Monday, March 9, 2009

Diary August 2006 - Garden Tours

I love garden tours. I’ve gone on many and have been a part of quite a few, both as a host (twice) and as a volunteer selling tickets.
Why do people go on garden tours? Well, lots of noble thoughts come to mind: for inspiration, to see and learn about new plants, to meet other gardeners and to help with fundraising, because most garden tours raise money for groups. But come on - it’s also a legitimate way to “snoop” at other peoples’ properties! Well, it’s true!! How many times haven’t you driven or walked by a beautiful front yard and wondered what the backyard looked like? In a garden tour, you get to see exactly what others have done in the front and the back of their yards. Many times, expectations are met or even exceeded but occasionally yards do not measure up to the hype and you wonder who chose them for a tour?? You feel good, because you know your own garden is almost better in comparison!
Anyway, I’ve been touring almost yearly since the early 90’s. I have viewed many stunning properties on the annual “Through the Garden Gate” tours run by the
Civic Garden Centre (now called the Toronto Botanical Gardens) in mid-June. I usually went with a group of friends, all avid gardeners. We’d meet at one house, plan our route and go. We’d pack a picnic lunch and eat it tail-gate style – all part of the exciting day. I remember one tour about 15 years ago, it was mighty hot. In fact, it was so hot, that the asphalt from the road was melting and sticking to our shoes! I entered a lovely property in Rosedale and noticed that everyone was leaving bits of this melted asphalt on the owner’s gorgeous slate stone walkway! By the time we noticed, it was too late to turn back – the damage was done. But I know I felt bad that these poor people probably regretted allowing their home on the tour. Anyway, it was an isolated incident, but things can happen on garden tours, both good and bad.
One year, the Civic Garden Centre tour included Casa Loma and the Spadina house grounds. They were lovely. We have also been to Rosedale, Baby Point, and other beautiful areas. Take a look:

The Garden Gate tours also introduced us to the work of well-known Toronto landscape architects, such as Janet Rosenberg. Their imagination and creativity were very inspiring.
This year I went on an excellent tour in Guelph. Each garden had its own sense of magic, from the suburban ones
to the large, country property near the 401.

It was a great day!
Years ago, I was honoured to be asked to be part of the local Horticultural Society’s tour twice, first when my garden was mostly perennial beds in the back and a second time after a substantial renovation in 2002. Hosting is, as I say, an honour but it’s also a “wake-up call” to get your own garden into pristine condition! Deadheading, edging, watering, fertilizing must be done on a regular basis to get the garden ready for the “guests”. In the 90’s, the tour was held on a Sat evening and a Sunday afternoon. In the 2 days, I had over 600 people come through my garden!! The grass got a bit trampled (!) but popped back up a few days later. The second tour was more manageable, but even then we had over 300 come. The nicest part, I remember, was when people would say ”Thank you for allowing us into your garden”. As if they were indebted to me!! That’s why I felt so proud.
I would really like the “Perfect Garden” to be a destination point for garden tours. As I say, it gives you a reason to keep your yard in tip-top shape as well as proudly share what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. (And it gives folks a chance to snoop!)

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