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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Le Tour des Jardins Returns


Gretchen Henry has transformed a yard of just grass into a botanical beauty.

We all have our morning routine, including Gretchen Henry.

However, her routine is likely more relaxing – and visually appealing – than yours.

On her backyard deck by 6:30 or 7, Henry – a retired nurse who spent more than five years caring for her husband, then her sisterin-law – slowly sips her coffee.

She does this while looking out at an oasis of colorful flowers and plants and listening to the soothing sounds of water.

“It makes me happy,” Henry said. You can take a look at Henry’s garden – and five other stunning gardens in Caddo and Bossier Parish – by going on this year’s Le Tour des Jardins. Advanced tickets to the tour on June 3 (9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.) and 4 (12:30–4:30 p.m.) are $10 each. On tour days, tickets will be $15.

“I hope they get ideas they can take home and apply to their own yard,” said tour chairperson Karen Durham. “They can see some new plants they aren’t familiar with. Most of these houses have some really clever things they have done with their property. It just gives you ideas.”

Henry, who lives in Shreveport’s Broadmoor area, started her garden – with help from her late husband – in 1996. She’s taken what was a yard of nothing but grass (“I had three dogs and a child who needed green grass to run and play on”) and turned it into an area featuring Peruvian lilies, angel’s trumpets and clematis. There’s also yard art and a fish pond filtered by pickleweed.

“I knew I wanted to have three beds which ran along the fence lines, and I wanted them to be irregular,” Henry said, thinking back to her garden’s beginning. “I knew I wanted to have places where people could meander along, then have little vignettes where they were surprised in the garden. I read books and looked in magazines to get ideas. I went on the garden tour for many, many years and got ideas to add to my garden.”

Henry and her husband put in a lot of sweat equity to get their garden started.

“I actually dug the hole for the fish pond,” Henry said. “I carted the fountain home from Austin (Texas) in pieces. My husband poured a cement slab, and we made a box for the pump to go in. We ran water tubing and electrical lines, and we put in a sprinkler system. We dug all that up ourselves. I was out there digging.”

Now established, Henry’s garden doesn’t require as much work. Henry guesses she maintains it four to six hours a week – including hand watering her flowers and plants. But each year, Henry adds a little something – or some things.

“Over the last few years, I added a little white greenhouse,” Henry said. “I added a couple of arbors with climbing roses. Then, I added a wooden arbor. I’ve added birdhouses. The plants are what changes all the time. This past winter, I lost all three Sasanquas that were 35 years old. That was kind of sad, but things can’t stand a below-zero freeze. I’ve had to replace those things with other things. There are some plants that are there all the time, like the Japanese maple. Most of the rose bushes are there.

"I did lose a Climbing Pinkie rose, but other roses come back every year. Some things come back every year, but I change the annuals out every year.”

Le Tour des Jardins is a yearly fundraiser – the major fundraiser – for Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners. The group grants money to schools, community gardens, cemeteries and organizations that need landscaping. Durham says landscaping is something that should not be overlooked.

“It’s visual appeal, which affects us emotionally and how we feel when things are pretty versus when things are blah.”

Each morning, Durham and her sister walk four miles with an eye out for what looks good and what doesn’t.

“We critique the houses and the yards,” Durham said. “The interesting thing is, there can be a beautiful house, but if it’s not landscaped, it really doesn’t come across as a beautiful house.”

To become a Master Gardener, Durham and others took a 10- week course, followed by 40 hours (the first year) of volunteer work. Each year after, master gardeners do 20 hours of volunteer work and six hours of continuing education. Through that education and her personal experience, Durham has one piece of advice before you dig the first hole and plant the first flower.

“Do a soil test,” Durham said. “That makes a major difference in your yard. The soil test is really important, because it tells you the pH of your soil, and it tells you about all the minerals in it. It tells you what to do to get it ready to plant. If you tell (the tester) what you want to plant, (he or she) can tell you what you need for that particular type of plant.”

In Broadmoor, Gretchen Henry is way past testing her yard’s soil. She simply sits back, drinks her coffee and enjoys the beauty of her work.

“Sitting out on the deck in the mornings and looking out over the garden, I am filled with happiness, peace, joy and a sense of great satisfaction that I was able to create and enjoy something so beautiful,” Henry said. “The garden is a retreat, and working in it is good therapy for the soul.”

To learn more about Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners and to buy tickets to Le Tour des Jardins, you may visit www.nwlamg.weebly.com.


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