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Peek into beautifully landscaped private gardens on Olympia’s Secret Garden Tour

A waterfall into a swimming pool. A gravelly, drought-tolerant landscape. Koi ponds and a henhouse. They’re just some of the garden treats offered this weekend on the Olympia Garden Club’s Secret Garden Tour, a fundraiser for local public and school garden projects and a chance to peek into six of Olympia’s most beautiful private gardens — just in time for Mother’s Day weekend.

“People are always looking for (nice) things to do with their mothers, aunts or grandmothers,” tour organizer and garden club member Mary Beth Riggs said. “This tour has gardens to the north, south, east and west of Olympia, starting close to the center.”

The Secret Garden Tour is self-guided, with ticket-buyers getting a map and brief description of each garden downtown before deciding themselves how many to visit and where. All gardens are open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, and there’s a wide variety of inspiring landscaping styles in the six private gardens on the tour.

One recently made garden, just 7 years old, is a water-wise landscape with 90 drought-tolerant plants and gravel mulch anchored with deciduous trees, such as Eastern rosebud and magnolia. Another, established in 1930 and maintained ever since, is large and highly traditional in layout, with even some petrified wood on display. There also is a two-acre suburban cottage featuring koi ponds, waterfalls, native trees and shrubs, perennial beds and a henhouse with chickens.

For Riggs, the highlight of the tour is a garden in the Field of Dreams development, seven miles south of Olympia on a hilltop.

“There’s a small swimming pool with a waterfall. It’s immaculately maintained, and it has massive views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens,” Riggs said. “It takes your breath away.”

At every garden, the club also is offering watercolor art or live music, and one will feature the Quilts of Valor, a national organization offering comfort and healing to veterans through specially made quilts. Garden Club members will serve as docents in each garden.

The tour is a fundraiser for the 90-year-old nonprofit Garden Club, whose 63 members donate time and energy planting in public places or helping schools build gardens. Last year, the club gave 44 education grants to local schools for garden projects and awarded $4,500 in school scholarships. Two of the gardens on the tour belong to club members.

“Our goals are to support teachers and to offer beautification projects around Olympia,” Riggs explained.

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