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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune

Dan Merrill walks through his Medford garden, one of the featured stops on the 10th annual AAUW garden tour Saturday, June 9.

Trains bloom on AAUW garden tour

Dan and Kristine Merrill’s north Medford garden is blooming with trains.

Four separate rail lines wind through several rock gardens, water features, a koi pond and a charming array of playful boy-and-girl statues, all serving to make the garden one of the jewels of the 10th annual AAUW garden tour.

The gala event by the American Association of University Women’s Medford chapter runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 9, and this year it features gardens in Medford and Eagle Point.

The tour attracts about 400 garden-lovers in good weather, costs $20 and raises enough money for 10 scholarships of $1,500 each for young women studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College, according to Gail Etchie, chairwoman of the tour.

“It’s a unique, eclectic, colorful garden accented with ponds and garden railways you won’t find anywhere else in the valley,” she says.

The garden showcases 20 species of groundcover scattered among the railroad tracks, including lime thyme, blue star creeper, sedum, ice dance, evergold, dwarf carnation, wine and roses, and lamium, says a proud Dan Merrill, who has loved model railroading for 40 years.

Dan, a retired gardener with Ashland Parks & Recreation, calls his little train paradise “Stillwater Junction” after their street name and “Mimosa Falls,” after a big tree in the yard, from which he takes cuttings to create tiny trees for his trainscape. Many Japanese maples serve the same purpose.

Kristine fancies the koi, which eat bits of food out of her submerged hand, and she notes that the yard is big enough — and “gorgeous” enough — that she can rack up 10,000 steps a day striding around in it.

The other Medford garden on the tour, created by Gene Phipps and Charlie Garland, features a small Zen garden with a maple tree and fountain surrounded by ajuga (bugleweed), along with a vertical vegetable garden perfect for small spaces.

They have a rose garden and apple tree grafted with five kinds of apples. An upper dining area and lower lounge area are accented by a fire pit with camellias, hydrangeas and gardenias.

“We believe our garden is a reflection of what we love and who we are, with a goal of creating harmony and balance along with a sense of a vacation retreat,” they say.

At this stop you can join a raffle — $10 a ticket — for a weeklong stay in a three-floor condo in Hawaii (Kailua-Kona). Tickets are sold only on the day of the garden tour, and the winner will be announced at the end of the day. It doesn’t cover air fare.

In Eagle Point, three gardens beckon. Cathleen Callahan and Tom Eaton’s garden features many plants not normally found in the valley, with a focus on specimens from Australia and South Africa, which like our climate. You’ll find 40 varieties of echinacea, shrub roses, salvias and veronicas all providing much summer color.

The garden of Dennis and Annette Godfrey’s 1908 bungalow sits on Little Butte Creek and showcases a Virginia Creeper embracing an entire front porch. You’ll see a boxwood-lined vegetable garden, rose arbor, arborvitae hedge and shade-loving columbine, bleeding heart and foxglove.

The garden of Pepper and Bob Stobbe is a tranquil spot embraced by birches, conifers, dogwoods, nandina and spirea, with a huge variety of shapes, colors and textures. You’ll spot Rose of Sharon hibiscus tree, herb garden and a long bed of vine maples that offer summer shade for wildlife.

The tour is sponsored by The Resort at Eagle Point Golf Club, where you can stop off for refreshments at the Talon Grill and also enjoy the resort’s gardens.

Information is at medford-or.aauw.net/

Tickets can be purchased in advance at any Grange Co-Op retail store, the Blue Door garden store in Jacksonville, Penny and Lulu’s Studio Florist in Medford, Heaven Scent Flowers and Gifts in Eagle Point, Heather Cove Gifts and Flowers in Shady Cove, Resort at Eagle Point Golf Club (on tour day only) and at any of the gardens on the day of the tour.

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

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