As summer approaches, the organizers of the widely recognized Westerflora garden tour are hoping to attract a new crop of gardeners.

The annual free tour, one of the longest-running in Ohio, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Westerville Garden Club last year.

And at this year's event, which is July 22, organizers are asking gardeners to reserve a space to honor first responders.

Westerflora spokeswoman Linda Laine said she's hoping each garden will have a "spot of blue" in reference to first responders -- and especially to Westerville officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, who were killed in the line of duty in February.

Laine said the group didn't want to focus solely on Joering and Morelli but instead wanted to reference all first responders.

"We thought this was a subtle way of honoring them," she said.

Westerville's First Responders Park also will be on the tour for the first time, and Laine and other Westerflora organizers are putting together a display of blue flowers to plant there.

In addition to the theme, Laine said, she's hoping to attract some new gardeners to this year's show.

She said she hopes even casual gardeners aren't intimidated and even wants to include children in the tour if possible.

"We're looking for people who are creative," she said. "Maybe they collect a type of flower or they have a collection of tchotchkes that are interesting and done in a tasteful way that people would enjoy seeing."

Laine's husband, Jack, has become as interested in gardening as she is. He said he encourages new gardeners to apply and see why the Westerflora regulars enjoy it.

"It's fun to have people come by and appreciate what you've done," he said. "People should not feel intimidated. Everyone gardens differently, and there's no one right way to do things. People shouldn't worry that they're not perfect because that's not what's being looked for."

For more information and an application, visit Westerflora.com. Application deadline is June 23.

aking@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAndrew