Thursday, July 24, 2008



I’ve been garden touring lately. ‘Tis the season. A few weeks ago it was the Georgetown (WA) Arts and Garden Tour. Last weekend the Woodinville Garden Tour. And Just 2 days ago I hosted a private tour at one of my gardens.
Gardening touring is fun.
Often the reason for making a garden is to show a garden. It makes me think of gardens as stage sets. Backdrops for the little (and Big) dramas of life. So are tours really about gardens? Or are they about the people who make the gardens, and the people visiting? A garden is not a garden without a gardener; and art is not art if unobserved. If it is the interaction that makes the tour, then why am I so disgruntled? So many people in the garden you can’t take a decent picture. I selfishly want the garden to myself, a private little affair. To be alone in the garden encourages intimacy. The whiff of rose, the plush touch of lambs ears, the subtle variables of green are all easier to approach, more available, when one isn’t negotiating other garden touristas as they “ooh”, “aah”, pause and forward like hens plucking grains.
So what did I expect of a garden tour?
Did I want to pilfer ideas? Shop, so to speak? How many new plants would I discover as I lethargically maneuver through cameras and people? How many new combinations?
When I was in Delhi, the presidents garden was open to the public. The route was roped off, the tourists innumerable, like box cars in an endless train, clickity-clacking through in a paced and mundane rhythm. I thought it would have been nice to be the president and look down on Lutyen’s beautiful geometric designs and the indian clutter of color. But then I thought again. I would want to be the gardener in early morning, before the heat and glare of mid-day tarnished the glory. I would open my eyes for the first time, while the birds chittered and chattered. I would hear the crisp hush of green. I would enter a bed and let the dewy foliage dampen my pants. Smell the roses.
But on tours I have found people in the forefront. The conversations with friends, the meetings with strangers. What better place than in the green embrace called garden. People soften, become friendly. We all hid our envy of Tina Dixon’s immaculate conception, lushly restrained, truly designed, meticulously maintained. It’s no wonder she won a Golden Trowel form Garden Design magazine. In Georgetown I could not hide my envy, though. The stunning hollyhocks, so difficult in the Northwest, stood like an exclamation point in the Hat and Boots Park. On the tour I conducted I wanted to apologize for not having done enough. For not having let go enough. For spending too many mornings listening to birds in my dew soaked pants and sniffing as for the reason why I’m here.
But always, if only in the back of my mind, I am preparing, setting the stage for the dramas of my clients lives. The celebrations, the dinners for two, the quiet evening strolls.
And the tours.

[ Please imagine in all the photos a person who has just stepped out of the view finder. Click.]

Blue pears in the Dixon garden.

A beautiful combination in a shady Woodinville garden.

The lovely Soldanella alpina, a new ground cover for me.

Chittering and chattering