NORTH UTAH COUNTY — Those who agree to open their lush, colorful gardens for the Hidden Garden Benefit Tour have at least one thing in common — a love of gardening.

The Andersens of Pleasant Grove and the Woods of American Fork have something more. They've both created beautiful, inviting gardens out of what others might consider utterly impossible.

In the Andersens' case, it wasn't by choice. They found themselves in a state of upheaval one day after a city trackhoe cut a swath through the yard for a sewer line. They had to deal with piles of upturned earth and an unexpected river where there was once flat ground.

The Woods simply decided one day that they didn't want grandchildren running down the side driveway, where they might hurt themselves. They ripped out the driveway, the sidewalks, most of the front-yard lawn and all of the hillside shubbery. "When we tore out our front lawn, people couldn't believe it," said Joan Wood. "We had strangers stopping to see what we were doing."

"When the city was done here, there was nothing flat about it anymore," said Orrin Andersen. "The hill there came out of the trackhoe experience, as did the stream."

The Andersens went on to create a faux hillside stream and waterfall that looks as if it's part of the mountain. They've also surrounded their yard with a colorful concrete block fence that blocks the sound of street traffic, buys them privacy and includes arched doorways that hark back to medieval times.

Orrin Andersen built a matching gazebo with Roman-style pillars and a built-in fireplace. He created a replica of the tall ship "Statsraad Lehmkuhl" of stainless steel and iron that fits into the window of the fence door. He designed the four stained-glass windows that grace the side of the home.

All around the structures are flowers and shrubs and plants that Dianna Andersen nurtures.

"He's the structure king; I'm the plant lady. I love plants," Dianna Andersen said. "My big thing with them is location, location, location. I like to move them around. Every year, I make a little mental note and make changes the next year. That's the game of it. What works one year might not work the next."

Ask the Woods who is the master gardener and they point to each other. "We both love it," said Joan Wood. "It really is our recreation and our medicine."

"We can't tell you how much time we spend, because to us it isn't a chore," said Norm Wood. "We don't keep track of the time."

Walking into the Woods' garden is like walking onto a golf-course green. The lawn is thick and closely trimmed and meticulously manicured.

The front is gorgeous, with a fountain and paved pathways, outdone only by the back yard, which is actually a series of gardens on several levels.

Before the Woods decided to redo everything, it was a hillside covered in thick shrubbery, which left very little yard to enjoy. Now, there are various garden "rooms" that offer solace, peace and beauty. The plants are healthy and there's plenty of cool and shade. A stream on the upper level feeds a waterfall that cascades to a shallow pond on the lower level.

"In the mornings we work out front," said Joan Wood. "In the evenings we move to the back. We have a lot of shade, which is a problem and a blessing."

"What we like to do sometimes is just come out and move from bench to bench," Norm Wood said. "We enjoy it."

The Woods had some help designing their garden, but they've planted what they wanted. They've kept the original trees and lilac bushes that were on the property when they bought the home 10 years ago.

Pine trees share space with quaking aspens and crab-apple trees and a unique smoke tree that usually doesn't do well in Utah's hot summers. The 35-year-old lilacs buffer the back property line and help provide the natural shielding that lends the garden an air of seclusion.

There's something unique and there's evidence of dedicated gardening in each of the 12 north Utah County gardens on the 9th Annual Hidden Garden Benefit Tour 2003, to be held next weekend.

Some, like Dianna Andersen, who grew up in an Air Force family, taught themselves the art.

Others have learned from generations of family gardeners.

Several include conversation pieces in their gardens, such as the old farm equipment and antique buggy of Paul and Marilyn Maxfield in Pleasant Grove.

Dale and Carol Wallace, of Pleasant Grove, have perennials aplenty and prize day lilies.

Dick and Susan Miller, of American Fork, have turned an irrigation ditch that runs through their back yard into an asset.

William And Deana Spence, of Pleasant Grove, have chickens in their garden, and charming arbors.

Kenneth and Marilyn Clark, of Alpine, have used rocks in all sizes and shapes to create beauty.

Ryan and Michelle Davis, of Alpine, incorporated the native scrub oak into the sloped design.

Two Highland gardens interconnect. Brent and Kim Smith's garden has a fish pond, a creek and a bridge that lies at the base of a garden created by Bruce and Shauna Woods, complete with bronze sculptures and a cascading waterfall.

In Lehi, Mike and Holly Mathie's garden uses red rock and terra cotta.

The Wesley and Geraldine Dalley garden is lined with Blue Haven juniper trees.