned into a potting shed.

"They are all going to have some nice features," said Grafing. "They are all a little bit different and have their own unique qualities, personality."

The garden tour will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served at the Basche residence.

Tickets for the garden tour are available at the Hy-Vee Food Store service counter, Nobles County Library, Real Estate Retrievers, AX Photo and Johnson Realty, all in Worthington.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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