We had a group of out-of-town visitors to our garden Sunday afternoon after a mostly rainy morning. Though only .15" of rain actually fell, it still helped to perk up the garden. Once the rain stopped, we opened up the tea house and hung up our Japanese shop sign.
And I took a quick last-minute run though the garden to see how everything looked just minutes before they arrived — picking up fallen apples and black walnuts. I decided to wear my brightest shirt so folks could easily pick me out of the crowd to answer questions!
Even though the sky was still overcast there were waterlilies blooming which really emphasizes the pond as the focal point of the garden. Since it's been so hot and dry here in southern Wisconsin, a gray day was actually a nice change.
About two dozen members of the Northwest Horticultural Society came to visit our garden as part of their Chicago and southern Wisconsin tour. The event was arranged by Wisconsin native Daniel Mount. Like the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society (of which Mark and I are members), the NHS hosts lectures, garden tours and plant sale fund-raising events; but they have over 1000 members in the Seattle area while we're about half their size.
They arrived at 3 p.m. — luckily having called to warn us they were an hour ahead of schedule! But it meant that they had extra time to spend with us as we were the last stop of the day after Taliesin and the Cedar Grove cheese factory. We've had lots of local garden groups tour our garden but this was the first time we ever had a bus pull up across the street from our house with visitors. It is definitely a bit disconcerting!
Just about this time last August, Mark and I were taking Daniel Mount around local Madison gardens, helping him to pull together this NHS group tour. Daniel grew up in Milwaukee and actually went to Luther Burbank Grade School, "which may very well have been the beginning of this whole plant thing," he says. Currently he is an estate gardener in the Pacific Northwest, garden writer, blogger and educator. His column for the NHS recently won a silver award from the Garden Writers Association and one of his gardens is on the cover of the current issue of Fine Gardening magazine.
We decided just to let folks wander around at their own pace and then to answer questions after they'd had a chance to see the garden. Though we have lots of paths winding through our garden they are narrow (perfect for the two of us) but cause a bit of a bottleneck when curious gardeners are walking them. Some of the Seattle folks actually were stopped by a plant unfamiliar to them — Carex plantaginea —before they'd taken more than a few steps.
Carex plantaginea (seersucker sedge) is one of many sedges we have in our garden, and one that is usually familiar to local gardeners. Folks wondered if we grew any native plants and that particular sedge is one of them — growing just a few feet from some of our other natives like Bur oak, witch hazels and Pagoda dogwoods.
Another attention-getter was our large specimen shrub: Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii' (doublefile Viburnum) which is spread out behind the two gentlemen from Seattle. Their presence gives you an idea of its size.
Luckily Mark and I both were doing pretty well remembering the names of plants, trees and shrubs in the garden, so we were able to provide information when people liked something.
See where I'm standing in the photo below? I'm trying to remember the name of the prostrate shrub on the ground below me near the birch trees. I couldn't do it nor could I find it in my file of plant names. That's because it was mistakenly filed under trees instead of shrubs. It is Pinus sylvestris 'Albyn Prostrata,' a prostrate Scots pine. Ours is more open and leggy than it should be as it needs more sun. Alas I did not get the name of the person who was interested in this pine, so I hope you are reading this!
Eventually we all wound up on the deck and then went indoors for Wisconsin cheeses and brews. Mark and I really enjoyed ourselves and it seemed as though our visitors did as well. They commented on a number of features that most folks don't mention and they wanted the names of some trees and shrubs that don't always get singled out for attention.
Who knows if this is the result of some special Northwest sensibility or just a reflection of individual tastes? What I do know is that I wished we could have spent much longer visiting with each other; everyone I talked to was so interesting and engaging. Maybe the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society will have to think about another Northwest tour.
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Seattle folks: If you are curious about the design and construction process of our garden, you can follow it step-by-step by clicking on "My Garden Odyssey" in the category list. Just be aware that the most recent posts are first. So if you want to start at the beginning, go to the archives for Nov. 2008 when the first Odyssey post appeared: "All in Good Time."