OAKLAND -- Vicki Chan's rambling, three-level garden on Estates Drive, abundant with vegetable patches, flowers, olive and citrus trees, berries and grapes and even her own whimsical handmade garden ceramics, is a reflection of her personality.
"I don't like to plant things in rows," said Chan, whose garden will be one of eight featured on the upcoming Hillside Gardeners of Montclair garden tour. "When I moved here 13 years ago, everything was square -- I like flow and curves -- and low maintenance. I don't want my garden to be too serious."
"She's a serious gardener who doesn't want a serious garden," chimed in Dianne Farber, who also belongs to the Hillside Gardeners Club.
Chan is a firm believer in organic gardening and recycling. She found the "converted" bird house that her ceramic chickens call home by the side of the road. She also rescued some fencing that serves as a trellis for peas.
"She's a big recycler. We all are," Farber said.
The fruit of the citrus, olive, apple, persimmon and apricot trees are either given away or end up as applesauce, jam, jelly or -- Chan's favorite, lemon cello.
"It's a liqueur that can dress up any dessert," Chan said. "Try drizzling it over pound cake."
She also believes in organic fertilizer, using treated horse manure from local stables to make her garden grow. Another gardener on the tour is similarly creative, recycling droppings from llamas that are owned by a friend. Chan also has compost piles dotted all over the garden.
"Why drag the stuff around?" she said.
The last Hillside Gardeners tour in 2011 netted more than $12,000, according to club president Paula Snyder.
"This year's tour will feature eight gardens, all in different styles and all maintained by the owners," Snyder said. "It's interesting to see how people create different kinds of gardens that reflect something in their personalities."
Proceeds from the garden tour, and the club's winter boutique, support everything from helping to repair tree burn areas in California by purchasing new trees to scholarships for horticultural students at Merritt College.
"Merritt is one of the most comprehensive horticultural programs in the area, therefore it's important that we support it," Snyder said. "So many programs are in need of funds."
The 130-strong Hillside Gardeners club also does a lot of down-to-earth work.
"We maintain two gardens at Lake Merritt and the club has taken care of the plot at Moraga and Masonic for about 20 years," Snyder said. "It's a lot of hands-on weeding."
Snyder said the gardeners club also has offshoots, including a pottery group.
"They make things that will be sold at the tour's boutique," she said. "It's mostly garden art and some sun catchers that were made from chandelier crystals."
The club also has knitting, cooking and plant propagation groups.
"It's easy to stay busy with all these activities," Snyder said.
Farber said when she moved here from Minneapolis and her children became adults, the club was a lifesaver.
"This club just saved me, it's a great way to make friends," Farber said. "It's the service component that I find so attractive. We work on things that are enjoyed and appreciated by the whole community."
What: Hillside Gardeners of Montclair presents, "The Ups and Downs of Hillside Gardening: A spring garden tour of eight fabulous gardens," and a gardeners' boutique
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $30 in advance; $35 day of tour
Information: 510-898-6872 or firstname.lastname@example.org