COLUMBIA — A macaw parrot sits atop its cage, blinking in the shade of the tall emerald trees. Butterflies dance from flower to flower beside a small waterfall that flows into a pond of vibrant Koi fish.
It may not be a botanical garden, but Tom and Anne Smith’s 6.5 acre shade garden is still certainly a sight worth seeing, which is why the garden will be a part of the Tiger Pilot Club’s sixth annual garden tour on Saturday. The garden is one of seven stops on the self-guided tour, which allows participants to visit some of Columbia's most exotic gardens.
The garden tour is the club’s yearly fundraiser. The not-for-profit organization is based in Columbia and focuses on programs for brain injury prevention and assisting people with brain injuries.
This will be the first time the Smith’s garden has appeared on the club’s tour. Owner Anne Smith said that she and her husband thought it was for a good cause and have had fun preparing the garden for the tour.
It has been about three years since the waterfall was first installed in the Smith's Stonehaven neighborhood home. Since then, the garden has grown immensely. Garden designers Mark Colvin and Paul Wiese have added multiple trails and flower beds, lighting in the trees, a cactus garden, potted plants and a fire pit.
They refer to it as a shade garden because of all the trees — hickories, oaks, sycamores and a few spruces.
“We come back here with my 6-year-old grandson and we roast marshmallows,” said Anne Smith. “We watch the sunset and sometimes I meditate back here. It’s real peaceful.”
Anne Smith attributes the garden’s development to its designers. It started when she asked Colvin, who was her interior designer at the time, to pot the plants on her back deck. When he suggested a waterfall in the front courtyard, she decided to go ahead with the project and surprise her husband, who was out of town at the time.
Colvin and Wiese work on the property year round. According to Wiese, one of the biggest jobs is clearing the property of leaves during the fall and winter. The designers use an organic lawn service and try to refrain from using herbicides and pesticides as much as possible.
“It seems almost hypocritical,” Wiese said. “Here I am planting things and then killing others with herbicides. I don’t like to do it.”
The garden is also home to the Smiths' four cats, two dogs, a Macaw parrot named Ruby and their rabbit Michelle Obunny, whose cage is frequently wheeled out into various locations in the garden. Tom Smith also keeps one of his beehives by the side of the house, as well as a bat house on the roof.
“We like to keep the bats out here because they eat so many bugs,” Anne Smith said.
Tom Smith owns more land in the country, where he keeps the rest of the bees. He is the owner of the Flat Branch Pub and Brewing where Wiese also serves as garden designer and serves on the board of trustees for the Missouri Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
Saturday’s tour will raise money to buy skateboard and bike helmets that the Pilot Club will then donate to events and organizations around the city. The rest of the proceeds will help the club print fliers and pamphlets and fund its safety-education puppet show.
“The bulk of the money goes toward skateboard helmets and bike helmets,” said Fred Berry, president of the Tiger Pilot Club. “And it all stays in the community, that’s the cool thing about it.”
Tickets to see the Smith’s and other local gardens this Saturday are $10. Ticket locations are Strawberry Hills Farms, Wilson’s Garden Center, Superior Garden Center, Longfellow’s Garden Center, Bloomers Flowers and Gifts, Kayotea Bistro and Tea Room, Dunn Brothers Coffee, Lakewood Lawn and Garden and Peak Performance. Tickets can also be purchased at the start of the event.
The tour begins 9 a.m. Saturday at 408 S. Garth Ave. and ends at 3 p.m.