Just north of Lagoon along Highway 89 the USU/Utah Botanical Gardens bloom with color. The landmark garden has for decades been the test ground for many different flowers, trees, vegetables and fruits. Many of these have been introduced to Utah homeowners, vegetable and fruit growers and nursery producers. The transition from a university test farm to the most beautiful botanical gardens in the state has evolved under director Bill Varga and assistant director Debbie Amundsen.

The gardens are changed each year, with different annuals and color schemes simulating landscape ideas. Four different plantings are on the south side of the property. The idea garden starts on the east and shows new annual flowers for use in the landscape. On the south side is a wonderful shade garden with majestic trees underlaid with annuals and perennials adapted to this area. The nearby perennial garden shows a succession of blooms available with different combinations of perennial plants. From snowmelt until snowfall, this garden always has interesting plants in bloom.The next garden simulates a riparian or riverbed area. Plants in this garden are found along stream beds and drainages. Some plants require water throughout the growing season while others survive with the water available in the early spring. On the west side of this garden is a pergola with different vines to solve problems and give shade from the summer heat. Adjoining this is the recently redone herb garden that shows how to integrate herbs into a landscape. Across the road are two gardens that will require a return visit. Large collections of both irises and peonies are springtime spectaculars, but the show is not repeated until next year.

Directly east of these is one of the best rose gardens in the state. Many All-American Roses and older or heritage roses are displayed here. Some of these are single bloomers, so they also require a return visit. On the other side of the pavilion, look for miniature roses that are delightful for smaller gardens or for containers. Tucked above the roses are the clematis. They are past their bloom but are worthy of consideration as decorative vines.

Large island plantings are the showiest of all the gardens. Different trees and shrubs anchor these gardens, but their color is due to the spectacular annual flowers. Included are this year's All-America selections and some stellar performers from past years. New varieties from many different seed companies are also given a trial to see how they perform under Utah conditions. Two new plantings are the ornamental grasses and the children's garden.

Make your visit an educational experience by bringing along a camera, a notepad and a pencil. The plants are labeled, so note those you find attractive and would like to try in your garden. Observe the trees at a mature size to select those that complement your landscape.

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The annual Labor Day Weekend Open House at the gardens will be Saturday, Sept. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule shows the many activities, including my favorite, tasting the watermelon and cantaloupes. Master gardeners will be on hand to answer garden questions and provide expert garden advice. If you can't make it to the open house, visit the gardens any day from dawn until dusk or call 451-3204 to arrange a garden tour. Reap the rewards of someone else's labor by visiting these gardens now and in the future to enjoy their beauty and learn ideas for your garden.

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