Lessons from the Garden Tour

The garden tour has come and gone, and I have gone and returned from vacation. As I poked around the garden this morning after a two week absence I thought about the garden tour, and what I learned. It was a lovely experience. I got to walk through half a dozen other gardeners’ gardens the night before, and the day of the tour I got to talk with dozens and dozens of people who like plants and gardens. Everyone was kind, and I was reminded that even though I don’t know that many people who are as obsessed with gardens as I am, they are out there!

So this is what I learned:

  • Every garden is perfectly personal. I felt like my garden had to be “good enough” to have people visit, and I worried that other people’s gardens would be better than mine and visitors would be disappointed. In the end I realized that I enjoyed visiting all of these gardens that were so very different, and personal to the people that made them, and I have to trust that visitors will experience my garden in that spirit, too. It isn’t like I am going to change the way I garden to suit other people, so the best I can hope for is that visitors enjoy the experience, whether they like the style or not.
  • The way people enter matters, and I can’t control that. I had intended people to come in the driveway gate, then walk out through the front garden. I spent lots of time planning how the garden would look as you walked in the gate, and how to reveal the garden slowly by breaking up sightlines with trellis and plants. No one saw the garden that way, because everyone came in the gate by the espalier. I never enter that way, and I hadn’t thought much about how the garden looks from that angle. I am going to work on creating a better experience walking in that gate – walking into a raggedy utility area isn’t exactly the best entry.
  • People loved the Blue Billow hydrangea. It was in full, electric blue bloom and was perhaps the most noticeable plant that day. I also got many, many questions about the Carolina Spice Bush (Calycanthus).
  • Although I like walking through the lavender hedge, bees and all, no one else does. If I want people to walk that way the hedge needs to be cut way back. Most people want a bit more personal space on a path.
  • It’s hard to talk to people for four hours straight. I didn’t have any helpers on garden tour day. My mom was supposed to be my docent, but she got Covid (she’s fine now). So I enlisted a good friend, but she called me the morning-of to say that she had gotten Covid (she’s also fine now). My husband and son did not get Covid, but were away at a baseball tournament and so couldn’t help out. So I did all the welcoming and talking. I love gardeners and talking about gardens, but that was a lot.
  • A welcome table helps. Since I couldn’t be everywhere at once and didn’t have a helper, I set up a table out front with a handout about the garden and a welcome sign. It at least took the pressure off me to be right at the gate welcoming people.
  • People are good. Especially garden people. My garden is not everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone was kind. Some were extraordinarily so. Many people asked if there were frogs in the pond, and I told everyone there weren’t, but that I hoped someday there would be. One young woman said she had tadpoles, and asked if I’d like her to bring me some. I said I would love that, but didn’t expect she’d follow up. But a little after two, when the tour was finished, there was a knock on the door and there she was with a little bottle filled with pond water and tadpoles. Those little babies are happily growing in my pond.
  • Worry less, enjoy more.

1 Comment

  1. This is beautiful and of course, your garden was my favorite.

    I would like to forward your thoughts to Michele Keating as she asked for suggestions and I had none. Or maybe you already sent to her?

    We are going to Tennessee and Alabama for several days but when I return, maybe we can have that long awaited cup of coffee together. And we can view each other’s gardens form our respective pots.

    Peace and joy,




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