Garden tours don’t have to be about conventional garden aesthetics; they can also teach tour-goers to be better stewards of their land, while creating more beauty for them and their community.
So in that spirit, I’m organizing a garden tour for my town, one with a theme – Less Lawn, More Life (a phrase I stole from Evelyn Hadden). So instead of the Solomonic task of choosing the best gardens in town, I’m choosing gardens that look good while demonstrating uses of land other than nothing-but-lawn (and hedges -my planned community is BIG on hedges).
Readers here already know the benefits of plants other than lawn, but to reiterate – better stormwater retention, more for pollinators and birds, less need for mowing and fertilizing, and let’s not forget – more to enjoy for the homeowner. And for neighbors, too. Sure, some homeowners love-love-love their lawn, but they can go admire the local golf course if they need to; this tour is for everyone else.
An unexpected result of my tour-organizing efforts has been meeting all the serious gardeners in town, with whom I naturally bond immediately and can talk plants for hours on end. Though initially I joined the local community garden in hopes of meeting “my people,” I found instead lots of garden politics (see Elizabeth’s post on that very problem). From ornamentalists I haven’t heard a word of bickering – yay. And of all the gardeners whose doors I’ve knocked on to solicit them for the tour, all but one has enthusiastically agreed, the only exception being someone whose nongardening spouse nixed the idea.
But that’s not all I’m doing for the altruistic reason of helping more people garden and the selfish one of getting to know my tribe; I’m also organizing the town’s first plant “swap,” which won’t really be a swap but the chance for people to donate their extra plants to people with empty yards and the desire to turn them into gardens.
And the simplest friend-making tactic of all? Starting a local Yahoo group for gardeners. With just 60 members so far, it’s already produced offers of extra plants from some gardeners I now count as friends, whose extras are now filling up my neighbors’ empty spaces. Now when I walk around town I have gardens and gardeners to visit and check up on. We talk plants. No garden politics at all.