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Need great ideas to transform your backyard? Spring Garden Tour has answers

2017 Spring Garden Tour garden features a creek, chickens and a vegetable garden

Jan and George Scheidt, of Clovis, have turned a basketball court space in their back yard into a vegetable garden, small orchard and chicken coop. The Scheidt Garden, which also features a running creek, is one of 7 gardens that will be open to v
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Jan and George Scheidt, of Clovis, have turned a basketball court space in their back yard into a vegetable garden, small orchard and chicken coop. The Scheidt Garden, which also features a running creek, is one of 7 gardens that will be open to v

At first glance, the yard outside Jan and George Scheidt’s Clovis home looks similar to the others around it – a green lawn, a tree, some well-manicured bushes, a few flowers.

But walk into the backyard, and the view becomes extraordinary: A large water feature that looks like a mountain creek with gentle cascading waterfalls, a small fruit orchard, a vegetable and herb garden, and three chickens living in a luxury coop with framed paintings of hens, their “family portraits” – all within a moderately sized yard.

The Scheidts’ garden – around 13,000 square feet between the front and backyard – will be one of seven in Fresno and Clovis featured Saturday in this year’s annual Spring Garden Tour, organized by master gardeners.

You don’t just have to have a bunch of grass and a few trees and a shrub or two. There’s a lot of great ideas people can come away with.

Gerry Hanford, chair of the 2017 Spring Garden Tour

“There is so much you can do in a small lot or a regular-sized lot,” says tour chair Gerry Hanford. “You don’t just have to have a bunch of grass and a few trees and a shrub or two. There’s a lot of great ideas people can come away with.”

The event is a fundraiser of the Master Gardener Association of Fresno County. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the local Master Gardener program through the University of California Cooperative Extension, which has trained around 300 master gardeners in Fresno County.

Anything is possible if you just put your mind and your back into it.

Jan Scheidt

This year’s tour features a wide variety of gardens: Two outside historic Tower District homes – a craftsman-style cottage garden with an “English feel,” and another with an art and potter’s studio tucked into the greenery; two in Old Fig Garden – a Persian-themed garden planted by a woman from Iran, and an Asian-themed Zen garden with a koi fish pond; a drought-tolerant garden in northwest Fresno that includes a large swimming pool and tennis court; the Scheidts’ garden; and the master gardeners’ Garden of the Sun demonstration, where more than 5,000 plants will be for sale along with the new guide, “A Gardener’s Companion for the Central San Joaquin Valley,” with region-specific gardening and planting tips. Live music will be performed in a couple of the gardens.

Chris Hays, publicity co-chair of the Master Gardener Association of Fresno County, says the annual self-guided tour is a popular event, with around 1,500 to 2,000 people typically participating. Hanford says all the gardens have sustainable features, like irrigation systems that limit water use, and more “organic” elements. Colorful and personal details are also prevalent. Some of those special touches in the Scheidts’ garden: Iceland poppies with large, bowl-shaped blossoms, a beehive that Jan uses to make honey, and 10 statues of children – one for each grandchild.

There’s satisfaction when you plant something and you grow it and it produces for you and it flowers beautifully.

Jan Scheidt

Gardening has been in George’s blood since he was a child, growing up on a vineyard in Easton. His mother had a large garden and his grandmother an even larger one: the Italian woman grew tomatoes “so big they would hang over your hamburger bun.”

“I just like watching a garden grow,” George says. “I like planting it and harvesting it. … The garden is a really big part of our lives and we really enjoy the beauty that it brings into the world and our lives.”

The Scheidts have done a lot to their yard since moving into the Clovis home in 2014, including removing a basketball court and replacing lawn with synthetic grass to reduce watering and yard maintenance.

They all have what we call sustainable features – saving water, using organic, grow your own vegetables and fruits.

Gerry Hanford, chair of the 2017 Spring Garden Tour

“I think anyone with a little space in their backyard can make a really nice beautiful, self-sufficient and tranquil area to enjoy,” Jan says. “Sadly, so many people don’t get to their backyard, they are so worried about the front yard … the backyard is where you can really kick back and enjoy.”

The Scheidts previously lived in a larger home nearby with six landscaped acres. They said they moved into their new smaller space because they are retired and getting older. Neither age or retirement is keeping them from working in the yard. Jan says gardening helps keep her healthy: “The bending, lifting, reaching, all that – who needs a gym?” She also loves to cook, so growing fresh herbs and vegetables is a major plus.

Hanford shares more gardening benefits: “It’s calming and I think it’s physically and emotionally healthy. … There’s just something about being around nature.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

Spring Garden Tour 2017

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 29 (rain or shine)
  • Tickets $35 and can be purchased at first stop on the self-guided tour, Garden of the Sun Demonstration Garden, 1750 N. Winery Ave., Fresno; online at ucanr.edu/2017sgtfresno; or businesses listed online
  • Garden descriptions and addresses listed on the ticket
  • Ticket information available by calling 559-970-3384
  • Proceeds support the local master gardener program
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