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News / Life / Clark County Life

Natural Garden Tour: Greener approaches to greenery

Annual event brings environmental stewardship up close and personal

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 13, 2018, 6:04am
9 Photos
Susan Sanders, a previous participant in several county garden tours, welcomes visitors to her downtown Vancouver garden.
Susan Sanders, a previous participant in several county garden tours, welcomes visitors to her downtown Vancouver garden. The Columbian files Photo Gallery

Every year, Clark County Public Health coordinates a do-it-yourself driving tour so residents can learn what their neighbors are doing to save the Earth — one blade of grass, flower garden, vegetable patch and backyard bird sanctuary at a time.

This year, Gregg Andrews of Felida will show off how he’s stuck with resilient, low-maintenance native species — plus a little organic neem oil and nature’s greatest bug devourer, the chicken — to defeat pests and blights.

Diane Chernofsky of Salmon Creek will demonstrate how near-total wildness — with a little attention to water retention and erosion control — has resulted in an edible yard that attracts beautiful wildlife.

Laura and Charlie Heldreth of east Vancouver have made their steep front yard into terraces of prairie grass, flowers and snackable food gardens that their neighbors love.

If You Go

 What: Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour.

 When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15.

 Where: One dozen sites across Clark County. Get the information online or in a booklet you can pick up at local garden retailers listed in accompanying story.

 To learn more: www.clarkgreenneighbors.org/gardentour

 Admission: Free.

And, Bob Manelis and Linda Kliewer of Battle Ground have both made the best of seasonal wetlands and rocky fill by installing the appropriate plants, or by adding lots of organic compost to the soil.

Those folks are among a dozen Clark County residents whose doors — and yard fences — will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 15. Some are returning to the tour, others are new. All are volunteers eager to spread the word about their greener approaches to greenery: alternatives to grass lawns, choosing native plants, growing food, conserving water and attracting pollinators and beneficial insects.

“This is my favorite outreach of the year, because neighbors can learn from each other how they are growing beautiful gardens without chemicals,” said Sally Fisher, who launched these backyard tours years ago. (And Fisher has some annual outreach to be proud of; she’s the same high-impact thinker who cooked up the county’s celebrated Recycled Arts Festival, a huge summer crowd-pleaser and consciousness-raiser.)

The Natural Garden Tour “is a great opportunity to see firsthand the astonishing results gardeners can achieve without using chemicals that can harm people, pets and wildlife,” Fisher said.

Plenty of neighbors are taking the opportunity. A whopping 800 people participated in last year’s Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour.

How can you take the tour, too? Booklets featuring all the information you need, including driving maps, are downloadable online or available at garden stores across the county. Garden destinations have been conveniently grouped into regions, and after last year’s emphasis on downtown Vancouver, those three regions are all elsewhere: West Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek; east Vancouver and east county; Brush Prairie and Battle Ground; plus there’s a “bonus stop” at Charles Van Amerongen’s big, woodsy 10-acre spread north of La Center.

The tour is entirely free and open to everyone; the county only asks that you consider carpooling and don’t forget to sign in at your first stop, so there’s a head count for this year’s participation. Please exercise the same courtesy you would when visiting any stranger’s home: no smoking. No pets. Watch your children. And, of course, no picking the plants! (Also, private restrooms are not part of the tour.)

Download the Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour booklet and map from www.clarkgreenneighbors.org/gardentour or stop by:

• Backyard Bird Shop, 8101 N.E. Parkway Drive, Unit C5, Vancouver.

• Bird’s English Garden & Nursery, 1296 S. Dolan Road, Ridgefield.

• Cascade Greenhouse, 6005 N.E. 139th St., Pleasant Valley.

• Chapman’s Greenhouse and Nursery, 14002 N.E. 117th Ave., Brush Prairie.

• Shorty’s Garden & Home, 10006 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

• Shorty’s Garden and Home, 705 N.E. 199th St., Ridgefield.

• Vintage Books, 6613 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

• Yard N’ Garden Land, 1501 N.E. 102nd St., Hazel Dell.

• Hidden Gardens Nursery, 4345 N.W. 16th Ave., Camas.