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Tour highlights drought-tolerant, edible gardens
garden tour 1 jd
Jane Shoenberger arranges one of the plants hanging on a purgola that her husband built using the frame of an old garden swing. - photo by Jim Dean
Forsyth County Master Gardeners Tour
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Throughout Forsyth County; addresses of the gardens are provided in a brochure given to ticket buyers.
How much: $15; purchase tickets online, at the Forsyth County Extension office or through any Forsyth master gardener.
More info:  770-887-2418 or click here

When Jane Shoenberger moved to Forsyth County three years ago, she said her back yard looked like a jungle in a drought.
She almost didn’t want to buy the house after seeing all those weeds.

But with a lot of hard work, love and smart planning, Shoenberger has become the proud keeper of a thriving garden, to which she will open the gates this Saturday.

Her yard is one of six on the Forsyth County Master Gardeners Tour, a biennial self-guided look at some of the county’s finest gardens as well as a fundraiser for the organization.

This year’s theme encourages visitors to “explore, dream and discover,” a tagline organizer Norma Caskey borrowed from Mark Twain.
She said she hopes the tour will allow visitors to take a peek at what others are doing and get ideas for their own gardens.

“We selected gardens that would hopefully show people how to tackle problems they might have in their own yards,” Caskey said.

Shoenberger said her yard, which features more than 500 plant species, was selected for its adaptation to the drought situation she and her husband encountered three years ago.

“I enjoy the challenges of gardening, especially moving to a new state in a drought, which was very, very difficult,” she said.

Her creeping raspberries, a ground-covering plant, are known for their versatility, she said.

The berries from the plant are also edible, like several other plants and herbs in Shoenberger’s yard.

Many of this year’s gardens on the tour feature at least some fruits or vegetables, something Caskey attributed to a recent trend for homegrown produce.

Kathy Adkins, another gardener on the tour, said she had to plan her vegetable garden to adapt to the strict covenants of her homeowners association. That was just one of the challenges she has faced in her five years working on her back yard.

But Adkins’ biggest obstacle was the steep slope of the nearly acre lot.

Along with her husband, she designed a tiered garden, placing plants that need more water on the lowest level near the 9,000-gallon koi pond.

The pond is a centerpiece of the garden, containing 25 fish, which Adkins said have all been named by her nieces and nephews.

A waterfall cascades over the levels of the garden, making the space peaceful while also helping stem soil erosion.

Adkins said she’s been a lifelong gardener, beginning in New Jersey helping her father.

“He really instilled in me ... that it’s something you should take pride in and you should do it with your own hands,” she said.

She became a member of the Forsyth County Master Gardeners about a year after moving to the county.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned so much,” she said. “It’s just elevated (my gardening) to another art form.”

The local chapter of the University of Georgia organization operates through the Forsyth County Extension Office.

Master gardeners maintain public gardens, offer free advice and appear at community events and classes.

Caskey said the tour aims to raise awareness for local gardeners that the organization is a local, free resource.

The tour includes the homes of five master gardeners, as well as the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center, a 17-acre garden maintained by a member of the local gardening group.

At that location, the gardeners will also hold an arts and crafts sale, with decorations for the outdoors.

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