Be amazed and inspired at the Soroptimist Garden Tour |

Be amazed and inspired at the Soroptimist Garden Tour

Step into a world of beauty and wonder at the 24th annual Soroptimist International of the Sierra Foothills Garden Tour Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21. This popular event allows the public into some of our community's most beautiful and elaborate private gardens, and the homeowners who have created them are on hand to answer questions and welcome you into their world.
This year, six diverse gardens from South County to north of Nevada City will be featured on the tour, giving attendees a glimpse of the secret worlds of residents at different elevations and climates. Each garden is uniquely special, and has been chosen for the meticulous love and care that is taken to keep each one well maintained year round.

In addition, each stop on the tour features the work of a local artist to add to the beauty of the location.

#1 Eclectic and Fun
Craig and Debbie Porter bought their home in South County on two neglected acres in 1997, and in the past 20 years have transformed the land into their own version of paradise. Debbie is a collector of plants, and has gathered flora treasures from friends, nurseries, plant sales, and garden show visits. Each plant has a story, much like the adopted animals that also call the garden home, including chickens, horses, goats, sheep, and guinea fowl.

Stroll down the rock-lined trail to a beautiful, hexagonal rose garden surrounding a fountain of the same shape. Stop to smell the roses, and then continue on the trail to Craig's Shade Garden, another eclectic gathering of plants dotted with artifacts from his mother's travels to Hong Kong. Further along the tail you can cluck hello to the chickens and view the vegetable garden that started it all.

Another trail leads you down to a creek and then turns upstream to the newest addition to the garden, the summer hangout spot complete with a new lawn, a fire pit, some Alders by the water's edge, and the sound of running water. You might never want to leave, but there is still so much to see on the tour!

Featured Artist: Judy Adams

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#2 Country Comfort
Just up the road is the garden of Bob and Sue McAndrews, who moved to their home after Sue's father passed over four years ago. The couple had been "horse people" in their previous home in San Diego, and had never been gardeners, but saw the potential in the overgrown landscaping on the property. They dug in and got their hands dirty, and quickly transformed the land into the pastoral paradise it is today.

The stately trees are a wonder; a gorgeous weeping willow dips its branches into a pond, with chairs to sit and enjoy the serenity. A redwood tree adorns the front yard and a Giant Sequoia called Grandfather's Tree in honor of Sue's late father stands proudly in the back yard. There is a gorgeous pool surrounded by rock work and landscaping that will make you want to dive in (but please don't!). The McAndrews also have an edible garden with vegetables and fruit trees, as well as blueberries near the spa.

You can visit with the animals on site, including some chickens, a pot-bellied pig named Barney, and a couple of miniature rescue donkeys. Stop by and enjoy a bit of country comfort before moving on to your next stop.

Featured Artists: Michael Larsson and Lori Humphrey

#3 The Stroll Garden
Tucked away just outside of Grass Valley is the garden of Linda and Jim O'Kay, who have created a unique garden experience which combines Asian and English landscape traditions. A winding path takes you on a journey that provides little surprises, unexpected views, and hidden paths around every corner.

This 4 ½ acre masterpiece is akin to stepping into a mystical world with mature trees, a gazebo, a log bridge crossing a babbling brook, archways, and much more to discover along the way. There is even a Burma shave section!

The entire garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat Garden by the National Wildlife Federation, so be on the lookout for native fauna who enjoy the garden just as much as you will. Linda and Jim have recently begun renting the space out for events, so make sure to inquire about doing so if you are interested.

Featured Artist: Mim Meakin

#4 Formal but Family Friendly

Step back in time to the formal landscaping at the home of Mike and Patti Williams, which abuts Empire Mine State Historic Park.  The couple purchased the property complete with the garden 2 1/2 years ago, but have spent that time adding to the already existing landscaping. The front of this garden is very green and welcoming with ornamental Conifers, clipped Evergreens, and winding clipped Boxwood hedges.  The house is reminiscent of the Empire Cottage at the Empire Mine State Historic Park.  A wagon wheel of Boxwood hedge highlights a large Japanese Maple by the driveway.  This Maple and two others provide stunning color in the fall.

Wide gravel paths lead to the rear of the property where Mike has installed a regulation horseshoe court, a little mine cart, water wheel vignette, a large fire pit, a stone table with seats, and a vegetable garden.  The mine cart is modeled after the display cart in downtown Grass Valley.

Mike has also developed a sitting area with a fountain made of a unique rock that is found in only two mines in the world.  It flows into a dry rock creek and the colors are very striking, indeed.  The backyard has a gorgeous pool, formally landscaped.

So bring the kids to enjoy this formal but family friendly garden!

Featured Artist: Loana Beeson

#5 The Native Garden
The northeastern most garden on the trail, this five acre parcel sits at 3,000 feet elevation for a completely different experience than the first leg of the tour. Karen and Tony Loro have developed ¾ of an acre into a beautiful garden that incorporates the indigenous flora of the area into their own version of Eden.

Karen is an active member of the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society where she is a part of the Propagation Group. Always on the lookout for native plants that can be rescued or propagated, she has added to her collection where she now has over 100 species of natives growing on their grounds including a native Orchid.

She also loves to grow food plants. She has an area with raised vegetable beds, a culinary herb bed, and a one-year-old fruit tree section. This is one garden you can really learn from! Karen is a wealth of information, and master gardeners will be on hand here to answer questions.

Featured Artist: Kathryn Wronski

#6 Historic Estate
Just a few minutes from the Native Garden, the 13 acre Roth Estate has over three acres developed into usable spaces and gardens. Jan and Steven Roth purchased the historic mining camp twenty years ago, and have transformed it into a gorgeous event area and several demonstration gardens.

There is a Wedding Garden with a concert stage, which is landscaped with deer resistant flowering plants designed to provide bloom throughout the season. Roses, vegetable beds, and more can be found in the Rose Garden, which provides lots of shady sitting space. There is a little Meditation Garden in here, too.

In addition to the garden areas, there is a pond and a lake good for swimming in the summer. There is also a Party Pad with a BBQ that can feed up to 400 people. This has a fun story; make sure to ask Jan about it while you're there!

Featured Artist: Barbara Wirth

The cost to attend the Soroptimist Garden Tour is $25 in advance, and $30 at the garden gates. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or email

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