See 6 Wichita Gardens in one popular tour that you can experience in person

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Allen House grounds have been revitalized in recent years by master gardeners to complement the home's design with native and even some original plants.  It is one of the stations of this year's garden tour.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Allen House grounds have been revitalized in recent years by master gardeners to complement the home’s design with native and even some original plants. It is one of the stations of this year’s garden tour.

Archive photo

After a two-year hiatus, the popular garden tour, organized by the Sedgwick County Extension’s master gardener program, is back in person and will showcase six area gardens, including a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed attraction in Wichita that was revived by volunteer gardeners.

The tour will take place on Friday and Saturday 3rd and 4th June from 9am to 5pm and on Sunday 5th June from 12pm to 4pm. Tickets are $10 per person and are available from the Sedgwick County Extension Education Office at 21st and Ridge Roads online at www.sedgwick.ksu.edu/events or at any of the featured gardens during the tour weekend. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Master Gardener Volunteer Program and its outreach programs, which include a garden hotline and educational talks.

Tour-goers can often be inspired and see a variety of plants, which are usually labeled. Master gardeners and house owners are also available to answer questions during the tours.

Some of the homeowners have been preparing to welcome visitors to their gardens since they were identified as a potential viewing site three years ago, but COVID precautions prevented in-person viewings until this summer.

Last year’s garden tour took the form of a 30-minute virtual tour of the courtyards of four Wichita homes, including Mark and Anita Ward’s Eastborough courtyard at 21 Lynwood Boulevard, which people will be able to visit in person this year.

The garden tour is scheduled a year in advance to allow the master gardeners to find and visit gardens being considered for the tour and take photos of things in bloom that may not be in their full glory at the time of the tour.

For example, visitors to Diane and Randy Rubenthaler’s garden in West Wichita will see several plants that are still in their early stages of growth, such as candle senna, also known as candle cassia. The plant, planted in the northwest corner of the couple’s backyard at 125 N. Gleneagles, is currently about a foot tall with green foliage, a far cry from its mature 8-foot-by-8-foot appearance in late summer, though it also displays spiky, yellow flowers.

Visitors should look out for a photo exhibit that the Rubenthalers will be making available on their patio, showing what several areas look like in full bloom later in the season.

All of the gardens—with the exception of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Allen House at 255 N. Roosevelt—were designed by the homeowners for years, sometimes decades. While the Allen House was completed in 1918, in recent years the grounds have been revitalized by master gardeners to complement the home’s design with native and even some original plants.

In 2000, when her children were grown and didn’t need a place to play in the backyard, Brenda Anderson began transforming her backyard at 3015 S. Glenn from a small shaded yard into a gardener’s paradise. Your backyard features over 300 plants and shrubs, winding stone pathways, and a large hand-dug koi pond and second water garden. It took the Andersons nearly five months to dig the 15-foot by 7-foot koi pond in 2017.

“I’ve been a lot of hard work,” said Anderson, who frequently posts pictures of what’s blooming in her gardens to a Wichita gardening Facebook group called Wichita K’s Backyard Gardens & Farms. “We started digging in late June and didn’t get some water in until November.” Using materials left over from the construction of the koi pond, Anderson created a second water garden, which is now a favorite spot for birds.

She even converted her front yard into a garden space. She has left a small patch of what she calls “weedy grass” as toilet space for her four small dogs. If she had more soil, Anderson said, she would plant more vegetables. Instead, she grows tomato plants in pots and has grown grape beans along a fence.

It took the Rubenthalers 37 years to reach their gardeners’ paradise. Now retired, Randy has more time to create garden art, which has often been repurposed from other items such as glass insulators, which he has turned into a totem and artistic tree, and several metal artworks. Instead of hanging two stained glass windows on the fence, Randy made cutouts and installed them so they can be viewed from either side. Visitors should look for a face he made in one of the backyard trees.

Some of the hibiscus plants planted along Rubenthalers’ north fence are up to 35 years old, said Diane, who has been part of Extension’s master gardener program for 10 years. There is a pollinator garden nearby that attracts a variety of butterflies.

