A number of ambitious and talented gardeners in Utah Valley are busily coaxing the best out of their plants and banking their wildflowers. The annual Hidden Garden Benefit Tour arrives in less than two weeks.

Lance Turner of Provo is working with the wild plum trees that grow naturally in his garden ravine.Karen Robison is urging her husband, Gene, to add just a few more finishing touches to the gardens around their Victorian-style home in Orem.

In other gardens, waterfalls are cascading over cobblestone pathways, clematis is blooming and stone animals hold flowers in their mouths. Birds fly, roses climb and garden lamps flicker.

Everything is in readiness - or at least as much as one can get ready when working with the whims of nature and sunshine.

"The Hidden Garden Benefit tour has been a much anticipated event by garden lovers throughout the state since it began four years ago," said Bonnie Pence, event director for the Celebration of Health Foundation.

"We are confident that this year's event will be the best ever, and we have extended the hours to give our guests more time," said Pence.

Scheduled for Friday, June 5, from noon to 9 p.m., and Saturday, June 6, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., the tour this year features 15 unique and beautiful gardens in the Provo and Orem areas.

The garden tour is expected to draw 1,000 visitors. Tickets are available at the gardens for $15 each or in advance from the foundation at 375-7600 for $12.

Ticket price includes admission to the self-guided tour and to four workshops at Thanksgiving Point on June 6 from 8 to 10 a.m.

Herbs and flowers will be sold at four of the gardens at a cost of two for $1 to tour participants.

Proceeds go to help the foundation build the Family Guest House, a 13-unit facility intended to provide living quarters for the families of long-term patients in the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

The guest house is to be started this summer and completed in the fall.

"We are very excited to know that the Family Guest House will soon be a reality. It is badly needed and will be a much welcomed facility in Utah County," Pence said.

Gardens on the tour list for the 1998 event include those of: Kerry and Eunice Asay, Michael and Jackie Coleman, Gary and Laurel Cornia, Darreld and Susan Hardy, Trish Henrie, Wayne and Ann Mineer, Doug and Sandy Monson, Frank and Colleen Morgan, Kyle and Brenda Powell, Howard and Marianne Reichman, Juanita Terrill, Bruce and Nancy Tregaskis and Barbara Wilson.

Several of the gardens feature ponds and waterfalls. Some have unusual rockwork. Many have a number of arbors and gazebos.

Fruit trees, perennials, hanging plants and tranquil shady spaces abound.

Master gardener Lyle Tregaskis said it's his job and privilege to help scout out the gardens for each year's benefit tour.

"I think we've found some really unique places," he said. "People have so much imagination and they're so gracious to share their gardens."