Another element of Spirit Valley Days is set to continue despite the West Duluth festival's cancellation. The 18th annual Western Garden Tour will be Saturday, Aug. 8, and feature seven gardens throughout the city.
One garden on the tour for the first time this year is Glen Pratt's place in Proctor. Garden tour organizers had been asking Pratt to join the tour for a few years.
"I kept putting them off, and when Darlene called again in April, I said, 'Oh jeez, I don't know.' I had back surgery coming up and didn't know if I'd have it ready in time," Pratt said. "But we'd been able to make a lot of progress, so I said, 'We're on, we're in, let's do it.'"
Depending whom you ask, Pratt's garden can be described as the "Garden of Eden" or simply "Pratt City." According to Pratt's lifelong friend Tammy Robb, the garden's peaceful design warrants the biblical moniker.
"It's just so relaxing to sit outside here," Robb said. "We've put up all these beautiful lights and made it just magical in the evening."
Pratt purchased the 6.5 acre property in 2014 after it had been empty for 4-5 years. Several of the garden features had already been placed on the property, including two ponds connected via a small waterfall and two enclosed gazebos. But many of the features had become overrun with weeds, including the driveway. Pratt spent a year fixing up the inside of the house then moved in and turned his attention to restoring the outside grounds.
Paving bricks lead visitors around the garden's many features. The first thing that grabs a visitor's eye is a large wooden pavilion that Pratt said used to be a hot tub and pool.
"The pool was pretty much collapsed, so we decided to fill it in and build something new," Pratt said.
Most of Pratt's seating areas in his garden feature a fire pit or wood stove.
Reclamation is a big running theme throughout the garden. Pratt likes to take leftover items and give them new life. One of the key flower features is planted in Pratt's first red wheelbarrow. He had to buy a new wheel for it because it kept deflating.
"I'd bought it when I bought my first house back in the day," Pratt said. "We had to experiment to find plants that would grow in it, but it seems to be working. I think it's the perfect place for it."
He reclaimed the two ponds, which had become overgrown with weeds and waterlilies. The structure was there; all the rocks had to be replaced along with new liners. The waterfall didn't work for the first three years that Pratt owned the home.
"I'd come outside and putz with it a little while, then get tired with it and work on something else," he said. "But this year, we got it to work."
Pratt's favorite feature of the waterfall? It keeps the deer out of the garden.
"They don't like the sound of running water, so they keep away, and that keeps them from the plants," he said.
Pratt and Robb also spent time during the COVID-19 lockdown fixing up one of the gazebos. The friends went looking for used furniture at the landfill and thrift stores to turn the gazebo into a functioning summer bedroom/sitting room. Previously, Pratt had kept a Christmas tree in the gazebo, which he’d light up in the winter.
"We did a lot of sweeping and vacuuming to get out all the spider webs and dust," Robb said. "And we kept finding all these great things like this lamp at the landfill or this couch at the thrift shop. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work."
Robb and Pratt also added several light features to the grounds, including string lights leading to the gazebo, solar lights dotting the paver paths and a small truck with headlights that light up.
“We had to turn that one away from the window because it kind of looked like eyes in the night,” Pratt said.
On the other side of the house, Pratt placed a small cardboard sign on a post into the ground that said, “Next year’s project.” This side isn’t quite as developed as he’d like, but he does have a small section his granddaughter dubbed “the secret garden” with a small seating area and easy access to his wood supply for his fireplace.
Pratt also added several trees and flowers to the grounds over the years. Last winter killed off a lot of his newest trees and some of his perennials, but he’s replaced much of what died. One of the most vibrant flowers are his hibiscus plants, with large, distinctive blooms.
“We’re not sure how they’ll hold up over the winter yet, but so far they’ve grown pretty well,” Pratt said.
If you go
Glen Pratt’s house and seven other gardens will be open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. Attendees must purchase a $10 wristband between 9-10 a.m. at Norton Park United Methodist Church, 436 N. 79th Ave. W. Attendees will also be given a map to all the gardens on the tour. There will be a bagged, to-go breakfast available instead of the usual buffet. Tour attendees are encouraged to wear masks and socially distance while visiting the gardens.