Avis Hespen Garden Tour is Sunday

M. Claire May

Custer Mile High Garden Club (GC) will host the 16th Annual Avis Hespen Memorial Garden Tour from 1-4 p.m., Sunday, July 24. Hespen and her sister Caroline Hatton were founding members of the local GC in January 1996. The terrific twosome shared garden witticisms, sound gardening practices, seeds, bulbs and cuttings quite liberally.
Hespen would say, “I like any color, as long as it’s red!” Therefore, GC members will wear red on the day of the tour.
Attendees will find maps with the locations and descriptions of the tour sites at Jenny’s Floral, 36 N. 6th St., Dakota Greens – Custer Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc., 25086 Shamrock Road, Custer County Library, 447 Crook St., Custer Senior Center, 538 Mt Rushmore Rd., and the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce, 615 Washington Street.
Visitors will have a peaceful stroll in a 10,000-square-foot oasis of nature. This garden is for gathering with others or reflecting on their thoughts to find the mind, body and spirit connections. In this garden, you can view a fully-furnished playhouse. You will see a pergola and extensive displays of trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetable gardens. Visitors can view all from strategically placed seating areas throughout the park. A fountain and a waterfall can also be viewed.
Garden guests will also step back in time with the landscaping that includes many of the original flowers and trees of a 1937 log home on tour. It is the owner’s “happy place” to work and rest on her days off. One of the two greenhouses uses the windows from Custer State Park’s old Coolidge General Store. An expansive variety of flowers and vegetables incorporate a rustic rock garden theme.
At another destination, sightseers will see landscape accomplished in two short months this summer by the resident garden enthusiast. She was particularly vigilant in protecting the domestic vegetation from the whims and ways of nature, specifically from deer and hail. As a result, deer fencing surrounds the property, and tidy hail netting as needed. Garden explorers will see a manicured lawn with a pergola-covered large deck from which one has an expansive garden vista. Several raised gardens of floral colors and succulent vegetables are visual throughout the grounds and the deck area.
Garden trotters will explore a recently built large, high tunnel greenhouse. This visit also features deer-proof fencing, raised lush vegetable gardens with over fifty heirloom tomato varieties, and drip irrigation systems. There are several eye-pleasing arbors also and an orchard to investigate.  
Garden travelers will meet a “Salsa Queen” who successfully raises loads of tomatoes and peppers for her salsa. Asparagus, garlic and other row crops neatly “march” while the vine crops “socialize” in a nutrient-rich manure mound. The Salsa Queen and her mother-in-law maintain two greenhouses overflowing with vegetables. The landscape also features apple trees. There are abundant raspberry, honeyberry, juneberry, choke cherry and nanking cherry bushes. There is a blooming floral selection and examples of deciduous and coniferous trees as well.
Garden hoppers will finish their 16th Annual Avis Hespen Memorial Garden Tour with refreshments. Root beer floats will be served 3:30-5 p.m. at Dakota Greens – Custer Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. The tour is free and all persons are welcome and encouraged to experience the beauty and surprises of the five local gardens.

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