Last Tuesday the West Side Garden Club visited our garden. I know a number of the members of that group having first spoken to them at their annual luncheon in 1996. It was one of the first garden talks I ever did. I spoke at the group's annual lunch again in 2011, one of the last garden talks I did before I decided to retire. I said it would be easier to have groups tour our garden — if they were interested — rather than prepare a powerpoint talk. This rock at the low end of our new boulder wall proved the perfect spot to tell everyone a bit about our garden before I turned them loose to explore.
Cindy Fillingame (below center), a coffeeshop buddy and a gardening neighbor, helped set things up last year. Next June the two of us will have our gardens open for a Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society tour, so this was a good warm-up event for Mark and me.
He hung out near the Tea House where he is familiar with the plants that people always ask about so he was pleased that he was able to answer most plant questions.
Because most of the summer was devoted to the big driveway project, we only had a short window to prepare for the tour. A good chunk of our efforts went to prepping the driveway border and replacing plants. We also have a list of certain things we always do at the last minute before a tour.
Thus last Tuesday as soon as it was light out, I was on my hands and knees soaking all the loose pieces of moss that the critters have been flinging about. Once they were wet, I "glued" the biggest pieces back in place and then stepped on them to cement them in — at least for a few hours!
Mark hung the Tsutsugaki banner on the front of the Tea House and made sure that the bamboo hoops he'd recently cut were all in place.
I added potted annuals and a 'Sweet Tea' Heucherella to areas where we wanted to limit access.
We also used more bamboo to fence off areas. Someone once said that Japanese gardens are inherently dangerous because of stepping stones, water features and multiple levels. We have all those things so making sure the garden is safe for visitors is always our first concern. There are raised water and electric lines in this area (above and below) which are not yet hooked up so we don't want anyone to try to shortcut through here — the way we do when we're home alone!
One of Mark's last tasks is to rake the two gravel gardens. Rain and gamboling chipmunks and squirrels can quickly ruin these patterns so he usually never does this job more than 24 hours in advance of visitors.
Each gravel garden is a different shape, thus is raked in a different pattern. They are particularly striking early or late in the day when raking light emphasizes the designs.
Because of all the construction work, we never got most of our ceramic pots and platters out into the garden until the few weeks before the tour. I also used the pots of not-yet-planted shrubs as accents.
Our Chinese stone stele and ceramic plate by Cambridge potter Mark Skudlarek went back to their usual places to add a bit of drama to the entrance area.
Mark and I had a lovely time talking with everyone and answering questions. It was wonderful to see so many people whose gardens we've visited over the years. After everyone was done wandering, we all gathered on the deck for lemonade and iced tea and lots of pictures of the garden under construction over the years.
I think getting the garden all spruced up like that must have set some cosmic forces in motion, as we had garden visitors almost everyday for the rest of the week!
This week the temperatures are back to the high 80s or worse. And I am back to planting everything that's been sitting in the holding beds since June.