FD gardens shine

Barb and John Kilmer’s stop on the 13th annual Fort Dodge Area Federated Garden Club Garden Tour is billed as “Kilmertown – his and her hobbies.”

Their backyard garden is split into half. One side is dedicated to her small pond, several flower beds and an assortment of other plants. His side, actually slightly more than half, is dedicated to his model train layout.

On her half, she favors flowers.

“I can’t grow a vegetable garden, so I go to flowers,” she said.

The small pond is currently occupied by a pair of frogs. She did put some fish in, but they seem to have the victims of a foraging urban raccoon.

“We haven’t seen them since Memorial Day,” Barb Kilmer said.

John Kilmer’s trains are G scale. The large size of them makes them suitable for the tough conditions of outdoor use. He said he’s been working on the layout for about 18 years.

The more than 700 feet of track lets him run two trains at once. They snake their way around several flower beds with an assortment of fauna and even a small tree.

It takes time.

“It takes me about an hour or two to clean all the track,” John Kilmer said.

He doesn’t expect to grow the layout any further into the rest of the garden.

“This is it,” he said.

Visitors to the Garden Tour began their journey through eight gardens in the backyard of Sharon and Cliff Perkins.

Sharon Perkins said her garden is recovering nicely from the past few dry years.

“They’re really liking all of this rain,” she said.

Like most gardeners, Perkins can’t walk past a weed without yanking it out of the ground, and she is always looking for new things to try.

“I move things around all the time,” she said. “Gardens are always a work in progress.”

Alice Havlik has a small backyard – part of is technically an alley. But it’s big enough for a garden.

“You don’t want to put anything out you can lose,” she said.

She’s got inventive in using an old chain link dog run. She set up shelves along one side for potted plants, and on the southern exposure grows grapes that provide shade

“We make jam, and my husband makes wine,” she said.

Shirley Patterson began her garden in 1990.

“It was all grass,” she said. “I dug it all up with a shovel.”

The result, more than two decades later, is a corner lot nearly covered with flower beds and a collection of repurposed glass bottles and plates that are part of the display.

They come from various sources.

“I buy them at garage sales, I get some from friends and sometimes, people just drop them off,” Patterson said.

She does admit to having sampled the contents of a few of them.

“I do drink some of the wine myself,” she said.

The bottles add an element of low-maintenance color.

“I don’t have to water them,” she said.

She said she has no trouble keeping track of all the items in the beds. But that like most gardeners, she is occasionally surprised by an intruder or two.

“I just pulled weeds there, and there they are again,” she said.

The bottle displays were among the features of the various gardens that impressed Chrystal Rasmuson, of Fort Dodge, during her tour of the eight gardens.

Her mother, Donna Brown, of Fort Dodge, even has a line on a supply of bottles.

“I’m going to tell one of my boys to drink beer in colored glass,” Brown joked.

Gayle Lursen, of Fort Dodge, said she enjoyed the tour as well. She was impressed with the variety.

“Each garden is so different,” she said. “Each of them has such a different concept; it really reflects their passion.”

She was also impressed with the amount of time each host had spent working on them and the lack of the bane of all of them.

“I hardly see a weed,” she said.

During he first few hours of the tour, nature provided some natural irrigation for all the gardens in the form of a nice soaking of rain.

It only delayed things a little.

Rasmuson began the tour late, but said she would have gone regardless.

“We have umbrellas in the car,” she said.