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Summer hideaways, serious hobbies: Six yards featured on annual Winona Women’s Resource Center Garden Tour

July 6, 2016 GMT

Laurie Lucas loves a plant that can take care of itself.

Since purchasing her house at Sioux Street across from Winona’s Lake Park eight years ago, Lucas has transformed her yard into her own “secret garden” of perennials and self-sufficient shrubbery.

“I love natural things,” Lucas said. “I wanted something that looked like I was in the woods.”

Lucas’ garden will be one of six gardens featured from Winona to Fountain City as part of the Women’s Resource Center’s annual Garden Tour this Saturday, a fundraiser for the center.

Taff Roberts, a long-time supporter of the Women’s Resource Center, had been pushing Lucas to feature her garden for the last few years. She gave in this year, but during the tour, she might sneak away to see the other gardens herself to gain insight and tips for her own quiet forest.

Lucas is a former teacher and optician who passed her green thumb of 40 years onto her daughter and her daughter’s children. Moving back to Winona 16 years ago, Lucas now volunteers with the Winona County Historical Society as its rental coordinator.

Her garden stretches around her whole house, but Lucas said the tour will primarily feature her backyard, the yard not many know exists.

Circling the back fence, bushes, trees and flowers surround a center flower bed where a heron sculpture created with objects found in the river by Cynthia Jennings from the Blue Heron Project stands in the center of the flower bed.

In the back corner of the house a waterfall peters out around a stone walkway. Squirrels, birds and Lucas’ cats wander around the winding garden that is over-arched by old trees.

“It’s peaceful,” Lucas said.

The garden is named the “Secret Garden” for the tour simply because most passersby have no clue it exists, she said. The yard even fooled Lucas before she purchased the house, calling it the boathouse when she passed it growing up because of its unique deck.

The previous owners were classy, Lucas said, but she wanted a different feel in her yard. Lucas said she opened up the front more so she and her neighbors could have a better view of the lake, and she trimmed down and replaced plants to create a more natural yard.

After plenty of planning, digging and planting, Lucas has created a sanctuary for herself that she only hopes others can find as fascinating as she does.

“I didn’t do it for anybody else; I did it for myself,” Lucas said. “I hope they’re as surprised as I want them to be.”