Taking a short, paved path along the side of his home at 145 Bethany Drive, Frank Tracz, marching band director at K-State, walks between lush bushes and greenery dotted with touches of purple — a pot of flowers, a Pride of Wildcat Land stone sign and a K-State flag.
He passes through a dainty arched gateway, which leads to an expanse of green lawn, lined with vibrant flowers, shrubs and trees, all of which Tracz said he’s worked on himself since he moved in with his wife, Geralyn, in 2000. Tracz said although he’s not a master gardener and learns by trial-and-error, he would never pay someone to maintain his yard.
“This is blood pressure medication,” Tracz said. “I like getting dirty and I like coming out and sweating outside. There’s no meetings, there’s no committees, there’s no parents, there’s no administrators, nothing. If I put something in and it dies, I pull it out. It’s as simple as that.”
Tracz’s home is one of five residential properties that will be featured on the 31st-annual garden tour hosted by the Riley County Extension Master Gardeners June 9.
Since the couple moved in, Tracz has renovated and expanded the back deck, added a hot tub, created a patio, added flower beds and pots, built a shed and more.
One of his current projects is creating an instrument garden. Using old sousaphones, drums and trumpet slides, Tracz uses the instruments as flower and plant holders.
Scattered throughout the yard, one can also see touches of Tracz’s background as an Ohio native and university leader with items such as a Cleveland Browns flag and K-State tree decorations.
On the deck, which recently had its boards replaced, Tracz grows tomatoes and varieties of hot peppers, a favorite of his, as well as several other potted plants.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s just fun,” Tracz said.
Peggy and David Anderson own another home on the tour at 539 Westview Drive. Although the building is bordered at one side by Anderson Avenue, it offers a sense of privacy with tall trees and bushes protecting it from view.
“When we bought the house (in 1994) you could not see the house from Anderson Avenue or from Westview except for the opening that you drive up,” David said. “I always wanted to recreate that sense of seclusion from the outside world, so my goal has always been to make the house disappear.”
The Anderson home was actually featured on the tour before in 2007, but within a year, ice storms and a tornado decimated the garden.
“It completely changed this yard,” Peggy said. “Although the house was primarily OK, we lost every major tree on the property.”
With the help of friend Dian Gebhardt, who is also a landscaper with the Manhattan Country Club, the couple had to restructure areas of the yard as various places now received different levels of sunlight and shade.
As part of some of the changes, the Andersons expanded the backyard’s water feature into a stream and pond filled with goldfish, added back perennials and annuals, and replanted trees that now tower over the yard.
Although the garden features many varieties of foliage and flowers, it does not feel cluttered as each area is its own contained space, and natural paths lined with trees and greenery guide movement through the space.
“You keep it as simple as you can because there’s so much,” Gebhardt said. “You try to make things as easy on yourself as possible — low maintenance, specific areas for specific things, soft soil so it’s easier to plant in.”
One of Peggy’s favorite features is the giant blue spruce tree on one side of the house, which was replanted after its predecessor was destroyed in the tornado. Before, it had served as a Christmas tree.
“I also love the lilacs,” Peggy said. “Some of the old-time perennials remind me of my mother’s garden and my grandmother’s garden, so the peonies are another favorite that I grew up with. I’m kind of sentimental about those.”
David said he also enjoyed looking out at the garden just as much as he did walking through it.
“Wherever you look, there’s always something pleasing to the eye to me,” he said.
These gardens and more can be seen on the tour from 1 to 5 p.m. June 9. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Blueville Nursery, Horticulture Services and the East and West Side Markets for $8, as well as at the houses the day of for $10.
The Gardens at K-State: 1500 Denison Ave.
Frank and Geralyn Tracz: 145 Bethany Drive
Arlo and Diane Bierre: 2605 Woodhaven Court
Peggy and David Anderson: 539 Westview Drive
Rhonda and Troy Hensley: 444 Oakdale Drive
Mike and Lana Hufnagel: 5208 Tuttle Cove Road