Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rules for visiting a private garden



Spring has sprung and it is time for gardening. It is also about the time people start thinking that they'd like to see someone else's garden, in order to, you know, get ideas. As such, I thought it would be a good time to post a five simple rules about visiting other people's gardens. (I apologize in advance if I sound a bit scoldy about this, but you would be surprised how many people break at least one of these rules during a garden visit. And for what it is worth, I have broken every one of these rules myself at one time or another and regretted it, so this is your chance to learn from my mistakes!)

1. If you ask a gardener take a look at her garden and she says something like, "Gee. It doesn't look very good right now. I'd rather not show it to you," do not say, "Oh, I don't care about that. I just want to see it." A gardener wants to show off her garden in the best light, not when it is just coming out of the winter doldrums and she's been too busy to pull the spring weeds and there are unfinished garden projects afoot (see photo above). To press her on it would be akin to asking to see the bedroom when the bed is unmade and the laundry is not put away. If a gardener doesn't want you to see the garden right then, let it go.

2. When you visit a garden, say something nice about it. I don't care how tiny and insignificant it might be, say something nice. Gardens are hard work and heartache. The smallest improvement can be an enormous amount of labor. Show that you appreciate this. In other words, show that you know how hard it is to garden.

3. Do not ever point out a flaw. Never, ever. Do you think the gardener has not noticed the nutsedge herself? Do you think she has no clue that powdery mildew coats her squash? That the Mexican feather grass fills the cracks in the flagstones? That every single rosemary died during the last freeze? Of course she sees these terrible lapses in garden perfection. She is hoping that you will overlook the stuff she has not had time to address and notice the nice things instead. (See above.)

4. Do not offer advice unless asked. (I think this is pretty self-explanatory.)

5. Even if you are asked for advice, think twice about giving it. Sometimes what people really want is to tell you what they think should be done, and then get your confirmation. This is tricky. You're just going to have to figure out which it is. You will get it wrong sometimes.

That's it. Five rules for visiting private gardens. I think these apply whether you are visiting one informally or as part of a garden tour, since putting a garden on tour is an enormous act of courage and sacrifice, and should be recognized as such.

Happy spring, everyone!

23 comments:

  1. It's usually safe to call the plants by their little names (but not the weeds) and say which ones you particularly like.

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    1. I agree! I love saying the little names of my favorite plants.

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  2. You bet! On my own, and through CTG, I visit many gardens. Some I don't really care for, but others will, for sure. And it's the love that goes into the garden. No negatives, ever!!!

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    1. I'd love to tour some of those gardens that you get to see, Linda!

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  3. Good rules and there's always something nice to notice about most gardens.

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    1. There's almost always something nice to notice about everything we see, Gail!

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  4. Hi - how do you define a private garden? Not NGS or any that charge money, I hope? Xx

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    1. Hi Anne--Why, I mean gardens like mine! Homeowner gardens, done purely for the homeowner's pleasure. Garden visitors are welcome to derive pleasure from it, too, and I suppose they can also leave me a tip, though that has never happened. ;-) If I charged money and had a full-time professional staff on hand to help me keep things spic and span all the time, then I suppose the visitor could say whatever she liked about it.

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  5. I'd like to visit the pictured garden right now. It looks like I'd feel right at home there :)

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    1. Ha! Once we broke out the wine, the garden would look pretty good!

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    2. It would look extremely good - especially if we had rosé tinted glasses ;)

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  6. Spooky - check out Fran Sorin's 'Garden Tour Mania' article over at at GGW which is in your sidebar at the moment.

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  7. What a lovely garden, it makes me want to have a wander along that path. I'm just visiting from Veg Plotting, I had to come and see when she posted your wonderful photo. I love the cacti (prickly pears?), not too many of those in this part of the world. I'm happy to say I've never knowingly broken the five garden visiting rules. CJ xx

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  8. Rules to live by, and not just in the garden.

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  9. Great rules. What do you think of people who ask if they can have a plant "since you have so many?"

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  10. Good afternoon! I was wondering if you would possibly be interested in a guest blogging opportunity with Gardening Know How (www.gardeningknowhow.com)? If so, please e-mail me for details at:
    shelley AT gardeningknowhow.com

    Thanks!

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  11. Very good rules. Would love to visit that garden. It's so green and beautiful.

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  12. I know this post is 3 months old, but I wish my neighbors had read it before they barged into my backyard without an invitation. I'd said to them the night before that my garden was still a work in progress and a mess. After all, I'd only lived in the house for 8 months at the time. I believe it takes years to get a garden to look good.

    I've also only said nice things about their yard.

    Anyway, they insisted on seeing it and pushed my privacy gate open. Two of the three people who came said some nice things, but my actual neighbor became tight-lipped and would say nothing until she left. At which point she told me, "Well, it's nice that you have a hobby." I was so very hurt. Her husband told me later that they wanted to be the ones to set the landscaping standard for our older neighborhood. (They've lived in their home for 2 years.)

    Not two days after the visit, the hubby was laying down a brick pathway like mine.

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  13. Why do you assume that the gardener you're visiting is a "she?" :-)

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