Garden tours are educational and instructive. They open your eyes to new vistas and ways of thinking about horticulture. They are, in short, wonderful.
Except when it’s your garden that’s on tour. I know this because, last month, our garden was the one everybody wanted to see.
|Three years ago it was a blank slate|
Betty and I began planting our ‘dream retirement garden’ in June 2015. As readers of this column know, we started with a true ‘tabula rasa’ – we had taken out 947 cubic yards of what could politely be called ‘builder’s crud’ and replaced it with 18 inches of screened loam into which we would plant trees, shrubs and perennials… and not a single blade of grass.
|On the back patio|
Fending off requests to see the garden was easy for the first two years – there really wasn’t a lot to see. Last year, we pleaded for more time with the explanation that, well, we needed more time. Trees needed to grow some more; shrubs still had to spread out their roots, and perennials were just starting to fill in the gaps between them.
|The back garden|
But this is the start of the garden’s fourth year. That old but accurate aphorism about “sleep, creep, leap” has proven true. And so, Betty agreed to open our garden for two hours for Master Gardeners.
You would think that having a group in your garden would be a snap… put out signs, bake some cookies and set out the lemonade. No, that’s not the way it happens. And it especially doesn’t happen that way if the group in question has more than a passing knowledge of horticulture and a keen eye for detail.
|The view from the bench|
For three weeks before the event, Betty labeled plants. We have three viburnums behind the house. We even know what kind of viburnums they were because we’ve saved all their paperwork. But which one is which? This is why Google Images exists, and I suspect the fine folks in Mountain View are compiling quite an interesting, if puzzling dossier about our internet search habits. And, of course, common names are so… common. Why call it an ‘arrowwood viburnum’ when ‘Viburnum dentatum’ is more botanically correct?
|Shasta daisies are at the 'leap' stage|
And then, of course, there’s the weeding and deadheading. Every bed was gone over multiple times, and paths were plucked of everything even resembling a weed. Of course, our paths are also supposed to be ‘natural’. Our heucheras and tiarellas are prolific self-seeders. One especially fecund cultivar had cute brown and gold seedlings popping up everywhere. How many stayed and how many were composted was a question being answered up to the morning of the tour.
|The asclepias bloomed just in time|
There is also the ‘prayer factor’, otherwise known as “will it bloom in time?” and “will it still be in bloom?” We have a stand of gorgeous Asclepias tuberosa, also knows as butterfly weed. It is golden yellow and is a magnet for every pollinator in town. Up until Saturday morning, it appeared as though only a single stem would be showing color. But nearby, an entire colony of Asclepias syriaca – rose milkweed to the rest of us – blossomed with white flower clusters that, while not as showy as its cousin, perfumed the air magnificently. They were a perfect complement to the Asclepias tuberosa, which opened a dozen flowers just as cars began arriving.
|No one seemed to believe there's|
not a blade of grass on the property
Finally, there was the scourge of parking. We are on a narrow, winding road that is a favorite of bicyclists and walkers. We have a parking pad at the front of the property that will hold three cars and a driveway that will accommodate four more. Fearing being blocked in, no one wanted to use the driveway and, when the pad filled up, visitors began parking on the street (Betty had provided detailed instruction of how to park at a nearby elementary school).
|A river of geranium|
Visitors ignored the school parking option. They not only parked on the street; they parked on both sides of this narrow, winding road. It did not take long for the local police to take notice and we soon had two cruisers, one with flashing lights, in front of our house. It took all of Betty’s charms and persuasive powers to get everything back to normal. I am in awe of her for this.
Was it worth it? Of course. The compliments were both genuine and numerous. People said they learned and called what Betty has created, ‘the new American yard’. Am I in a hurry to do it again soon? If you have to ask….
|And then, we had the garden to ourselves again!|