Bibler Gardens in Bloom for Summer Tours

By Beacon Staff

Up on a hillside west of Kalispell sits a piece of land where dragonflies and hummingbirds thrive, flowers of all shapes and colors work in harmony to create living art and exotic swans paddle around in the summer sunshine.

Breezes flow up from Foys lake, cooling the grounds at the Bibler Gardens, counteracting the heavy mid-July heat. Oddly, the wind from the lake does the opposite in the winter, warming the 16-acre haven of gardens, pasture and orchards.

Rande Simon, the manager at the gardens, can’t really explain the kindness afforded by the wind in different seasons, but he can tell you that the grounds and house he cares for are gifts from Louis A. “Sam” Bibler to the Flathead Valley.

Bibler designed the gardens and developed a menagerie of tiny animals on the property and offered tours up until his death in 2002, Simon said. It was his wish that the gardens remain available to others, Simon said, and that they serve a public purpose.

Starting July 24 and ending July 27, the gardens will open for their annual Splendid Summer Evenings tour, during which the public can visit and take a 90-minute tour for $10 per person and $3 per child. All of the proceeds – “every dime,” Simon said – goes to the Flathead Valley Community College Foundation’s scholarship program. The tours run at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The summer tour kickoff celebration takes place on July 23, featuring a wine reception, light hors d’oeuvres from culinary students at FVCC and a discussion with Carol Bibler about the swans and miniature animals her father loved.
On July 18, the tours were almost sold out, Simon said, and he expected them to fill up completely as they tend to do every year. But the gardens offer private tours each weekday to groups of at least 10 and no more than 20, for $10 a head.
It’s easy to tell why people keep flocking to the Bibler Gardens. The flowers, of which there are hundreds of types, are arranged impeccably in the 5-acre walking gardens, with perennials and annuals mixing together to create a masterpiece in the full bloom of summer.

Bibler Gardens also hosts spring tours, typically showing tulips and daffodils. Summer flowers include petunias, marigolds, cosmos, heuchera, daylilies, delphiniums, rudbeckia, hollyhocks and many others.

The overall visual is stunning. Simon said Bibler used to tell people on his tours that the landscaping is art, and if they asked what a certain type of flower was, he would tell them that wasn’t important, since it’s merely a brushstroke on a painting.

Simon said it’s important to change up the flower arrangements for repeat visitors.

“Every year is different,” he said. “We try to stay fresh.”

Eight employees maintain the gardens under the leadership of head gardener Tyler Hawk, who, on this particular day, was using the mid-afternoon light to try and capture photos of the hummingbirds.

“The hummingbirds think we are heaven,” Simon remarked.

Those taking the tour will also see the Bibler home, which was built in 1980 and features antiques, paintings, a nationally recognized Persian rug collection and an important collection of Cape Dorset Inuit art.

Tours also go through the stable, built from hand-hewn logs and a showplace of some of the garden’s resident goats and mules.

For more information on the Bibler Gardens and tickets for tours, visit www.biblergardens.org or call 406-756-3632.

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