Prepare to be inspired at the 25th Annual High Desert Garden Tour

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Variety is the spice of garden touring, and an annual event with some variety is around the corner.

The Oregon State University Extension Service provides educational services in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties. So, it seems perfectly logical that the Annual High Desert Garden Tour should rotate between Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville. This year, it is time for a road trip to Madras.

With a lower elevation than Bend and a longer, warmer growing season, plant selection may be somewhat different and exciting to note.

Five gardens plus the Central Oregon Agriculture Research and Extension Center are on the tour. Touring the gardens is a wonderful introduction to plants you aren’t familiar with and will give you some fresh ideas.

Two of the gardens are in Culver. Plan on a side trip off U.S. Highway 97, it will be well worth it.

Both Culver gardens have the appeal of entering a different world. One garden is part of a working farm with all the distractions of hungry critters and wind created on a peninsula bordering the Crooked River. Considering the challenges, a gallant effort has been made to create a series of enchanted gardens, including a prayer garden with the added serenity of enjoying rose bushes.

Found-glass garden art, a German black forest-style potting shed, apple and pear trees and many annuals and perennials that are unusual for Central Oregon can be of inspiration. Specialty plants to note: purple bell vine, paper bark maple, corkbark fir, tree peony and chocolate vine.

Gardening skills and creativity are also obvious in this terraced Culver garden creating several garden rooms. Each room has its own theme: from a cactus garden to an alpine garden on the other end of the garden spectrum, along with a pollinator garden and a conifer garden. A fence protects an orchard.

Specimen plants are visible throughout the property, including corkscrew filbert, royal star magnolia, hardy hibiscus, trumpet gentian, sapphire skies yucca and a massive black beauty elderberry.

Large boulders and retaining walls create a terraced landscape in this young Madras garden overlooking the city.

The front yard is a mixture of sun- and shade-loving perennials and shrubs. Specialty plants to note are a floribunda tree rose, deer resistant fuzzy leaved rhododendron, a Spanish fir and Japanese fountain grass.

The backyard shows off the terraced gardens. Gravel paths on each terrace level allows for close viewing of the plants.

The homeowners have made an effort to research and plant deer-resistant plants, knowing full well that anything newly planted may be tested by the frequent four-legged visitors.

Another exercise in terracing a hillside is evident in a biodiverse landscape full of thriving native and water-wise plants.

One of the special features is the variety of ornamental grasses planted on the hillside that peak with shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall. Some of the varieties include north wind panic grass, blonde ambition, blue grama grass and feather reed grass.

Adding to the experiences of visiting gardens where terracing has been a major consideration, you will also have the opportunity to visit a working cattle ranch with magnificent views and a centerpiece water feature with a large pond that flows into a 400-foot-long lava rock stream that flows through the landscape. Metalwork garden art, unique trees and a variety of perennials will add inspiration to your day. Please note that decks provide wheelchair access to view the gardens.

The demonstration garden at the Central Oregon Agricultural Research and Extension Center was established in 2009. Raised beds for vegetable and pollinator gardens support programs for teaching children about agriculture. In addition to viewing the various plants visitors will have access to a food truck with snacks and drinks as well as water, picnic tables and restrooms.

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Tickets and travel information

Tickets for the 25th Annual High Desert Garden Tour, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. are $10 per person and includes garden locations. New this year is a van pool available for an additional $10. Travel the tour in a 12-seat passenger van. To reserve your spot call 541-548-6088. Limited seats, 48 available.

For local ticket locations check or call 541-548-6088.

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