If you time it just right, you can take in two garden tours next weekend.
They provide glimpses of back yards transformed — one into oases for the spirit and the other into refuges for wildlife.
A Camano Island tour on June 23 demonstrates how to make back yards more inviting for critters by providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young.
And a Mill Creek tour, also on June 23, showcases six gardens, including one 6,700-foot space transformed over more than a dozen years by Mina and Tim Marcher into a space both meditative and joyful.
The most striking feature is a 30-foot waterfall that drains from the top of a backyard hill into a pond filled with colorful koi fish.
“It’s soothing; my neighbors love it,” Mina Marcher said. She means neighbors in the most inclusive sense.
Herons and hawks sometimes literally drop by, too, not just to watch the fish but to try to help themselves to a snack. Netting over the pond protects the fish from the predators.
Some of the garden’s features, such as its rocks, clay and sand, don’t provide the most nurturing environment for plants. But she’s found some that thrive, such as plumb and red Japanese maple trees and heather, azalea and hydrangea bushes.
At 6,700 square feet, “I think we have one of the largest back yards in our neighborhood,” she said.
Other gardens on the tour are the past winner of the city’s Great Garden Award, a nearly 1-acre site where a garden was created in a forest-like setting; a wetland garden and aviary with domesticated ring-necked doves; a “deck garden” overlooking a golf course, and a cottage garden with some 400 plants.
Camano Island’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden Tour, now in its 11th year, is expected to draw more than 300 people. “We have a following now,” said Val Schroeder, coordinator of the Camano Wildlife Habitat Project.
The island was the 10th community in United States to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Community Wildlife Habitat. Since that status was granted in 2005, the number of properties on the island certified as Backyard Wildlife Habitats has grown to more than 900.
The tour includes five properties in the central part of the island. Docents will be on hand to answer questions. Handouts will provide information on native plants.
“We want people to come and learn how to live with the critters,” Schroeder said.
One of the tour’s stops is at the home of Pam Fredericksen. When she and her husband bought the property in 2003, it was basically a new house with a bare lot, she said.
It was about the time that efforts were under way to establish the island as a Community Wildlife Habitat.
“I said, ‘Sign me up,’ ” Fredericksen said. She met with people who had picked the plants and developed wildlife-friendly gardens.
She brought home more than 100 plants from the Snohomish Conservation District sale. At the time, they were “little sprigs of nothing,” she said. Over the 14 years since then, they’ve grown into trees and bushes.
Her back yard, bordered by three streets, takes in just a quarter of an acre, but now includes Pacific madrone and Douglas fir trees. Her property is on the tour in part to illustrate that homeowners don’t need to have large plots of land to establish wildlife habitat areas.
“It’s not a big lot, but she packs it full of native plants helping the critters,” Schroeder said.
Camano Island is one of 16 areas certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat in Washington and one of 106 nationally, Schroeder said. Other local communities qualifying for the designation include Edmonds, Mukilteo, Brier, Shoreline and Whidbey Island.
She said she’s seen how animals have responded since beginning the evolution on her own property in 1994.
“We have eagles nesting on the property line,” she said, and she sometimes sees an eaglet stretching its wings. Otters traverse the stairs. She often spots black-capped chickadees, robins, fox sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.
The property has a layering system of vegetation, from tall trees to short pines, and a mix of ornamental and native plants that includes wild strawberries, wild rose and lilacs.
“We just want to spread the word that it’s easy to have a wildlife habitat,” Schroeder said. “The whole idea is for people to get the idea that it doesn’t take a lot of work, and it doesn’t have to be done all at once.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The annual Camano Island Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden Tour is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23. The event is free. Pick up maps at Camano Multipurpose Center, 141 N. East Camano Drive the day of. Call 360-387-2236. More at www.camanowildlifehabitat.org.
The annual Mill Creek Garden Tour & Artisan Market is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23. Tickets are $15 per person or $20 on tour day. More at millcreekgardenclub.com/garden-tour.