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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open Garden?

Today is the first Thursday in June. I was supposed to have an open garden this evening but it just won't be possible.

When I first had a garden, I'd give anything for people to come see my flowers. I used to joke and tell people that I'd grab pedestrians off the street and make them come see what was blooming that day.

As my gardens began to grow and I joined several different garden clubs, I found that I'd be asked to open my garden for a tour. At first it was just for my own club, but like a snowball going downhill, soon there were other clubs and organizations asking for a tour here.

Depending on the size of the group and the nature of the tour, there's quite a few things you can do to make the experience a success.

The first thing you need to think about, whether you have 5 people coming or 500, is where to direct somebody who desperately needs to use a toilet. Luckily for me we have a bathroom in the garden. Sometimes we call it the cabana but that's a pretty fancy name for this basic building. (click on the sidebar label that says "The Necessary Room" to read an old post from last year if you want to learn more about this spot)

The largest tour group I've hosted was 500 people who came when the national convention of the American Hemerocallis Society was here on Long Island in July of 06. Other people stopped by that week too so in total I had 600 visitors see the garden within 4 or 5 days.

One reason I try hard to maintain labels in my garden (even though they annoy me so much at other times) is to help educate visitors. Once you have more than a dozen people in the garden it's hard to answer everybody's questions. To make matters worse, it seems like that botanical name you know so well always slips your mind just as somebody points to that plant.

No matter the size of the group visiting your garden, there are some basic necessities you should think about. While food might not be on your list, at least consider putting out some kind of cool beverage. Even a simple pitcher of water with a lemon slice in it is acceptable.

Another extremely important thing is to provide seating, preferably in a shaded location. Chairs, benches, hammocks, whatever you have on hand will do. If you don't have enough chairs, consider asking a neighbor if you could borrow a few.

One thing I didn't plan on during our tour was selling plants. I always seem to have a multitude of things potted up since I'm such a propagation nut. After some inquiries from visitors, I simply put out a basket with a few dollar bills in it for starter change. Then I made up a sign with prices and let people take care of themselves. It worked like a charm.

My biggest piece of advice is don't stress out. Yes there will be a weed you forgot to pull or a shovel you suddenly find sticking out of one of your favorite beds. Try to remember that you see more faults than your visitors. They will be too busy looking at the glory of your garden.

Finally, to the people who took my gardening class, I'm so sorry I can't hold that open garden this evening. I have no way to contact anybody so I hope some of you check this blog out today. Unfortunately I have a lecture for new Board of Ed trustees that I must attend. My daughter (who could have conducted the tour without me) must attend a wake and my husband will be busy running back and forth with my younger daughter and her crazy rehearsal schedule.

I'd still like to have an open garden in the next week or two and invite the local bloggers who read my posts too. So stay tuned.

For those of you in different areas, do you ever hold an open garden?


cindee said...

You are so organized. I could never do what you do. I am way to insecure to have a garden tour. I would have a major anxiety attack. I love being able to tour gardens though!!! Your gardens are outstanding!!!! Thanks for sharing all your beautiful pictures on your blog!!!!

Doris said...

I'll miss seeing you and your garden this evening and I'll keep checking for another invitation.
Your class and your attitude to gardening and life are such a joy.
Thanks so much for sharing them.

Anna said...

That was very helpful. I know you are crazy busy right now---I'm thinking about you! You are a real gift to your community.

Lin said...

It sounds like you have the whole garden tour routine down to a science!

Even though my husband and I love to host parties for family and friends in our home, we've never had a formal "open garden". Like you, we do enjoy sharing our garden...though most everyone we know is not as "into" gardening as we are. Which is why I enjoy visiting garden blogs such as yours!

Dave said...

Wow, the thought of having that many people walk in my gardens intimidates me. Maybe in a couple years when the plants have gotten established. I still have a lot to do.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I can't imagine having 500 people in my garden! It is obvious why you are asked to host garden tours - your garden is so beautiful & accomodates crowds so well. On some garden walks I've been on, there are handouts available that list the plants in each area. Some even have diagrams.

patientgardener said...

My garden is quite small and certainly wuldnt fit 500 people. I think 10 would look crowded. I have recently thought about opening under the NGS but you have to be able to offer 45 mins of interest. Then there is the convenience issue, refreshments etc and I have no room so I dont think it will happen at this garden