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Garden Visits

August 11, 2021

In my part of the world, July and early August are prime time for visiting gardens. In the past three weeks, I have experienced three garden visits.

Kelly daylily visitThe first came in the third week of July when my garden club visited a garden by a lake in rural Maine, a garden known for its collection of daylilies, one of my favorite flowers. It was a rainy late afternoon, which made photographing the garden more challenging, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some daylily varieties I grow in a different setting and being introduced to some new varieties. And the garden was also full of non-daylily beauties. I particularly liked this combination of black-eyed susans, beebalm and phlox growing on a sunny corner (left) and the tranquility of this shady glen (right).

Kelly visit other blooms sun Kelly visit other blooms shade

My second garden visit came at the end of July when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Rhode Island, and my sister-in-law and I took an outing to the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence. The combination of glass conservatories and outdoor “Seasonal Gardens” gave us a chance to learn about tropical plants we could never grow (e.g., seeing for the first time what dates look like when they are still on the date palm!) and also consider new plants for our own gardens. We were both smitten by a Chinese pine tree with beautiful exfoliating bark in the winter garden, and my sister-in-law left the summer garden thinking about where she could add Joe Pye Weed and ‘Lavender Mist’ tall meadow rue to her garden.

My third garden visit happened at the end of the first week in August, this time in the form of people visiting my garden. The visitors were three women from another part of Maine, about an hour away from my home. After a series of e-mail communications and phone calls with one of them about the possibility of my speaking to her garden club, she asked whether she and some friends could come to visit my garden.

Autumn Minaret floating bloomsAlthough I enjoy sharing my garden with others, formal garden visits, especially by strangers, generate a certain level of anxiety. Suppose they are disappointed? Mine is not a manicured garden by any means; will they go away feeling as though I should have made more of an effort to weed and neaten things up before the visit? How much should I warn them ahead of time that this year’s resident woodchuck has been devouring many of the flowers that would normally be in bloom right about now (e.g., phlox, purple coneflower, liatris)? Suppose I get up on the morning of the planned visit to find that the woodchuck or deer have eaten much of what was left? On the day before the planned visit, when one of my late-blooming daylilies, Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret,’ opened fourteen flowers on one day, I added a new worry – that few of the remaining daylily buds would open on the appointed day.

Front slope early august blooms

In the end, my worrying was pointless and unnecessary. About thirty different varieties of daylilies had flowers open on the day of the visit, and there were also plenty of other blooms to accompany them. If my visitors were disappointed, they did not show it. They were appreciative of the garden and the work that has gone into it; they encountered some plants that they weren’t familiar with (e.g., spotted beebalm, Monarda punctata); and they noted the number and variety of pollinators busy at work. They were, in fact, the best kind of garden visitors – committed gardeners themselves and generous in understanding a garden as a complex community of plants interacting with one another and with the environment.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    August 12, 2021 12:29 pm

    Hi Jean; Have been meaning to get back to you to let you know how much we enjoyed your many gardens and certainly appreciate ALL the work you have put into them. It shows how much you are enjoying the work and seeing the outcome. Keep on doing what you enjoy and you will never be bored :+). Again, thank you for letting us enjoy your gardens for even a little while. Molly

    • August 23, 2021 4:58 pm

      Molly, I also enjoyed the visit. By the way, the big pollinator on the Monarda punctata turns out to be a large species of wasp, possibly the Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus).

  2. August 12, 2021 2:17 pm

    I had to smile at your recitation of the qualms you felt over the pending tour of your garden, Jean, but I’m not at all surprised that it came off without a hitch. Thirty varieties of daylilies in bloom at the same time! I was recently asked for a tour of my garden but demurred, asking to delay until fall. Summer is most definitely not our season!

    • August 23, 2021 5:01 pm

      Kris, At the daylily peak in late July I had 60 different varieties in bloom. Nevertheless, 30 was a good display. I don’t blame you for putting off visitors until a better season in your garden.

  3. August 12, 2021 10:48 pm

    Visiting gardens is such a nice summertime treat. It’s always fun to see what other gardeners have had success with as well as hearing about the problems we all share. I have yet to visit a garden which has left me disappointed, I think that has more to do with the visitor than the garden. Sounds like yours went perfectly!

    • August 23, 2021 5:02 pm

      Bittster, I think you are right that it’s more about the visitor than the garden, and these turned out to be model visitors.

  4. August 17, 2021 9:06 am

    Hello Jean, I think we tend to be our own worst enemies when it comes to other people visiting our gardens. I know that when I’ve pointed out and apologised for seeming garden failings and shortcomings, visitors have either not noticed, thought it was intentional and sometimes even though it was good. I need to remember that visitors are not inspectors and any half-reasonable person would understand and forgive what are probably trivial points. You wouldn’t have to know or have anyone that would complain anyway so there’s no loss there either.

    • August 23, 2021 5:06 pm

      Sunil, It is true that we always want to tell people how much better x plant was yesterday or two days ago or last week or last year, and I consciously resisted doing that. I did, however, feel that some explanation of the mess of broken, denuded stems left behind by the voracious eating of the woodchuck was in order.

  5. August 19, 2021 6:25 pm

    I have been asked – I read your blog can I come and see your garden?
    But that prospect daunts me. My space, my garden style – and I share the good bits on the blog. But the whole catastrophe, no!

    Your visitors surely enjoyed yours. I would.

    • August 23, 2021 5:09 pm

      Diana, I often feel I should warn blog readers who want to visit that I tend to avert the camera lens from the problem areas of my garden and focus blog posts on the enjoyable parts. One blog reader recently asked if I would allow her garden club to come for a tour; I suggested that she and one or two others come on a scouting mission first and see if they thought it would be worthwhile for the club.

  6. August 24, 2021 5:35 am

    Beautiful garden indeed! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Pat Leuchtman permalink
    September 17, 2021 5:04 pm

    Jean – You have such a lovely garden. So many wonderful colors!

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