When you walk into the backyard of Charlie Robinson and Rich Stinnett's home, you see nearly as many objects of decoration as you do plants. Their garden is one of the stops featured on this year's Flower and Garden Tour.
"I like old, rusty things," Robinson said.
From tractor parts to a child's wagon and scooter to an old cream separator, Robinson has strategically placed eye-catching forms among the flora.
"We like to pick up things when we travel and friends give us things. We incorporate them all throughout the yard," Stinnett said. "It's kind of neat when you're going through and picking weeds to think, 'oh, I remember this!' It makes it a little easier."
Colorful metal sculptures of animals, a windmill and a bicycle are nestled among cactuses, hostas and perennials.
"The one thing I want people to take away from this garden is this is something anybody can do. This is not a professional thing," Robinson said.
The backyard garden has evolved over the years they have lived there.
"This is kind of a second go at the garden because it's gotten a lot shadier back here, so I've had to learn how to do shade gardening," Robinson said. "The trees have grown up, so I've got all kinds of hostas."
While the hostas enjoy the shade, gardenias, day lilies and a bay leaf tree are placed to get more sunshine, creating a garden with mixed textures, colors and heights.
"I try new things, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," Robinson said. "We're learning how to use more perennials."
Robinson said he finds his plants locally, purchasing coral bells from Walton Rural Life Center and other items from Stutzman's Greenhouse.
"We'll get stuff at the end of the season and put it in the shed and forget about it," Stinnett said.
The backyard features a variety of buildings — from a chicken coop to a greenhouse that keeps their cactus plants warm in the winter.
A love of gardening was instilled in Robinson from an early age.
"I got the bug from my father," Robinson said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I remember watching "The Victory Garden" on PBS. That came on at like 11 o'clock in the morning and we'd spend all afternoon outside."
Now, Robinson and Stinnett said they enjoy using their backyard to host events and entertain visitors.
"It's really great getting people's reactions to it. Our whole goal is to have something that isn't anything other than comfortable," Stinnett said. "...this is our fair weather living room."
This is their first year to be featured on the tour, and both are glad the proceeds will go to support the library.
"Everybody thinks libraries are irrelevant now and they're not — they're just different," Robinson said.
"They do so much more than books now," Stinnett agreed.
The 2017 Flower and Garden Tour will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The annual event benefits the Second Century Library Foundation.
The tour also includes the garden of Cathy Edwards (607 N. Duncan), a Harvey County Master Gardener who grows flowers, vegetables, herbs and trees attractive to birds, bees and butterflies. Her garden includes sitting areas to pause and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Bev McGee (509 Columbus Ave.) is also a Harvey County Master Gardener. She experimented and improvised to create the colorful display she has now, which includes trumpet vines twining up the clothesline and potted annuals. At this site on Sunday, Master Gardener Jeanne Strauss will discuss straw bale gardening, an easy and thrifty way to grow vegetables and herbs above ground.
Over the many years that 96-year-old Harry Kasitz (509 E. 7th) has been growing a huge variety of flowers and vegetables, he has developed innovative ways to encourage growth and protect plants from the Kansas weather. Last year, he won seven blue ribbons at the Harvey County Fair, and he frequently sells his flowers and vegetables at the local farmers market.
The Carriage Factory Art Gallery (128 E. 6th) will have artists painting in the adjoining J.J. Krehbiel Memorial Park, as well as visits from the Salted Creamery ice cream cart and the Newton Ukulele Tunes Society. On display are gnome gardens and painted rocks created especially for the tour, as well as the Gallery’s current exhibits, which include "Splash" and art by Vernon Rickman.
Harvey County Master Gardeners will be available during the tours to answer questions about the gardens.
Admission brochures are available for an $8 suggested donation at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak, or at the gardens during the tour times.
For more information about the 2017 Garden Tour, visit https://www.newtonplks.org or call 316-283-2890.