Walla Walla backyards hold treasure in Pond & Garden Tour

The tour was expected to raise $10,000 for Walla Walla Community Hospice.

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Carol Judge enjoys the pond of "Mrs. Baker's Garden," which is part of the grounds of the historic home that was build in 1900 by W.W. Baker. The home was one of 10 gardens featured in this year's Pond & Garden Tour.

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Malinda Saturno crosses a footbridge over Lincoln Creek, which feeds the pond of her historic Walla Walla garden.

WALLA WALLA -- As hundreds of flashy classic cars lined up along Main Street for the Wheelin' Walla Walla car show and the 10,000 car lovers it usually attracts, a much smaller crowd of enthusiasts chose to spend their Saturday walking through serene landscapes to raise money for a good cause.

The Ninth Annual Walla Walla Community Hospice Pond & Garden Tour was expected to raise $10,000 this year, said event coordinator Laurie Klicker. She added that in some ways the garden tour and the car show complement each other.

"I had a woman comment the other day and say it is so nice. You have this for the women and we can send our husbands to look at cars," Klicker said.

Though there were plenty of men on hand at the garden show, including some of the gardeners, there was a predominance of women who walked the grounds of 10 of the most pristine and serene backyards in Walla Walla and College Place.

One of the backyards belonged to Michael Wilcsek.

"Just pride of ownership," Wilcsek said, explaining why he puts in eight hours a week to keep up the green and keep out the weeds.

"The joy of seeing it look good. It is a lot of work, but it is like other things. Why do you wax your car? Because you want it to look good," he said.

Since gardens are not repeated in each year's tour -- though there have been a few repeats for some requested favorites -- Wilcsek said he probably will enter next year's car show, proving again that perhaps car and garden do complement each other.

Then the warehouse worker gave a private tour of his man-cave, where his white 1969 Mustang convertible was garaged.

As for how the gardens are picked, Klicker said there are a number of ways she learns about the gardens, but usually it is through a recommendation.

In Wilcsek's case, a worker at his dental office encouraged him to submit his garden for a tour.

Once, Klicker said she had a volunteer snap a shot of a backyard while in a hot air balloon. Klicker tracked the yard down and it made it that year.

Sometimes, Klicker is just driving by and can't help but peek into the backyard that looks interesting.

That was the case for the garden of Doug and Malinda Saturno, one of the 10 featured in this year's tour.

"With this one, I just kind of drove by and saw Doug out on the lawn. So I stopped and talked to him. You have to be sort of bold," she added.

As bold as she was, it still took five years before the Saturnos would open their garden to the public, mainly because there was a lot of work to do on the grounds of the historic home built in 1900 by banker W.W. Baker.

"We had a lot of acreage and not much on it," Doug Saturno said, adding that most of what was there was overgrown.

Delaying the grand tour even more was a setback suffered during the 2008 windstorm, when several trees were lost on their property.

But Saturday, the historic "Mrs. Baker's Garden" took slot number nine on the Pond and Garden Tour for the first, and possibly the last, time.

But Klicker added that the Walla Walla Valley has plenty more gardens to chose from.

"Every year, I always have people say to me you are going to run out of gardens. But I have stacks of gardens this big," Klicker said, and mimed with her hands a stack as thick as the Seattle phone book.

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