Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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Walk the (Garden) Walk, Talk the Talk

Once in a blue moon, the planets align and you can do a couple of really fund things in the same week. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend two great garden walks. First was a tour of four distinctly different Chalet-designed landscapes. Second was a tour of four more amazing gardens held by the Garden Conservancy. What more can a plant geek ask for?

The first myth to dispel is that these walks are only for people who are totally immersed in gardens and landscaping. Not so. Who doesn't want their garden, their outdoor living space, to be as beautiful as their home's interior? Everyone that drives by sees the front of your property. Only friends and family share the inside of your home. In view of that, shouldn't we take more time to personalize our gardens so they truly reflect our personalities?

Wall of Clematis
Garden makeover television as inspiration? Please. When was the last time you came away with a new plant hardy for your Midwest garden? What about a stunning plant combination you could plagiarize? I’m still waiting for any of these “landscape” programs to show us something dazzling that is vaguely Zone 5 appropriate. Evidently only gardens in California are worthy of makeovers. 

If “local” is smart shopping, then attending local garden walks is brilliant. You view and learn plants that are hardy for your area. You’ll discover new plants while making your own observations about placement (sun/partial/shade). This is worthwhile info that can be used in your garden. In addition to specific plants you’ll see color combinations literally in the light of your geographic area. You’ll capture these on your smart phone and then translate to your space. Maybe you’ll recreate the combo exactly. Perhaps you’ll sub plants, but keep the colors and textures you liked. At any rate, your garden just got better for you and your family.  

Cascading Lantana and Agapanthus pot

Garden walks often mean great coaching from passionate people. In the case of the Chalet landscape tour, it was an opportunity to talk to the landscape architects who designed the spaces. Horticulturalists were present, questions were answered. On the Garden Conservatory's "Open Day," the homeowners were available to share plant names, why they did something the way they did, and tips for success. New things learned, ideas sown.

I find magazines more personal and relatable to my garden needs than television. Still, seeing gardens is a very personal, and hopefully, enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The fragrance of an Oriental lily, an espalier in a shape you've never imagined, a tree you didn't know (but now must have) is all part of a garden walk. You will certainly see planting combinations that aren't your style. But isn't is as valuable to learn what you don't wnat as what you do?

Viewing any garden should be inspiring, not intimidating. Don't go home and set a controlled burn because your garden isn't as grand as what you just saw. Regardless of scale or style, our gardens should be a sanctuary offering us beauty that is our own unique creation. By allowing us this connection with the natural world, gardens can nourish our souls.

A proper cottage garden


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