In 1989, the Riley County Master Gardener Program began and since has trained 308 people to become master gardeners within the Manhattan and Riley County community, according to a handout given to the tourists of the 2018 Manhattan Garden Tour.
Since then, every year in early June the KSU Gardens Riley County Extension master gardeners volunteer to host the annual Manhattan Garden Tour, which features six different gardens. Five gardens are community members’ personal gardens, and the sixth is the on-campus KSU Gardens.
Gregg Eyestone, the Riley County extension agent for the KSU Master Gardeners Program, said on average, about 300 people participate in the garden tour every year.
“Our volunteers [have] different chairs every year that take on this garden tour project,” Eyestone said. “We have master gardeners [who] have several projects across the community [where they] have a responsibility to provide outreach to the community.”
Two to three master gardener volunteers sat at each garden location for the garden tour. They answered questions, guided tourists and ran other on-the-site jobs.
Two of them, John Spangler and Lois Morrison, talked about their time as master gardeners and all the years they have volunteered for the Garden Tour and other program projects.
Morrison became a master gardener 24 years ago, while Spangler received his training 13 years ago for his late wife.
“[It was] kind of a memorial for her,” Spangler said. “I enjoy working in my yard.”
This year’s Manhattan Garden Tour was the 24th year Morrison volunteered.
“People are so creative, it just amazes me,” Morrison said. “You can take the same plants, and it just depends what people do with them. I learn something new every year.”
One the gardens on the tour is owned by Charles and Kate Gillum at the Kimble Caste on Poyntz Avenue.
The Gillums purchased the Kimble Castle with the land it rested on. Charles said with the land provided with the home, it was hard not to develop a green thumb. Charles said their favorite items to plant are “roses because they’re continually blooming. We like the color.” He also said he enjoys hibiscus for the same reasons.
The Gillums said they have worked on their garden for 30 years. Most of their large projects are done for the area, so now most of their work will consist of maintenance.
“There are no more big projects left, [but] there are other things to do,” Charles said.
Kate said her favorite part of the garden is “probably the fountain and sitting patio, only because when we’re here at night relaxing with either friends or ourselves we just get to enjoy the ambiance of the whole estate.”
Three participants of the Manhattan Garden Tour commented on their experience while touring the gardens.
Jenny Karr, Chris Herald and Emma Detrixhe are all three science teachers at Manhattan High School. Herald said she toured the garden tour in previous years, but this was the first tour for Detrixhe and Karr.
“It is always nice to see a variety of different gardens,” Herald said.
The garden tour is just one way the KSU Gardens volunteers and participates within the community. To learn more, visit www.k-state.edu/gardens/.