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Garden tour offers a burst of color

If the garden of Tilly and Ted Gibbs is any indication, the 20th and apparently last annual Spring Garden Tour sponsored by Ashland’s American Association of University Women is going to be a crowd-pleaser to the 500 people who usually go. 

The Gibbs’ garden landscape, 14 years in the making, surrounds their modern home tucked in the lovely, rolling hills this side of Emigrant Lake. It’s a joint project of the couple and some landscapers, says Tilly Gibbs, and the results are a peaceful, drought-resistant landscape with many nooks, coves and pergolas in which to relax and enjoy the stunning countryside. 

The popular tour is set to run from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 7. Admission, $15, includes, as a “landing spot,” the lavish Old World charm and tasting room of Belle Fiore Winery, not far from the Gibbs garden and two others on the tour. 

“We’ve tried to achieve lots of color and texture using plants that aren’t exotic,” says Gibbs, adding that it’s all very water conscious and shared with local creatures — voles, gophers and bees — but not with the plentiful deer. They’re fenced out. 

On the front, downhill side of the house is a large circular gazebo, adorned with cat mint, spirea, potentilla, peonies, yarrow and lots of roses and varieties of grasses, all poised with a great view. 

On the side of the home, facing Pilot Rock, are an herb garden and strawberries with some veggies — edamame and tomatoes. 

The uphill side of the home, which has vineyards and another mansion above it, you’ll find a water feature trickling down the hill toward a statue of Melusine, a mythical French water spirit, much like a mermaid. The statue has been in the family for a long time, Gibbs notes. 

Five other gardens highlight the tour, two of them on Scenic Drive. The Messner/Sechan garden features rock walls and a pond, with garden designed as a series of rooms, in the style of an amphitheater. A waterfall (recycled), spills into two ponds in a woodland garden. 

The "Herb Haven" garden on Scenic has been transformed from a rough, grassy hillside into a garden for food, as well as medicinal plants, flowers and edible weeds. A series of terraces is held by intricate rock walls, echoing Asian rice farms. There are 50 medicinal plants. 

The Nelsen garden on Prospect Street was a place of barren weeds and boulders — and fir, pine and maple — but shifted into a pondless waterfall, Talent Irrigation District drip and low-volume mist irrigation with walkway and wood decks. The owner is renowned waterscapist Tonja Andreatta. 

Near the Gibbs garden, the Titus Garden is a hillside sanctuary for pollinators, with level areas for cascading plants, trees and shrubs and rocks harvested from the property. It has a water feature with gentle sounds of peace — and a croquet court.

The magnificent Belle Fiore, says the AAUW tour booklet, “bursts with flowering shrubs, evergreen plants and an arboretum of stately trees ... like the spirited principles of head, hand and heart, all fulfilled together.” 

Proceeds from the garden tour promote AAUW’s scholarships for girls and women of Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College. They have awarded $60,000 in scholarships in the last three years and are seeking to make their endowment funds at those schools self-sustaining. Through WIN (Women-in-Need) they support women and children at Dunn House, the only domestic violence shelter in Jackson County.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.