Thursday, 11 August 2011

Handy Hints for Garden Visitors

Clematis 'Polish Spirit'

There is still plenty of time to go garden visiting. In fact, some gardens reach their full, spectacular potential not until the second half of summer, when the range of magnificent herbaceous perennials seems endless, from asters and dozens of daisy-like flowers to the stately spikes of salvias; not to mention the summer flowering clematis, like the one above.

Sadly, we won't be opening the garden this autumn; I need gardener's help with the hard graft. As it is, I'm having to pay a 'gardener and designer' a small fortune to cut the hedges. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to mention that 'my' gardener is doing fine; he is chirpy and bright and full of hope that he'll eventually be able to do a few days again, although I doubt that he'll work again like he did before his heart attack. It has frightened him into stopping smoking!

If you are planning to spend a few hours looking at someone's garden or if you think it might be a nice thing to do next year, let me give you a few handy DOs and DON'Ts, which would certainly make you into my favourite visitor:

  • leave scissors, dampened tissue and plastic bags at home, unless permission to take cuttings has been given.
  • keep dogs and children on leads.
  • do not march through, looking barely to left and right; the owners are proud of their garden and have expressly invited you in; you do not need to feel embarrassed about being there.
  • that doesn't mean, however, that they want you in their house: do not ask to visit the loo, unless you are absolutely desperate; it's best to avoid accidents of an embarrassing nature; never visit if you are unwell, particularly with tummy gripes.
  • talk to the gardener about particular plants or aspects.
  • but do not give unwanted advice.
  • do not criticise; gardens are like children: whatever parents may say about their children, they are proud of them.
  • do not commiserate with the owner about weeds until you are certain they are not prized wild flowers.
  • do not commiserate with the owner about the demise of a plant until you are certain that s/he has noticed.
  • form small groups and and discuss pleasing or interesting features.
  • say 'interesting' frequently,
  • but keep your superior knowledge well hidden. 
  • if the owner has temporarily mislaid the name, age or serial number of a plant and cannot find it in the garden books on display, don't hang around waiting for inspiration to strike; use the books yourself, or take a photo and quietly remove yourself.
  • do not point and laugh at a feature or plant unless you are absolutely certain that it's meant to be amusing; if you are absolutely certain that it is, point, draw others' attention to it and laugh.
  • admire particular features, like fountains, specimen trees, statuary old and new.
  • never say : you have enough work here to keep you busy/out of mischief/fit;  it's patronising.
  • praise the garden, and, if you can't, at least say 'thank you'.
  • enjoy yourself and take home plenty of inspiration.


  1. Glad to hear your gardener is doing well. Thanks for the helpful tips. I will remember them the next time I'm allowed into a special garden!

  2. I'm so happy that Gardener is doing well. I would love to visit gardens and should find out if this kind of tour exists somewhere nearby.

  3. Interesting. Some fine suggestions.

    I could not follow the suggestion, however, to put a child on a lead. If the child is unruly or disrespectful I would leave. Can't bear to see a child led around like an animal I'm afraid.

  4. The clematis photo is breathtaking! I wish mine was as full. Alas, I am not a true gardener. Whatever happens that is good in my yard is usually by accident. However, I truly appreciate and admire the gardens of others, I am happy to hear that your gardener is mending well, and has been convinced to put off smoking! A blessing in disguise!
    Thank you for the tips . . . worthy to note!

  5. I'm pleased for you that Gardener is repairing nicely. I like your hints and tips for visiting gardens:-)

  6. I would gasp if I saw anyone with a scissors
    Most walks all I've heard is oos and ahs Every garden walk I've been to the gardener/homeowner has not been present.....

  7. Friko, I love this post! First of all, I send good hope and happy luck for Gardener's full recovery. Secondly, I love your wit. I would print out these guidelines and study them before ever stepping foot in your garden. ;)

  8. My face is red. I have probably done some of these things myself when visiting a garden, although I would never take a dog in someone else's garden, and I do not take cuttings from anyone ever for a variety of reasons.

    Thanks for the tips. I will use them on my next visit to a garden. We have gardens open in Virginia during Garden Week in April. By this time of the year, most things have burned up. Some like the Clematis will have a second bloom in the fall, but it won't be nearly as showy as the Polish version above. Dianne

  9. I was aghast at the first don't - who would ever think of taking clippings from a private (or public) garden. Oh my.
    This list is something every garden visitor should read.

  10. Thank you for this Friko.

    I hope you will forgive me for laughing out loud but I see that garden visitors are quite a colourful crowd.


  11. Since I've been reading blogs for only four weeks, I didn't know what dedicated gardeners you and your husband are. This weekend, I'll go back into your archives and find postings and pictures of your garden.
    I enjoyed your list of DOs and DON'Ts, but I'm in agreement with Bonnie about putting children on leads.
    If that's the solution, then the adult needs to shepherd the child to the car and leave or never to have come to the garden at all. Problem solved!

  12. I am glad that the gardener is healing well! We do not have many gardens in Kentucky and by August the heat and lack of rain makes everything look...well, tired.

    But I do enjoy my garden...

  13. oy yeah good stuff..the biggest, just look at it as if it were their child...for sure...

