TO OUR GARDEN – A Guide for Garden Tours
by Al and Nancy Lenoce of Spinning Wheel Gardens, Trumbull, CT
During the course of our lives, most of us have
experienced the fun and sometime the anxiety of putting on our best face
when we are expecting “company”. Getting ones gardens ready for visitors is
much the same process, but with at least 2 exceptions. Most of the people
whom we are inviting are strangers and the means of inviting these
“strangers” is, for the most part, done by using various mass media.
One of the most important elements of having an Open
Garden tour is selecting the date for your very special event. For us,
that date is determined by our estimate of when will the “stars” of our
event be at their best. The “stars”, for us, are the roses. So, generally,
that means our “company” will be invited to come to the party around the 10th
There are numerous details to show the” stars” to their
best advantage; the following is a list of musts:
Make certain that you start your spraying program at the very beginning
of the season.
Complete all of your pruning at the optimum time for your zone. And,
dispose of all of the dead canes.
Water and fertilize all plants, including plants that are not roses, as
early as safely possible. For speedier growth use your favorite liquid
Place a fresh coating of your favorite mulch around all of your plants.
A day or two before your event, remove any leaves that may have black
Clean and remove any algae that may be on your bird baths and other
garden fixtures or decorations.
Make sure all garden tools and hoses are hidden from view.
If you have bird feeders, make certain that they have been well stocked
days before your event. Birds can be very entertaining and a point of
interest, especially for children
If you have a preferred way that you would like your guests to walk
through your gardens, then install some signs. A simple sign with an
At the entrance to your property consider posting a discreet sign/poster
stating some simple rules. Something like: children welcome with adults,
no pets, no smoking, do not throw coins in the water, state your policy
regarding allowing people to go into your home to use the bathroom,
state your policy regarding the use or publication of photos, and one
of the most important –do not cut the flowers or walk into the garden
These are just some of the essentials. Some hosts print up a list like
this and hand it to each visitor.
Have a welcome sign at the entrance to your property. And, block the
entrance to your driveway. In the event of an emergency, you want to
have immediate entry to and from your property.
In front of the entry to your gardens, locate a table and chair to be
used by the host, hostess or volunteer. This is the spot where your
guests will be welcomed.
Consider having literature containing information about your gardens on
the welcome table. Always popular are self made posters showing pictures
of your various plants, including before and after photos of the
Contact your mail order suppliers and nurseries to request that they
send you copies of their current catalogue. In the past, places like
Jackson & Perkins, Edmunds and others have been very happy to ship
(their expense) as many as 50-100 catalogues each. It’s a win, win for
Have several rest areas so that your guests can really stop, sit and
smell the roses.
Have a special sit-down area where you have water or some beverage along
with some snacks ( cookies etc.), do not forget a waste basket. In one
of your rest areas have a display board with pictures and names of the
various plants that your guests will be admiring. Also, in an
appropriate location, display the actual products that you use to
produce your healthy plants i.e. types of fertilizers, fungicides, etc.
If possible, have all plants labeled
By all means the hosts should wear name tags and make it a point to
somewhere in your gardens to meet each guest and try to answer their
If you have a water garden, restrict access to the pond, particularly by
the children. In most cases, as soon as people either see or hear the
running water, they ignore the signs and run for the water so consider
some simple measure like putting rope or short temporary fencing in
front of certain entry to the water. Be prepared that even under the
control of an adult, the first thing that a child will do is bend down,
pick up a stone and toss it in the water. However, one of the fun things
you will see a child do is to take the fish food that you will provide
and feed the fish.
have gone to all of this work, but if no one comes to your party, you might
be a little disappointed. Therefore, here are some suggestions. Prepare a
one page press release along with your favorite garden photo on a
second page. Find out the name of the feature editor or local reporter for
not only your local paper, but every daily and weekly paper within about a
30 mile radius. Consider making an in person visit to their office or phone
call initial contact, then send them your press release, which should list
dates and time of your event. Compile a mailing list which will
include area garden clubs, nurseries, regional gardening newsletters and
magazines. By all means contact local senior centers and request that your
release be posted on their bulletin boards. Tell them if your gardens are
handicap accessible. Send invitations to your local elected officials; there
attendance is a good photo opp. And, send invitations to local police and
Insurance: Check to see if
your homeowner insurance is up to date.
Conclusion: Have a guest
register book at the welcome table so everyone can sign it as they leave and
tell you how much they enjoyed their visit.