Five local gardeners invite guests

“Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”

— Alice Walker, American author and activist


In her 1982 essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Alice Walker describes her mother's garden as a beautiful expression of resilience and creativity in the face of poverty and oppression. Her mother’s garden inspired Walker to become a writer and an activist for women.

She wrote, “In search of our mothers’ gardens, we find ourselves.”

Taking action on behalf of women and girls in the Rogue Valley has been the mission of the North Valley Soroptimists for the past 20 years. Annual projects include a college scholarship for a Crater High School student, a grant to a local woman who is head of a household and returning to college, health care funding assistance for low-income women, a mentoring program for Central Point and Gold Hill middle-school girls, and creating Flowers of Hope, stained-glass panels for women who are fighting breast cancer.

The major fundraiser for the Soroptimist chapter is the annual self-guided Garden Tour, which features five very different and inspiring gardens in the Rogue Valley. This year’s tour, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 20, includes four gardens in Medford and one in Phoenix.

The cost of the tour is $15. Tickets can be purchased through May 19 at Central Point Florist, Southern Oregon Nursery and Penny and Lulu Studio Florist in Medford, and the Blue Door Garden Store in Jacksonville. Tickets can also be purchased between 9 a.m. and noon May 20 at Roxy Ann Winery in Medford. For more information about the Garden Tour, call 541-601-4580.

Garden Tour attendees will receive a brochure with a map and descriptions and photos of the gardens. Here is a sneak preview of this year’s gardens, all of which are sure to spark a gardener’s imagination:

John and Felicia Justin: Nostalgic for the rushing mountain rivers of their home in Montana, the Justins recreated a section of it in their Medford backyard. The large rocks and dramatic sound of the waterfall conjure up “big sky” country, yet the palm tree growing in a sandy patch in another part of the landscape is more reminiscent of Palm Desert, California.

Leanne Moon: From the moment visitors pass through the gate of Leanne’s white picket fence in Medford, they feel like they've stepped into an English tea garden. Soft paths meander past clusters of perennials with vibrant colors and varied textures. A flowering plum tree graces the rear gardens and provides shade for a three-tiered planter of cascading annuals. Formally trimmed hedges encircling the backyard add to the ambiance of an English country garden.

Shirlee Rulich: Along with her late husband, Richard, Shirlee created their dream garden over the course of many years. Today, her landscape in Medford boasts many mature trees, including a tri-color beech, magnolia, Italian cypress, stewartia, paper birch and American fringetree. In the backyard, wide pathways wind around planters, handcrafted trellises and an artistic garden shed.

Paula Saunders: A sign in the garden reads, “Leave room in your garden for the fairies to dance." Visitors will, indeed, find fairies and other magical things throughout Paula’s garden in Medford. With artistic flair, she has created ground art with a variety of patterns, textures and colors. In fact, Paula has tucked repurposed and resurrected treasures of all kinds to adorn her special hideaway.

Annegret and Hans Topel: With a view of the south valley and Mount Ashland, the Topels' multilevel landscape features a bubbling stream, towering conifers, an extensive rose garden, fruit trees, vegetable beds and a berry patch.

Sneak preview garden pictures are on my blog at

— Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at

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