More than anything, gardening is a lesson in humility. For no matter who you are (or think you are) in the outside world, you’ll forever be an eager student in the garden. And, as Alfred Austin said, “Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.” In fact, all gardens, like their gardeners, are forever a work-in-progress.
It’s true, a garden is never as you imagine it in your head. Nor will it ever be. Hopefully, anyway. Because when your garden, in reality, fully catches up with the cleverness you’ve conjured up while daydreaming, gardening ceases. After all, imagination is the dominant driving force behind all gardening endevours.
That’s the whole beautiful point, really. You trip, hop to your feet, shrug it off and move on with your grand idea. Luckily, the garden forgives and progresses in perfect time with its steward. A gardening waltz, if you will.
This is why a gardener should never sweat the blunders. (And let me tell you, if your time in the garden is anything like mine, it’s heavy on blunders. In fact, I’m surprised there isn’t a bruise on my forehead from the number of times my dirty-gloved palm has smacked it!) For within blunders lies suspenseful intrigue. But then, intrigue leads to questions. And questions lead to inquiry, which leads to experimentation, which leads to discovery. Before you know it, you’re standing in pile of discoveries, dressed up as a lovely garden!
This is, precisely, why it’s important to visit other gardens and proudly share your own. And not only when it’s dressed in its Sunday best, but with bed-head and pimples, too! You see, a garden tells a story. And for context, one needs to see a garden in all its stages. I mean, if you want to see a perfect garden, open a fancy-pants garden magazine!
Showing your garden is a wonderfully vulnerable endeavor, really. Especially when showing it to other gardeners. We pour so much of ourselves into them, they become an extension of ourselves. And when we open the gates to our gardens, we open the gates to our souls, for all to see. Perfect weeds and all.
Well, if you want to see some beautiful, bare souls, join The Piedmont Gardeners this coming Saturday, April 21st, as they host their 17th annual spring garden tour. On this day, five private gardens, of all shapes and sizes, will have their gates open for public gawking. (See the photo gallery for a sneak peek.)
There, you’ll find inspiration in everything from clever plant combinations, to courtyard gardening and even koi ponds. (And because they’re all a work-in-progress, like your own garden, you’ll even see some situations that don’t quite work. This is valuable, too.) But best of all, you’ll have an opportunity to bond with other plant people, a unique bond that often seems to bridge both political and socio-economical gaps.
And, as if hosting this nicely organized, self-guided tour wasn’t enough, the Piedmont Gardeners graciously use the generated profits to award two, $1,000 scholarships to UGA horticulture students. (I was a lucky recipient of this scholarship, years ago, and can not tell you how helpful it was. Thank you, Piedmont Gardeners!)
You can find out more about The Piedmont Gardeners and this year’s tour, including ticket information and directions to the gardens, on their website. And remember, it’s a self guided tour. Therefore, you may meander through all the gardens, or just a few, at your leisure.
Recently, I spoke with the garden club’s tour director, Jackie Williams, to flesh out some details.
Q: What do you think the purpose of a community garden tour is?
A: The purpose of the Garden Tour is to recognize outstanding gardens in our area and to give the public an opportunity to see them and be inspired to enjoy gardening. We try to include all types of gardens, some very large and some like most of the properties we live on. There are always beautiful containers that condo dwellers can get ideas. Gardeners are always looking for ideas, in plants, garden design and garden art. Some gardens are formal and some are whimsical. We enjoy all kinds.
Q: On your website, the gardens are numbered. Is there any significance to this sequence?
A: There is no significance to the order. The gardens may be visited in any order. We number them to help us give directions from one garden to another.
Q: Are children and/or strollers welcome? Is there wheelchair accessibility?
A: Anyone is welcome on the tour. There is some hard surface in each garden, but the paths are usually laid out with materials, such as pea gravel, mulch and/or flagstone. These would be hard to maneuver with a stroller or wheelchair. Children are welcome. We ask that the parents be sure they stay on the paths and not go into the beds. We want children to be intrigued by the plant world. NO DOGS are allowed in the gardens.
Q: What happens if it rains?
A: The Tour goes on, rain or shine.
The tour goes on, rain or shine. Well, if that’s not the perfect metaphor for gardening, I don’t know what is.
This article first appeared in a gardening column in Athens Patch.