With spring just around the corner, it’ll soon be time for that favorite sport of the truly Laidback gardener: visiting other people’s gardens. It really is the height of laziness: you get to enjoy the efforts of other gardeners and fill your eyes with beautiful images, without having to shoot a single dandelion. What’s more, rather than having to make do with a tiny garden, all of a sudden, gardens of all kinds are within our reach! Vast gardens, lovingly tended and impeccably maintained, just the way you’d like them to be… if they weren’t so much work. Of course, I’d never advise a Laidback gardener to create a vast rose garden or formal parterre, but if other people are hard-working enough to do it, why not take advantage?
Which Gardens to Visit?
There are plenty of gardens to visit! First, of course, there are the public gardens. Not only do the administrators of these gardens have staff to maintain them (have you ever seen the director of the Jardin botanique de Montréal pull dandelions off the lawn himself?), they also have a budget to replace lost plants, and space and equipment to try out new or difficult plants.
If you don’t know of any public gardens, ask at the tourist office in the areas you plan to visit. You’ll be surprised at the quantity… and the quality.
Laidback gardeners can also visit private gardens. In some regions, there is a local association (horticultural society, charity, etc.) which organizes annual visits to the most beautiful private gardens in the area. As there are such “gardens” open all over the region, you can easily devote all your weekends, from late June to September, to discovering them.
There are also “semi-private” gardens that are regularly open to visitors. Most of the time, these are very large gardens with many more or less naturalized beds (Laidback beds?) where you can wander around for a long time discovering the flowers. These gardens tend to be open only on certain days or by appointment. After all, very often the owners work elsewhere and can’t drop everything to come and welcome you!
It’s also worth noting that such gardens (public or occasionally open) exist all over the world (except in Antarctica). Wherever you are, there are people who garden and who like to open their gardens to the public. I know a thing or two about this: every year, I spend about two months (and I do mean two months) visiting gardens in different countries. I can assure you, it’s a lot less complicated than maintaining my own garden. Besides, what a good excuse: “Yes, I’d do a bit of tidying up in my flower beds, but, you know, I’m not lucky enough to be around to take care of them!” People believe it, so much so that I don’t even feel guilty if my delphiniums crash or my hollyhocks are terminally rusty.
A New Concept to Be Developed!
There is, however, a garden tour formula I’m cooking up: the chore tour.
The idea isn’t quite perfected yet, but imagine: your flowerbed is so overgrown with weeds and oversized shrubs that you don’t know which way to turn (how I sympathize with that sentiment!), so you open your garden to the general public who come to your rescue to weed and prune. After all, there’s a real therapeutic effect to pulling weeds (it’s all about imagining that each one looks like your boss, your MP…) and there are so many poor garden-less city dwellers who can’t let off steam by tearing their bosses to shreds… er, weeds. By way of thanks, do you offer them… infusions of gouty grass (which kind visitors have just torn from your flower beds) or dandelion wine? Something that, for once, you’ll have no trouble producing in large quantities.
Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This text was originally published in Fleurs, plantes et jardins in February 2000.