By Bert Thomas.  Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy annual Garden Tour. You do not want to miss this event. We are holding the tour this year over two days just like the tour last year. After having major rain outs our first two years, we decided we would set aside an entire weekend rain or shine rather than set a rain date a week later. It is better for the gardeners, better for us and our volunteers who get revved up to support the event and helps you plan.

The dates are 22 and 23 June. We start at 10 A.M. on Saturday the 22nd and at noon on Sunday the 23rd. On both days we are open until 5 P.M. There will be plenty of time for you to see seven of the best and most beautiful gardens in Fort Thomas.

Starting Point: Tour Central will be in Tower Park. This year it will be in the parking lot of the old stables just across Carmel Manor Road from the VA Medical Center. You will see our welcome booth. There you can purchase tickets, pick up tickets you bought online and receive the brochure and map that will lead you to the gardens.

Vendors and Plant Swap: Also at Tour Central you can visit vendors selling garden decor, art, jewelry and more; and stop by our perennial plant swap booth before, during or after you take your tour.  This year you can sign up at the ticket booth for the raffle for a Garden Lover’s Basket valued at over $200.

Tickets: Single tickets purchased in advance and all tickets bought on the day of the event are $15. However, if you want more than one ticket, we advise you to plan wisely and purchase them ahead of time. After the first ticket bought early, each subsequent ticket is $10 no matter how many you buy, so you pay just $25 for two, $35 for three and so on.

Where to buy tickets: Probably the easiest way is to buy them on our website, www.ftfc.org. You can use PayPal or most other credit/debit cards to make the transaction. You can also buy them at the Fort Thomas Florist and the Bank of Kentucky branch on N. Fort Thomas Avenue.

Volunteer to help during the tour. We have a very easy signup sheet on our website for you to select ways to help us on the days of the tour. We need garden greeters to serve two-hour shifts at one of the gardens, we need workers to help us set up on Saturday morning and tear down on Sunday afternoon, and we need a few people to work our welcome booth. It is fun to help and we really appreciate it.

The Garden Tour is a major fund raising event for us. All funds raised go to our mission, which is to protect and preserve the forested hillsides and remaining natural areas of Fort Thomas through our programs and educational activities.

New Website! We have completely revitalized our website, www.ftfc.org. Take a look and keep checking back, as we will be updating it frequently. We have photos and bios of the board members, tips on honeysuckle eradication, information on tax incentives for conservation easements, our strategic 5-year plan, and many other things of local interest. Also, we now make it easy for you to join or renew your membership, donate money in any amount you want and designate it for specific programs or in honor of someone. And we have a general volunteer sign-up form where you can check off areas of interest you might have.

Finally, I want to provide an update on my tree planting in our woods last month. I had filched (not really) five bare-root saplings left over from a reforestation event at Rossford Park and planted them in one of the few sunny spots in the woods down behind the house. I did not know for certain what kind of trees they were at the time of planting. With the favorable growing weather we’ve been having and my careful planting, the leaves have emerged and I can identify them. One is an eastern redbud and four are tulip poplars. The tulip poplars can grow to be quite large, so I will need to transplant them at some point. Right now they are only about six feet apart. I will wait until next season for the transplanting. They need time to establish themselves and I will want to find out how well they survive the summer. Last summer, dry and hot, was hard on trees. I still need to lug down a bag or two of mulch to spread around them to help hold moisture and control vegetation around them.

Planting trees is fun and it helps in some small way revitalize our personal space, our neighborhood, our community and the planet. A big part of protecting our forests is helping renew them and being good stewards. I am hopeful this year we will encourage a few landowners in Fort Thomas to work with us to devise a conservation easement on some portion of their land. Think of that as a unique right of landowners permanently to preserve our natural heritage in perpetuity. Remember this: conservation easements enable you to retain title to your property and dispose of it as you like. And this year (2013) there is a very generous Federal tax incentive for people to donate conservation easements to land trusts like the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy. Interested? Send an email to info@ftfc.org.