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I’ve extolled the virtues of garden tours many times here. I believe there is nothing more inspiring than experiencing a garden other than your own. It’s hard for me to think of a time I’ve toured a garden and not left with a design idea I would like to incorporate into my garden or a plant I absolutely had to have.

Something that’s right in my garden right now: The first ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlia bloom.

And yet, I rarely invite people into my garden any way other than through this blog (which is much different from really seeing a garden). My mom comes to see my garden from time to time and the occasional neighbor, but that’s about it. In fact I actively avoid having people in my garden and have turned down tour requests on a handful of occasion because I know there are parts of my garden that are far from perfect. And when I look at my garden through someone else’s eyes, all I see are bare spots where plants have failed, weeds plotting a full-on garden coup and design mistakes that you’d think I would have stopped making by now.

So it was with some trepidation that I gave my blogger friend Linda from Each Little World and her husband Mark a tour of the garden last week. I visited their amazing garden last year and I was happy, although nervous, to swap roles.

But the pressure is (mostly) off when you have dedicated gardeners visiting in a casual situation. They understand that weeds happen and plants get moved and bare spots develop. They also understand that sometimes things just get a bit overgrown. So really, I couldn’t have asked for a more understanding audience and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit (while alternately cringing at weeds I missed).

The best looking spot in the garden right now is the annual border along the house. Everything in this border other than the  ‘Bergaarten’ sage and the begonias was grown from seed (or tubers, in the case of the dahlias) by me this winter/spring.

The window box is finally starting to fill in and show signs of “spilling.”

What I didn’t expect to come from the visit, was for me to get something out of it beyond a chance to catch up with friends and talk plants. And yet, I saw my own garden through another person’s eyes. It’s interesting to watch other people in your garden. To see what they are drawn to first, what makes them pause, and what they ask about. It’s the best way to gauge the flow of a space that I can imagine. Just watch people experience your garden.

Linda, Mark and I also had a chat about what I call the Circle Garden (it’s an oval, but that has no ring to it). It was the first garden I really started from scratch on a year or two after we bought our house and I put a ton of work into the bones of it. I still like it and think it has the potential to be a real star in the garden, but what’s there now is not working. I told Linda and Mark that it started as a vegetable garden with some ornamentals but then I realized there wasn’t enough sun for tomatoes and I built a dedicated vegetable garden. And then Mark pointed out that since much of the rest of the garden in that area is shades of green, perhaps something wildly colorful might work. And from there the three of us tossed around ideas.

I pointed out this Aralia ‘Silver Umbrella’ to Linda when she visited. It was new last year, but I love how it is growing so far.

The result of that visit is that I realize that the Circle Garden has been bugging me for a long time but I’ve been ignoring it, and for the first time in years, I’m excited about the possibility of starting completely from scratch there.

Last year I planted this ‘Sapphire Indigo’ clematis and this year it is growing beautifully. It may be my new favorite. 

It’s the kind of inspiration I usually get when I visit a garden. Little did I know it would work the other way too.

So I’m amending my drumbeat encouraging people to visit other gardens to add that it’s equally important to invite people into yours, warts, weed and all.

8 Responses

  1. I can't imagine why you would feel reluctant to let people see it. From what I see here, it's in great shape! That clematis is to die for.

  2. One more thing – I feel that I need to warn you about Aralia 'Silver Umbrella'. I bought one 10 years ago – I is magnificent, maybe 16 feet tall and all twisty with amazing foliage – but now it decided to run – not variegated, but with thorns nastier than it's relative (or apparently, root stock) – the Devil's Walking Stick. We complain a lot about whether we should cut it down now, or try to keep up with the hundreds of suckers which are starting to rival the bamboo it is overtaking. I should post about it, but I would need to get some good photos. See ours on the blog – just search for 'Aralia'. Good luck!!!

  3. erin, first, I have to thank you for linking to my blog all of those times! Sometimes, I am just a doink and don't check to see who is linking back! Your kind words have not gone unnoticed. On another note – I can totally relate to your conundrum in accepting visits from people. When we host a plant society or have a party, I fret and freak out – going overboard trying to get things looks better then they are, but the truth is, most gardeners really don't care – they see through the weeds, and always enjoy seeing plants that they don't grow. Still, I just turned down a garden club from visiting – I just couldn't deal with it. I always tell people – just don't tell me that you are coming, and then show up. That's usually the best way. Just don't into the house. We may be gay, but clearly, we didn't get 'that' gene. Its more like a frat house in there! Hope your gardening is super well this summer!

  4. I discovered your garden and blog while reading Linda's post. It's fun to learn about other bloggers in Wisconsin. I can't imagine inviting large groups into my garden, but as you say a more casual visit is a little less intimidating. I just got back from the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Minneapolis, where we visited many private gardens. Those people are brave to welcome tours, and especially garden bloggers, to their properties! Your garden looks beautiful–through your eyes and Linda's!

  5. It is fun to have others in your garden. I have developed thick skin and wear blinders when inviting others into your garden. You just can't always be weedless and you can't please everyone. To me the even the worst garden ever can make you thankful for your own plot despite all of what we conceive as faults in our own.

  6. You beat me to writing about our visit! Glad it was helpful because I teally enjoyed ir as well. Made us think about where we could add some of your great evergreens. And I need one of those fabulous variegated Aralias. The Hort Director from Olbrich was here yesterday and he said Golden Shadows Dogwood seems to have a number of problems and is not all that long lived. So now we have the bad news.

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