“My Brazilian verbena is my best butterfly magnet,” Diane said. The couple enjoys sitting on a purple metal bench facing the garden and watching the butterflies flit around the plants, which also include zinnias and Mexican sunflowers.

While Diane tends to the flower gardens, Randy tends the couple’s vegetable and herb garden. He has erected a vertical metal structure for bean, cucumber and melon vines to spiral upwards. He has repurposed chimneys of different heights into pots for the herb garden.

Gardens at the 2022 Wichita Garden Tour

Here’s the full list of stops on the Garden Tour, with some special features:

125 N Gleneagles Road. Look for a river rock bed that runs at least along the north fence to help with backyard drainage. A bubbling rock, which has been running year-round for the past 17 years bar the occasional power outage, is a soothing sound and a popular watering hole for birds. A small peace garden with angels and cross statues is in the southwest corner.

950 Toh-N-Hah Trail. This backyard sunken garden took 25 years to build, Brenda Aldinger said. “We did everything ourselves,” says Aldinger, who has been a master gardener for three years. Her husband has four years of experience as a master gardener. That work included the removal of an overgrown weed bed that turned out to be a children’s sandpit, an area that the Aldingers transformed into the koi pond that visitors will see during the tour. Her husband dug the area by hand to create the pond, which is 5 feet 6 inches deep in one area. They replaced the patio and gazebo, created raised vegetable beds, and installed a large bird fountain. Shaded gardens to the rear and side of the 1-acre property – including an area the Aldingers call the woodland – are filled with alliums, clematis and hostas. They are members of the Hosta Society. The Aldingers’ garden art includes about a dozen vintage lightning rod spheres.

3015 S.Glenn. Anderson has created different sections in her backyard, which has been completely converted into flower gardens. It has a variety of pollinators and host plants to attract butterflies and birds.

6915 W.35th St. South. When their daughter Rachel died, Phyllis and Lee Fletcher decided to plant a garden in her memory to help them process their grief. Shasta daisies, Rachel’s favorite flower, feature prominently in the garden. Fifteen years later and a year after Lee’s death due to COVID, Rachel still finds peace in remembering her loved ones. The garden served as the backdrop for Lee’s celebration of life ministry. She has in her memory an image of an elderly man holding the hand of a young girl. Keep an eye out for peonies, hostas, ferns, Soloman seals, elephant ears and coleus. Cedar trees partially lining the back of the property provide the backdrop for blue false indigo, coral bells, ajuga and sedum.

255 N. Roosevelt. In 2016, volunteer master gardeners began transforming the outdoor gardens of this Wright-designed home, now a museum owned and operated by the Allen House Foundation. The resulting gardens feature native Kansas plants, plants favored by Wright and Henry and Elsie Allen, the home’s original residents, and some contemporary plants.

21 S. Lynwood Blvd. The Wards’ forecourts and backyards are the result of 28 years of problem solving. On one of the smallest lots in Eastborough, about 95% of the yard is shaded, allowing visitors to see several succulents, hostas and other shade-loving plants. A west-facing pergola provides a better-looking shade alternative than the metal awnings that were over the windows when the Wards bought the house. Look for repurposed sewing machine legs and a 1910 stone monument from a building inside and near the pergola. As the Wards landscaped their garden, they piled up the dirt soil they dug up to create the holes for the shade-loving plants, which they installed. Eventually they used the clay soil to create the foundation of a berm which is now one of the few sunny patches in the Wards’ courtyard. Look for an old stone grinder that was once used by Larry Ward’s grandfather to sharpen knives and has now been repurposed into garden art.

when you go

What: Annual garden tour sponsored by, organized by the Sedgwick County Extension Master Gardener Program

When: 9am-5pm Friday and Saturday 3rd and 4th June and 12pm-4pm Sunday 5th June

Where: Six gardens at 125 N. Gleneagles Road, 950 Toh-N-Hah Trail, 3015 S. Glenn, 6915 W. 35th St. South and 255 N. Roosevelt in Wichita and 21 S. Lynwood Blvd in Eastborough

Costs: $10, tickets available at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Office at 21st and Ridge Road, online at sedgwick.ksu.edu/events, or at any of the featured gardens during the tour weekend.

More info: 316-660-0200 or sedgwick.ksu.edu/events

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