What to do now - Gardening Events

How to host a garden tour

Tips and techniques on how to make your garden dazzle for the big event

Hosting garden tours present an opportunity to swap stories, show off prized plants and raise funds for a good cause. But in the quest for perfection, many gardeners spend more time and money preparing for a one-day tour than they would normally budget for the entire growing season.

Jodi DeLong, author of The Atlantic Gardener's Greenbook and veteran garden tour host, says there's no reason to break your budget stuffing every corner of the garden with blooms. "People will be interested in brilliant foliage colours and unusual textures just as much as in flowers." And don't feel you need to brush up on your botany either. Even DeLong, with a degree in Plant Science hasn't memorized everything she grows.

Leaving everything to the last minute is another common mistake. Spread the work over a few weeks. Not only will your garden be presentable, you'll be refreshed enough to enjoy it.

Two weeks before:

Stymie the weeds: Weed the beds and apply fresh mulch to keep upstarts under control. Not only will the beds look tidy, they'll need less watering. 

Create colour: Sections of your garden will always be past or nowhere near their prime. Fill bald spots with pots of bright annuals then relocate them throughout the summer as different plants cycle through their blooms.

Make handouts: You won't have time to talk to everyone. If your garden has a unique history, unusual plants or hidden features that are hard to spot, note these on a handout and create a self-guided tour for your guests.

A few days before:

Mow the grass: Hate raking? Mow the lawn a few days before the tour and nature will help you out. The clippings will have dried out, some will have blown away and what's left will have started to compost.

Trim and tie: Pull obvious weeds and deadhead spent blooms. Walk the tour paths and tie back any climbing roses or hanging vines that might snag guests.

Prepare signage: If your garden is hard to find, drive or walk in from different directions to see where your guests might get lost. Create large, easy to read signs and post accordingly. Be sure to include the date, otherwise you could have guests arrive early.

That morning:

Sweep the paths: This removes twigs and stones that can trip people, and sends a subtle message for guests to use the walking paths.

Prepare the exit: Put a garbage can near the exit so people can toss maps, tissues and gum wrappers in it – and not your flower beds. Also set out a clearly labeled box to collect used handouts and recycle them throughout the day.

Stay cool: Guests may stay a half hour, but you'll be there all day. If you don't have a shaded area, set up an umbrella and have plenty of water on hand. If it's a scorcher consider having water and disposable cups available for guests.

Charmian Christie is an avid gardener and home cook. When she's not digging in the dirt, she's charting her culinary adventures on her blog, Christie's Corner.

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