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Wednesday, June 24,2009

Home grown

Tour to benefit Housing Coalition

by Liz Reyna
After more than 20 years with their nails in the dirt, Dan Crow and his partner, Jim Fasel, finally have paradise at their fingertips. The garden they planted together is a five-acre eyeful for anyone. There are the tulip trees that rocket to the sky, a rich canopy of conifers that blanket the property like nature’s quilt and a maze of Miscanthus grasses, jutting like a sky of fireworks. In the middle of it all last Saturday stood Crow and Fasel, two enthusiasts with a passion for gardening.


Crow and Fasel’s garden in Perry is one of 10 gardens featured on the 12th annual Gardens Galore Tour, a summer fundraiser for the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors will set out on self-guided tours of gardens throughout Greater Lansing. Proceeds goes to the Housing Coalition, which aims to provide quality, affordable housing for low- and-moderate-income people and to revitalize neighborhoods. “When it started 12 years ago, the whole thought process was that the gardens are the funding of the home and give it curb appeal,” said Amy Rose Wallace-Robinson, the Housing Coalition’s business manager. “If we can showcase the gardens, that would fit into our philosophy of revitalizing neighborhoods.”


New to the game this year is “Ask an Expert,” with Eric Stinson, from Cooley Gardens, and Ann Hancock, from MSU’s Perennial Gardens, who will answer gardening questions. The event will also include mini-plant sales of Dickson’s Gold Campanulas and Munchkin Hostas along the tour.


For his third appearance on the tour, Crow, chairman of the Housing Coalition’s board and co-owner of Outdoor Expressions landscaping, expanded his garden to showcase his craft. “I hope [visitors] get ideas for their own garden and experience the joy of walking around,” Crow said.


A two-story gazebo on his property overlooks a wave of inspirational colors and textures. There’s the Actinidia kolomikta, a hardy species of kiwi, with green leaves that look like they are dipped in pink this time of year. A rare Dawyck purple beech and even rarer snake-branch spruce set next to each other unassumingly in his maze of Miscanthus. Standing near the edge of his property, three sculptures of American Indian women by Mark Chatterly seem to hold up the sky.


“[Crow]’s very into blending with the natural surroundings,” Fasel said. “That’s the one thing with this garden is that it works with the woods,” Fasel said.


Laurie Kaufman, another gardener showing off her work for this year’s tour, was inspired to sign up immediately after last year’s event. “I wanted to be a part of this, because it’s not only a great charity event, but I also wanted the opportunity to show people native plants — the wonders and misconceptions,” Kaufman said.


About half of Kaufman’s garden is filled with native plants, while the rest are nonnative.

That’s because it’s all about balance, she said, from the plants to the insects that visit them. All plants bring insects, but native plants bring the insects’ natural predators to ward-off an infestation, which isn’t the case for non-native species.

Kaufman hopes to spread the message that wildflowers and native plants can be used in a tasteful way and not just look like what’s seen in a vacant field.

Her lakeside Haslett home is decorated with rainwater gardens. A bridge leads over a prickly pear cactus, while native Joe Pie weeds and a cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) tower over its prickly pear. The garden includes a front lawn of bloodroot and goat’s beard, which looks like sparklers.

Kaufman has no plans of stopping her hobby, and she welcomes visitors’ ideas and inspiration this weekend. “I’m on a quest to get rid of any lawn that’s unused,” she said.


Gardens Galore Tour


Benefit
for Greater Lansing Housing Coalition 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. June 27 & 28
$15 Tickets available at Christian’s Greenhouse, Evelastings in the
Wildwood, Hickory Corner Greenhouse, Horrock’s Farm Market, Mole Hole,
Smith Floral & Greenhouse and Wild Birds Unlimited.(517) 372-5980 www.glhc.org



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