As an organizer of garden tours and open garden days, I’ve heard my share of complaints about garden visitors. Oh, don’t look so shocked; they’re human, too. Or should I say "we’re human, too" because I’ve probably pissed off my share of garden hosts – before I wised up and started my campaign save them from their visitors. And since Stuart recently polled his readers: "Would you open your garden to visitors?" I can’t resist weighing in on the topic. (By the way, 60 percent of his respondents said yes, with only one – and from the map it looks like a Texan – answering with a definitive "no".)
So here for your review and critique is "The Etiquette of Visiting Gardens," the collective wisdom of our 200+ member gardening Yahoo group, compiled and published in our Hort Club newsletter in June of ’05. I didn’t know you guys back then or I’d have asked for your input, too. But now’s your chance.
- DON’T criticize – period. Whatever awful things you may think the gardener is doing, be a good guest and keep it to yourself.
- DON’T step in the garden, even if you think you know what you’re doing. Stay on the grass or on paths.
- DON’T do spontaneous weeding or deadheading — it can be taken by the host as a veiled criticism. We all share the impulse, but on the receiving end it’s not welcome, especially when it involves stepping into the border to do the clean-up chore.
- DO ask anything about the garden and the plants in it. Just "What’s that?" or "Tell me about that plant" are welcome openings for the gardener to expound.
- DO compliment the garden and/or thank the gardener for sharing it.
My article ended with this plea: "While we’re enjoying ourselves this gardening season, let’s treat our hosts well and be good ambassadors for the club."
Think all this make-nice advice did a whit of good? The incidence of visitors stepping where they shouldn’t was noticably reduced but it’s much harder to muzzle those self-appointed crusaders who inspect and critique gardens in the guise of tour-goers. You know the type – the plant police.
[Photo: A local garden that’s popular with tour-goers.]