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Tour opens a world of gardening secrets

India has the Taj Mahal, built by a Mughal emperor in loving memory of his favorite wife. In Lake Oswego, Karen Saben has her 'Taj Ma-Tim.'

Karen's rendition, in the garden behind the Saben home, is a little love shack named after her husband, Tim. Truth be told, the Taj Mahal it isn't, but this backyard wooden sanctuary shows the owners' wonderful sense of humor and provides a vista to their garden.

What fun the Sabens and their guests have sitting inside the open-air 'Taj' to avoid rain or piercing summer rays.

The Taj Ma-Tim, inspired by Karen Saben's love of gardening and recycling, is constructed of recycled wood. Much of the garden around it is filled with recycled plants given by friends.

'I don't know what I'm doing, but I just keep doing it,' Saben says. We can all learn something from this woman's fearless nature.

Saben is a hospice nurse by day and a plant nurturer every other waking moment. She admits she learns as she goes along, and from my vantage point, it is going great.

So many gardeners are frozen with indecision about where to plant what. Not Saben: 'I am totally untrained. I plant what I like visually and learn later. I've made some big mistakes, but I move it later as I learn. So the shovel is my best friend.'

If you're stuck stymied about what to do next on your own little acre, the Sabens' plot of paradise is one of six gardens on parade this weekend to get you over that 'ho-hum' hump. Stop by and take a look for yourself Saturday, June 21, anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Sherry Finnigan of the League of Women Voters, which benefits from the fund-raising tour, says the Clackamas County committee 'found six great gardens, all entered through a garden gate and into back yards, so we called it the Secret Garden Tour.'

Tour tickets are $20 at Lake Grove Garden Center and Wizer's Lake Grove Market, both on Lower Boones Ferry Road.

The Lake Oswego Secret Garden Tour has my vote. Gardeners love peeking over the garden gate. And who doesn't love knowing a happy little secret?

You don't need to be a gardener to borrow ideas and make them your own. It's nearly impossible to replicate them completely, anyway. Mother Nature has definite decorating ideas of her own, as you know.

So, even if you've never done any touring, let me be the first to encourage you and warn you, too; this low-cost entertainment can be habit-forming.

This week's to-do list

• Cut the center stem of delphiniums down to about 8 inches after blooming to encourage another flush of flowers in late summer.

• Take a look at lilies for yellowed leaves with black spots. Pick off infected leaves and throw in the garbage, not the compost pile.

• Water tomatoes deeply and thoroughly about once a week to encourage deep roots.

'Your Northwest Garden with Anne Jaeger' airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on KGW (8). Contact Jaeger via her Web site, www.gardengal.tv.