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West Windsor Garden Tour on Saturday, June 25

Nearly 20 of West Windsor’s gardeners are opening up their gardens on Saturday, June 25, as part of the second annual GroWW (Greening of West Windsor) Garden Tour. They’re ready to answer questions, from flowers and vegetables to compost and fighting deer, and inspire all to do some planting. The free self-guided tour runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; maps are available at www.GreeningWestWindsor.com, the West Windsor Arts Center, the West Windsor Community Farmers' Market and West Windsor Library beginning June 18.

Those stopping at 4 Kingsley Court will meet Lisa Wren. When she and her husband bought their home in 2005, the yard had little more than one peony, a forsythia shrub, some rhododendrons and a few mature trees. Since then, the self-taught gardeners have transformed part of their back yard into an array of sun and shade gardens using low-maintenance plants that add a punch. Those that re-bloom or can double as a nice groundcover rate highly.

One favorite, she says, is knock-out roses. They grow fast enough that deer don’t do much damage, and bloom for months and are available in a range of colors. Gardeners may be afraid to try English and old garden roses, but the Wrens have found varieties that require little maintenance.

A clematis plant now clambers up a crape myrtle tree in their yard, blooming until just about the point when the tree takes over. “Walker’s Low” nepeta looks like lavender and pairs nicely with roses. Lilies (Asiatic and Orienpet species) also require little care, but deliver big impact in the garden. And she likes hostas (her deer, at least, tend to ignore the blue-leaf variety) and ferns for shade. A patch of autumn fern grow under a cluster of white birch trees, with the ferns' orange foliage providing a bright spot in the fall, and painted ferns grow under old oak trees. Hardscaping - boulders, bluestone paths - adds interest. She has many other suggestions for easy-care gardening.

“There is nothing in our garden that is high maintenance,” she says. “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Like other gardeners, she has made plenty of mistakes. And when a plant needs more space or otherwise isn’t happy, the solution is usually pretty easy: move it.

Mike and Ruth Potts have turned the backyard off 11 Penn Lyle Road into an oasis of calm. They have created a woodland garden hidden behind their house and ferns, hostas, astilbe, foxglove and some native plants such as shooting stars, a wildflower with white and pink blooms early in the spring.

“When you come into the backyard, it can be very quiet. It’s so peaceful that you don’t know there’s a busy road nearby,” Ruth said.

See how to include sculptures and other artwork in a flower garden by visiting the community garden at the corner of Canal Pointe Boulevard and Emmons Drive, maintained by Ron LeMahieu. His tip: “Buy sculpture that speaks to you and once you get it into the garden, plant around it with plants that are appropriate for the particular type of sculpture.”

The former home of a Master Gardener, at 56 North Mill Road, will be on display. New owners Annette Osterlund & Mike Ruderman are learning that so much more grows here than in Boulder, Colorado. Annette is also discovering how newspaper can be used to suppress weeds (also more plentiful). Ask her how, enjoy the flowers, shrubs and trees chosen to entice birds and butterflies but discourage deer and then follow her adventures on newbie-nj-gardener.blogspot.com.

Composting tips and tricks will be demonstrated by Girl Scout Dhara Mehta. Compost is better for the soil than other fertilizers, plus it’s free and can reduce your household trash by half, she said. She will be answering questions at 533 Village Road West, a home owned by Ed Haemmerle that showcases many other environmental features such as solar roof panels, geothermal heating and cooling, solar thermal for hot water, rainwater-harvesting and a white (cool) roof. And yes, there’s an electric car, for those who missed a chance to see it at the West Windsor Farmers’ Market.

Other homes on the tour that include compost sites are 56 North Mill Road, 11 Penn Lyle Road, 34A Berrien Avenue and 27 Melville Road.

One of the hits of last year’s garden tour, sub-irrigated containers for growing vegetables, will be demonstrated at the West Windsor Community Garden on Clarksville Road. It’s easy to build a planter that retains water in the base and uses a standard storage container.

Vegetable gardens also can be seen at 409 Village Road East, 530 Village Road West, 533 Village Road West, 922 Alexander Road, 16 Scott Avenue, 27 Melville Road, and West Windsor Community Garden. Fruit trees line the driveway of 131 South Mill Road.

A backyard that has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat will be on display at 5 Scott Avenue. To meet with the NWF’s approval, it must meet certain criteria for providing food, water and cover as well as a place for animals to raise their young.

About Greening of West Windsor (GroWW):
GroWW is a volunteer group of West Windsor residents who have worked together over the past 3 years to highlight the excellent environmental practices of businesses, government agencies and community groups. The main focus of GroWW is to educate the public on energy conservation, recycling options and sustainability practices.