Merle and Gail Bievenour, of Abbottstown, look at a garden at the Paradise Township home of Dean and Joyce Bentzel during a preview of the tour.
Merle and Gail Bievenour, of Abbottstown, look at a garden at the Paradise Township home of Dean and Joyce Bentzel during a preview of the tour. (Evening Sun Doug Bauman)
This Sunday, take the afternoon to stroll among raised vegetable gardens, scented herbs, lilacs and shaded ponds while gathering ideas for your own backyard garden at the 15th annual Garden Tour.

This year's tour, sponsored by the East Berlin Area Community Center, is focusing on gardens that anyone has the time and the talent to put together.

"We don't look for extreme gardens," said Garden Tour Steering Committee co-chair, Patricia Manning. "We looked for something normal gardeners would want."

Manning is an expert on just that. A full-time political activist, gardening is a relaxing, but passionate, hobby for her.

She co-chaired the event with her husband, David. And last year, their own home garden was featured on the tour. They have 43 varieties of daylilies and 400 tulips, all grown from scratch since they moved to East Berlin seven years ago.

The couple chose the five featured gardeners from a list of local submissions. Aside from being chosen for their lovely lawns, the homes on the garden tour were chosen for their accessibility, since participants in the tour drive from house to house to sample the different varieties of gardens.

"I think mine's still the best," laughed Patricia Manning. "But they're all beautiful, they're all unique."

The five gardens are all within range of East Berlin. Beth and Wes Thomason's garden on Stoney Point Road in East Berlin features more than 50 herbs and a Colonial-style garden. Debra and Mike Sneed's on West King Street in East Berlin has several varieties of trees from Crepe Myrtle to Japanese Maple. A water garden with aquatic plants feeds into a 35-foot stream at Merle and Gail Bievenour's on Mummerts Church Road in Abbottstown. Dean and Joyce Bentzel's garden on Lincoln Highway in Thomasville complements their old farm setting, and Kathy and Fred Weber's garden on North Grant Road in Thomasville is host to several woodland animals.

The gardens may be toured in any order, and a booklet that comes with the ticket price tells participants more about each garden and provides a map.

There will be a lunch of chicken salad sandwiches, strawberries and shortcake and ice cream for purchase at the Thomason's.

The admission price goes to a good cause - the East Berlin Area Community Center. Funds will help with the upkeep of the community center building and programs through the year.

Feel free to ask the host gardeners, who will be on hand, how they bring a green thumb to their back yards. Most gardeners, Manning said, love to share the beauty on their lawns with admirers.

"I tell people they're always welcome," she said of her garden, which is on a corner lot in Abbottstown.

Tickets can be purchased at the East Berlin Area Community Center and Cashman's True Value Hardware, 1595 Route 194 North in East Berlin, in advance and the day of the tour.

To submit your own garden for consideration in next year's tour, sign up at the community center or Cashman's when purchasing tickets.

- KATE WILCOX, FLIPSIDE STAFF

If you go

WHAT: Garden Tour 2010

WHEN: 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: East Berlin Area Community Center, 405 North Ave., East Berlin

COST: $8 advanced ticket, $10 day of the tour, 16 and younger free

DETAILS: Call 259-8848 or visit www.ebacc.com