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Garden tour to highlight efforts of homeowners

By Kristina Jackson

When Karen and Rod Franz moved into their home almost 40 years ago, the yard had only a few bushes to decorate it. Since then, their yard has evolved into a lush eden with brightly colored flowers, vegetables and other elements including fountains.

Franz will have a chance to share her creation with the public next week. Her garden is one of six on the Manhattan Area Garden Tour. The tour, organized by the Riley County Master Gardeners and K-State Research and Extension, shows a variety of plants grown by residents of the area.

The Franzes moved into their home on Thackrey Street when they moved to Manhattan and have never lived in another house in town, so they’ve had plenty of time to make the garden their own. They’ve also had to adjust when Mother Nature brought changes.

A tree in the garden died, taking away some shade, and the Franzes lost more shade when another tree was taken by a storm. But when changes like these come, they simply find ways to adapt.

“It’s gradually transformed,’ she said. “It went from a shade yard to a sunny yard, so we made a patio,” Karen said.

She also got creative when building a wooden structure to shade the patio. The angle of the pergola maximizes the sun for every season.

“We wanted the angle of the wood so that in winter it’s in sun, and in the summer the patio is in shade,” she said.

She also has several water fountains, bird feeders, and other decorative elements, including some near the Franzes’ doorway that Karen changes with the seasons, such as for Halloween or Easter.

“I try to keep it welcoming,” she said.

Although the yard is carefully cultivated, Karen said in a way she also lets it do its own thing. She grows a variety of plants, including chives, irises and potatoes, but doesn’t mind if they start to grow together.

“If garlic starts to come up in the tomatoes, I let it,” she said. “If I can eat it, I let it come.”

She also tries new things, including a small nursery of succulents that she started this year. When she travels, Karen brings plants back with her as well. She’s always experimenting in her garden, and it’s a process of trial and error.

“Some things work, some things don’t,” she said.

Kristine Tiroch, another host of the tour, also is still experimenting in her backyard. Kristine and husband Tony Tiroch moved into their home in 2006 and have been adding projects ever since.

“We keep adding different areas every year,” she said.

The Tirochs worked with a landscaper to add features, including a small waterfall and a new patio. The patio sits next to their fenced pool and gives a view of the wooded area behind the home.

Kristine said the waterfall and a berm with rocks and plants on the edge of the yard are some of her favorite elements.

“I like the sound of the pond, and the berm is a nice way of separating the yards, and it fences in our backyard,” Kristine said.

Overall, with a pool, porch and a stereo going, Kristine said, the garden gives the family an area to relax and entertain.

“It’s like our staycation,” she said.

Karen also finds her garden relaxing, although in a slightly different way. She said she uses her time maintaining her garden as a stress reliever. As a former schoolteacher, she said she enjoys the solitude.

“Gardening is my therapy,” she said. “It’s nice to get out and pick at those little weeds.”

She also relaxes by creating crafts for her garden, such as signs with sayings on them that she hangs in her yard.

The work creates a calming place to sit and enjoy, listening to the water fountains and watching orioles at the bird feeders, Karen said.

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