VERSAILLES — When Evelyn Kramer planted her first garden at her Versailles home 25 years ago at the urging of her husband, Stan, she was less than enthusiastic. She had 5-year-old and 5-month-old children, and her family had just moved into an 1877 Federal-style house in desperate need of renovation.
"We had to move sooner than we planned into a house that needed a lot of work," she says. "Just to show you how much: The four of us were living in one room, while the workers had taken over the rest of the house.
"We had three bathrooms — in one, the toilet worked; in one, the sink worked; and in one, the shower worked."
A garden wasn't exactly high on Kramer's list of priorities.
Yet, her garden is one of seven on display Saturday as part of the Woodford County Woman's Club spring garden tour.
On a brisk April day, Kramer's garden showed little promise of the floral wonderland it would be in a month's time.
"The weather this year just hasn't cooperated," says Kramer, a bookkeeper for Ricardo's Grill & Pub in Versailles, "but I'm hopeful we'll be looking good for the tour."
Kramer's gardens are split into two areas. Those on the side of the house are a jumble of perennials — butterfly bushes, hyacinths, jonquils, bleeding hearts, alum, foxglove and black-eyed Susan. In addition, there are two plants for which she has a particular fondness.
"I love my nandinas because the leaves and berries change color with the seasons," she says, "and the Peruvian daffodils, which are breathtaking but a lot of work.
"They have beautiful white flowers which bloom just once every season," she says, adding that "unfortunately, it won't be in time for the tour."
Kramer says the one-acre garden in the back has proved the most challenging. A combination herb, vegetable and pond garden, it has developed over the years, around obstacles such as her son's soccer goal and her daughter's wedding party.
A tiny pond — home to lily pads and a turtle — was later joined by a larger koi pond, sheltered by a wall of bamboo and banana plants, and surrounded by cannas and iris.
Pencil hollies line the flagstones of the patio, and Kramer, an admitted lover of vibrant colors, fills her window boxes and large plant containers with tropical blooms in hot oranges and bright purples.
"Stan and I both love Mexico, so these places are our little bit of Mexico," she says.
Other parts of her backyard are given over to a vegetable garden — which yields tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini and squash — and a boxwood-shaded herb garden — a veritable cornucopia of basil, rosemary, parsley, chives, golden yarrow, thyme, fennel, sage, spearmint and peppermint.
Grape hyacinth also has taken root in the herb garden. It's a plant that Kramer says she has become quite attached to.
"I can't bring myself to weed them out, so I just wait for them to die down before planting the herbs," she says.
Still, another part of the garden is given over to annuals including zinnias, marigolds, forget-me-nots, day lilies and anemones — all of which do well in Central Kentucky's unpredictable weather.
This brings us to the inevitable question: Will this year's extended period of cold result in the garden being less than stellar for the tour?
"Obviously, it will have some effect on what will be out," she says. Then shrugging philosophically, she adds, "A garden is what you make it."
Spoken like a true convert.
IF YOU GO
Woodford County Woman's Club 2013 Spring Garden Tour
What: A tour of eight gardens in Versailles, Midway and the surrounding area and a plant sale at The Little House, 247 Lexington St., Versailles.
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 11
Tickets: $20; available at The Little House. A map with addresses of participating gardens is available with ticket purchase.
Learn more: Woodfordcountywomansclub.org
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.