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Garden Tours - Pick up Design Tips!

Garden Design Why Garden Tours?

I simply love touring through other peoples’ gardens. It’s the highlight of my summer to go on as many garden tours as I can and just plain snoop. I admit it, it boils down to that simple fact.

I really want to know what others are doing, how they do it, and how can I translate it for my own garden needs.

And the lovely thing is, is that for a small fee to support a cause, many towns convince gardeners to open normally unavailable gardens for a day to all we busybodies.

You can bet the farm that the most nosy of we gardeners are waiting impatiently on the sidewalk for the official opening moment at the first house on our list, jockeying for first position at the entry.

Preparing for the Garden Tour

I, for one, am prepared with sunhat, digital camera, waterbottle, notebook and pen, lunch in my carrybag, and already slathered in sunblock. There’s a lot to see and no time to waste. When the imagined starter’s gun goes off, no dust collects on our shoes as we all stampede into the garden. The owner, standing stunned and open-mouthed at their gate by such haste and interest, usually recovers in a few moments to then gallop after the pack in hopes of explaining how they came about the design or whatever.

Truth be told, few of us are primarily interested in design. Mostly, we want to know what plants he/she has that we don’t. And what their names are, where did they get them, and most importantly, do they ever give any away or to sell. The poor owner, barraged by these questions from all directions at once by the garden paparazzi, doesn’t know which way to turn and is obviously wishing it was closing time.

Garden OrnamentNext of greatest interest, are garden ornaments like trellises, arbors, seats, sheds, water features, watering systems and such. I admit to coveting some wooden statuary and one particular arbor I’ve seen in these gardens.

All the while, I snap pictures of good plant compositions, interesting colour combinations, plantings around sheds, unusual uses of items, and signage while the family dog, barking frantically inside, is bouncing off walls trying to get out.

Of particular interest to me is how the owner solved interesting problems. I have no shame at snooping behind garages to see how he/she set up their rain barrel system and connections, or which compost bins do they prefer and where have they set up, what size shed is on that size of property.

Do they mulch? What have they done with an area with exposed tree roots? Just where did they obtain those interesting border rocks? What method of vegetable beds works for this owner. And interesting ways to solve drainage issues such as mini stone river beds.

If I come home with even one very good idea that I know I’ll use, then I consider the day and money well spent. One rather spartan garden held little interest for me; the plantings were neat but blah in interest.

The backyard was very bare with work in progress. But then I noticed that the white protective tree wraps, which normally glow like sports socks, had been spray painted brown to disappear. Wow, loved the idea! Since then, I’ve spray painted all my tree socks brown.

Another idea from this garden was some previous obstruction protruding into the asphalt drive which had been removed, along with a bit extra paving. In place now was a decoratively shaped arch of cobblestones set into the asphalt. Loved it!

I’m finally removing an obstructive concrete island by my garage which narrows entry to the backyard. Already waiting are similar coloured cobbles to fill in that area as well as a lead-in to the backyard. This now leaves room for a welcoming arbor.

This is why I look at every garden on the tour list. Never know what bit of brilliance exists there. If there’s none, then I politely make a discreet quick getaway - the list is long and the day is short. A few of the gardens will be so interesting that I need more time there, perhaps questioning the owner on plant varieties, overcoming pest problems or propagation methods. After all, it’s unlikely I’ll see this garden again. And after the owner’s initial shock at how many interested gardeners have come, he/she will sometimes offer free cuttings or plants, or go inside to get some specific information for me.

And occasionally you get the unexpected. One lady left her non-gardening hubby in charge while she was in another town touring gardens there. He didn’t know plant names, but I got great tips on screened porch construction. Another gent has kindly offered me a fall division of a coveted plant after listening to his interesting exploits in WW2. Another house had a fascinating artesian fed pond with pet rainbow trout.

All in all, it’s an interesting day for both sides. Gardening is our passion, and our addiction to plants is incurable. What a way to go.

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