  14. I am sorry to report that there are probably no gardens worth visiting in my city. The freeze did away with delicate plants and the ones that survived are sickly. At least that's the case in my area. Even the cacti didn't put forth large blooms.

  15. Good news that Gardener is on the mend again. I liked your list, Friko - it would be a good idea to have them included in the little yellow book!

  16. I'll re-read this if I ever visit a private garden, Friko. Some of them your items made me smile and some of them made me nod and some of them made me realize that I needed the lesson!

  17. Friko, firstly, I would like to say that your village fair really looks like fun, and would like to send compliments to all those who must have put in quite a few hours to make the day a success.

    Now...on to garden viewing. I would so like to imagine that no one visiting a garden would violate any of these protocols, but know that some (perhaps more than some) have done so. Bad manners might be like weeds?

    I loved both of these posts and again would like to send best wishes to the gardener as he continues his recovery.

    Love to you!

  18. I'm sorry about your gardener, Friko~ (I hope the gardener and the scraper are not one and the same?) I hope this works as an opportunity for you to follow your curiosity in a different direction and be delighted with something new... Your advice is well-taken; amazing you have to point cetain things out, isn't it?

  19. I'd like to mention that 'my' gardener is doing fine; he is chirpy and bright and full of hope that he'll eventually be able to do a few days again

    ~Ever since I read of him(great entry), I've thought of how he was doing. I believe he is much more than a gardener to you, & you much more than "cash" to him. I am thrilled he will be returning. ~Mary

  20. these rules should be commonsense, Friko. Unfortunately not everyone is as humane as you are...

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    BLOGGER is not updating my links again, so please come and visit; thanks!

    Comfort Spiral
    > < } } ( ° >

  21. What a beautiful clematis!

    And a fine set of garden viewing rules.

  22. Stunning Polish Spirit clematis! Your garden visit tips are filled with good, common sense, everyday courtesies...what we can practice no matter where we are.

    Enjoy these swiftly moving summer days...

  23. wunderschöne Blumen zeigst Du uns hier! Ich freue mich, dass es "gardener" besser geht... eigenartig finde ich aber den Brauch, anderer Leute Gärten zu besuchen. Es würde mir nicht gefallen, auch, wenn mein Garten noch so schön wäre, was aber übrigens nicht der Fall ist :-)...! Dir einen sonnigen Tag, liebe Friko und bis bald!

  24. Quite right, Friko. Suspicious-looking visitors should be required to pass through those metal-detecting gates at airports. You could then polish up your haul of secateurs, scissors, trowels, forks and garden knives and sell them at your garden shop. The proceeds would go towards Gardener's wages.

    (I write from experience. Some visitors - particularly ladies - will stop at nothing for a cutting or two. Wicked.)

  25. Great advice and Gardener on the mend! yay!!!!

    This is my favorite part:

    "say 'interesting' frequently,
    but keep your superior knowledge well hidden."

    Love it!

  26. Very good to have this positive update on your gardener's progress. Loved your list of rules, most of which should be common courtesy and good manners!

  27. Dear Friko: Now that I think on it, I don't believe I've ever visited a proper garden, except a public one. I can barely keep my basil plant alive (actually, it may be already burnt to a crisp...) so all of this plant talk is totally fascinating to me!

  28. I liked your remark about gardens being like children, and it is best to praise them. The gardens I make always appear beautiful to me, because, I see them, like my children, as they are meant to be.

    My gardens are most disappointing to me when someone else is looking, and I suddenly see what they see. I don't then love them less; I just resolve to work harder; it's my fault, not theirs.

    Children are quite another matter -- no matter how much judicious cutting back you do, they are bound to bolt.

  29. I've never considered visiting gardens this way but it astounds me that some who do might bring scissors. I'm guessing your list was born of experience. Amazing.

    The clematis ... just gorgeous!

  30. I do not know anyone with a private garden but have heard of an antique house with a garden close by which can be visited. However, it is too warm right now. I prefer looking at your lovely flowers via the Web – the purple color is intense. I enjoyed your post about all the lovely meals. The moqueca de peixe sounds intriguing and tasty.

  31. That clematis is absolutely stunning.

    I think your list of do's and don't's is a good one. I have made a fool of myself before in someone's amazing garden. For instance, "Oh look at those lavender plants. They look different from mine." They were rosemary plants.

  32. I love your list, especially since I could readily apply it to art work (except for the loo part ;) ). Then again, tended gardens ARE art. Your clematis is spectacular!

  33. Hi Friko .. that clematis is magnificent .. and your list of dos and don'ts .. essential for visitors - but how many comply?!

    Enjoy your garden .. and ?love the thought of your hedge designer .. ?! Glad gardener is getting over his heart-attack .. and that he's stopped smoking ..

    Enjoy the rest of the summer ..Hilary

  34. What a gorgeous picture!

  35. Many amusing tips in this post! One that particularly caught my eye was this: "never say : you have enough work here to keep you busy/out of mischief/fit; it's patronising." It resonated a bit because I'd worked a good bit on my latest post, a friend then wanted to see it, read about three lines and said, "Gosh, you've done a lot of work on this." (She never finished reading the post; that, I expect, but the comment was, well, as you say, patronising.)


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