My Top Ten Thoughts on Open Garden Events

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These thoughts are solely mine, and will be rather random, but I have my reasons. The process of opening one’s garden is a bit nutty and can be really stressful—even though it doesn’t have to be. Most folks will be there to support and encourage you and what you’ve done. Embrace those people.

Okay, here goes!!!

1: Don’t make it too tidy. Gardens are alive and are always in the midst of a live performance. You cannot control life as much as you’d like to so let it be. Let it be free!

2: If you’re worried about people judging you, well, that’s their burden to carry as jerks. That’s not your problem.

3: Put your time into the work of growing your plants well. Open your garden a few years in a row to show the shifts, changes, mistakes, and lessons learned. The odds are in your favor. Something will always work whether you planned it that way or not. Build on the things that work.

4: Plant plants where they will grow their best—your vision will fill in from there. Let the plants fall into place instead of forcing them in to where you think they should go. Pick the spot that needs to be filled first and get to know your conditions well.

5: If you have nothing good to say about a garden you visit, hold your tongue until you leave. Beware of what you say to others. You do NOT own the definition of what a “garden” is and I can assure you that whatever the hell you THINK it is, I can likely argue that you’re wrong, and I’m not the only one. More than likely you like whatever YOUR garden is and maybe, if that’s the case, you should just stay home. Rudeness is not acceptable. It’s amazing what I’ve overheard strangers saying while on tours. Don’t leave your stinking opinion in the air for others.

6: Let’s all go gently with the plant names. Yes, I know mine, but when my garden is open, after having worked on it for months, I might blank on a name. If you cannot speak to the homeowner, take a pic of the plant. Reach out to the garden owner later. They’ll likely be more than happy to tell you what it is. I would never expect a catalog of every plant in a garden and to quiz you on it. If you’re hosting, maybe make a list of your favorites in advance to hand out and point out to people. Label what you can, but don’t sweat it. (Rope in a friend or two if you expect a large crowd. They can also help to field questions from visitors.)

7: Photos. Ah, yes. Never, ever take photos without permission and ALWAYS ask about posting photos on social media. As a blogger (aka garden communicator), this is Rule #1. There are a lot of pics out there in the world, I know, and some of them are of things like my cat going through the drive-thru at a coffeeshop, but those sweet kids who love him always ask if they can post a photo of him on social media. Plants are not pets or people, but folks are connected to the spaces they make and we must respect that privacy. Just ask.

8: Try to do as much of the work as you can yourself. I open my garden for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and it’s a very plant-focused group so many people are advanced hobbyist/amateur home gardeners. Know your audience. If it’s a plant group, or a neighborhood group, hopefully you can inspire some questions about your work, and not your real estate and how much you spent on what you own. It’s not a contest to show off your wealth. Don’t let your fear of not being enough hold you back from jumping in to include your passionate work.

9: Don’t bring your pets unless you know in advance that’s ok. Someone mistakenly walked into my garden with a fairly small leashed dog that immediately chased my cat and it wasn’t cool. Ask, don’t assume.

10: Drink. Drink water the night before you open your garden, drink whatever special beverage you need the next day. Drink coffee during those early morning marathons as you garden away for months in advance. Keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Make iced tea for your crazy friend who comes over in the summer heat to help you. Make cocktails for your friends who come over to listen to you at night. Drink and be merry.

Have fun. Don’t take this open garden rat race thing too seriously. You’re just a person who loves plants and you’re just opening your garden to share it with NICE people. Keep telling your self that they’ll all be the nicest people you’ve ever met, and you know what, almost all of them will be…

Got any great advice or a funny story about an Open Garden? Please post about it in the comments. #themoreyouknow