About Garden Tours
I post these garden tour photos to share ideas. Sometimes the gardens are really brilliant and I get a lot of inspiration. Other times they are not to my taste but I find it instructive to figure out why if it’s not immediately obvious. In other words, I might see stuff I want to copy and other stuff I would never want in my garden but either way it can bring me closer to what I’m after. Mind you, it’s a bit like chasing the horizon, because a garden is truly never done but that’s what makes it so engaging.
I have great appreciation for people who open up their gardens for tours. It’s amazing what they endure. Besides the fact that they have worked like fiends to get their gardens looking their best for the big day, they often act as hosts and answer the same questions hundreds of times over through the day.
Some hosts have a specialty such as hostas or dahlias and generously offer their knowledge. Others are like human robots spewing out Latin names and/or forcing their preferences on the innocent visitor until they’re ready to curl up in a ball and be eaten by ravens. Most hosts are simply gracious and happy to have their garden admired. Most visitors seem thankful and respectful but sometimes I overhear comments that are so inappropriate that I cannot believe it.
“Oh my god: I’d never use that [plant] in my garden! What were you thinking?”
“This plant is a bit large, could you dig some of it up for me to take home?”
“Can I see inside your house?”
“Those tacky ornaments make your garden look like a joke.”
“Those plants don’t look good together. You should really change that.”
You get the idea. I think it’s best to pay compliments and give thanks and keep the criticisms private and away from the garden or the gardener. I also try to be careful with my picture taking. I ask if photos are permitted, I try to leave other visitors out of them or anonymous, and I never say the location when I post them here. I am intentionally vague to respect the privacy of the hosts.
Over the years we’ve seen some gardens so gorgeous it brought tears to my eyes. We’ve also seen gardens so frightful we couldn’t believe they were pre-selected by the tour organizers and allowed to participate. We see a fair number of gardens where it’s all about the big budget and boasting about how much they spent on those giant shaped quarry rocks and the import of mature trees. Some are promoting businesses. But no matter what, we thank the hosts for allowing us to come by and see what they’ve created. The good far outweighs the bad. In fact, it was my first garden tour that made me realize that I too could create something I really love. Prior to that, I thought good gardens were for other people with perfect locations and unlimited bank accounts. Now I know it’s about working with what you have and following what the plants show you.
Here’s a few pictures from a small town garden we recently visited. Most of the plantings are at the front of the house:
The pool pretty much gobbled up the back yard. While not a treat from the gardening perspective, as a life long human dolphin/swim fanatic, I admit I felt like jumping in. Which is, of course, yet another faux pas on a garden tour (and I have heard people ask if they could come swim later!):
See the stairs on the right side of the pool photo? I noticed right away there was no handrail. I hope it’s on its way….
Here’s another view of the front. Some gardeners are amazingly tidy. That would not be me:
In the next photo on the left you can see a bit of the climbing hydrangea. My hydrangea has fought climbing every step of the way. This one was beautifully arranged up the house wall. Clearly, some vines need daily management to get them where you want them. I tend to plant and forget and thereby end up with crawling hydrangeas. I always mean to conduct daily garden inspections to keep on top of stuff like rogue vines but so far, not so much….
I do love it when the front garden is really eye catching from the street. That’s something I’m working on more and more. The great big porch is a big bonus too.
Right now is peak season for self-guided garden tours in Ontario, Canada. I hope you’ll look for some where you live. It’s a really fun way to spend a day: stealing plants and jumping in pools taking ideas and learning about what is possible in gardening your zone.