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CLUB'S GARDEN TOUR OFFERS PEACE OF MIND, INSPIRATION

You can admire the work that went into each garden and get ideas to take home.

Walking through Anne Johnson's backyard garden, it's easy to see the time, energy - and thought - that's gone into creating her Asian-inspired retreat.

Little fountains can be found hidden throughout the garden, as well as authentic Japanese lanterns and carved-wood panels - and the garden boasts two large koi ponds, as well as an impressive Zen water fountain.

Johnson's Zen garden is just one of five gardens that will be featured in the Dade City Garden Club's Third-Annual Garden Tour this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We want people to find inspiration in the gardens," says Pennie Jefferson, a garden club member and Dade City resident for the past 10 years.

"If you see one thing you like from a garden, even just one little piece, you can try to recreate that," she says of the garden tour.

Jefferson, who has been a garden club member for about five years now, says the main goal of the club, and of the garden tour, is education.

"Preservation and awareness fosters a sense of community. People need to understand that quality of life is important," says Jefferson, who began gardening as a way to de-stress when she was working for the airline business.

"It's very relaxing," she says of gardening, adding that, "you can have the same experience with a little garden as with lush acreage. There are no rules."

The Dade City Garden Club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, encourages its members to tend to their own gardens as well as community areas. Last year, the club redid Lester Park, as well as several of the medians on Meridian Avenue in downtown Dade City.

Master gardeners will be present on the tour to offer advice to people with questions about their own gardens, and various plants will be available to purchase. Visitors also will have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction and a raffle.

"It's a fun way to spend the day," says Jefferson, adding that the gardens are only a few minutes away from each other, allowing visitors plenty of time to visit all five gardens within a space of just a few hours.

Some gardens, such as the one at St. Mary's Church on Magnolia Avenue, should take only several minutes to tour.

The garden, which includes a special children's prayer area, is small yet beautifully designed, and tenderly cared for - and as serene and peaceful as the church it surrounds. St. Mary's is historic church, built in 1891 in the Lake Pasadena area and moved to Dade City in 1910.

The garden, like the church, has since been expanded, but retains its peaceful demeanor.

One the other side of Dade City, located on Saint Joe Road, one can find Anne Johnson's garden - different from St. Mary's in design and execution but similar in effect: her garden is just as peaceful, if not more so, than any other garden on the tour.

Designed by her husband, Frank, who died recently, the garden has been a nearly 15-year project, evident in all the little details in the garden, from the authentic Japanese fountains to the different varieties of bamboo.

"This garden will take the longest time to tour," says Jefferson. "Every time I visit, I notice something new."

IF YOU GO

Educational tour

The Garden Tour and Plant Sale is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Dade City Garden Club, 13630 Fifth St., Dade City. It's a self-guided tour of five private gardens as well as the seven garden "rooms" adjacent to the historic clubhouse. Gardening and membership information available with light refreshments. Cost is $10 adults, with children free. Call (352) 521-6886 for information.

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