Garden Tours Spark Inspiration, Relaxation, and Conversation
Do you ever find yourself in a rut? Same s*#t different day?
Of course you do. We all do from time to time.
I found myself feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and yearning for human interaction not too long ago. If you work from home, isolated in your office day after day while the rest of the world spins around you, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
It was another day like any other. I was planted in front of my computer reading blog posts, going through the never-ending barrage of how-to-make-six-figures-by-sitting-on-your-ass-all-day-every-day articles that hit my inbox. Then it happened! An email from Master Gardeners of Seminole County informed me of an upcoming garden tour.
And then there was light.
As much as I love gardening, nature, and all things beautiful, I’d never been on a garden tour. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that, since my mother is a Master Gardener whose property is featured annually on garden tours in her area.
A Glimpse of Mom's GardensClick thumbnail to view full-size
Anyway, I promised myself I’d get my tired butt out of the house and see what other people in the world had been doing to create beauty and enhance the environment. Even if it meant I had to go by myself. I’m a big girl. I can do this, right?
Let me share with you what I discovered that day as I ventured out on my own, far away from the confines of my 100-square-foot home office.
Small Spaces Spark Inspiration
My first stop was the Halliday property in Lake Mary. Touted as a tropical paradise and demonstration of what a gardener can do with a small space, I was intrigued. Upon arrival I was offered a bottle of water and provided with a list of plants that live in the host’s backyard paradise.
Aside from the stone pavers outlining the pathway, there wasn’t a square inch of property that wasn’t home to beautiful drought-tolerant foliage. There was even a small koi pond nestled in this suburban jungle.
Rather than ramble on, I’ll give you a virtual tour. If you have a small backyard, I hope these photos inspire you to don your garden gloves and create your own oasis.
Innovative Use of Rainwater
The Peak property was quite a bit of a drive but well worth it. Mr. Peak is a retired engineer who has devised a way to use rainwater to nourish all of his foliage, including the grassy areas. What really intrigued me was how he uses rainwater to fill his pool and hot tub.
I wish I’d gotten pictures of the rain barrel/pipe system he designed to accomplish this. I was so awed that, frankly, I plumb forgot to snap shots of the distribution system. He had an area cordoned off in the backyard that houses three large rain barrels. Not only is nature’s nectar directed into the barrels, but he’s devised a system where pressure forces the water back up into drainage systems he’s attached to the eaves and lower portions of his house. Open-ended pipes running along the eaves dump onto shrubbery and other plants located around the perimeter. The pipes on the lower portion of the structure have small holes bored into them, allowing water to flow out into the grassy areas.
Wait ‘til you see how he fills his pool! I did happen to snap a shot of that rig. It wasn’t flowing at the time, but you can see how it works and how crystal clear his pool is.
Take a look:
Natural Habitat Provides a Relaxing Setting
My third stop on the tour took me to the Borrieci property which is a veritable haven for native Florida foliage. Although a detailed plant list was provided for this property as well, the homeowners took the time to place labels by each variety. A long straw driveway leads us to their acreage where native specimens greet you along the way. This yard was a pleasure to meander through; it’s apparent that nature had much to do with the placement of the many varieties found here. No landscape architect choreographed this garden!
Conversation Leads to Tips – and Clips
I think the Cole property was my favorite stop. Located just a mile or so from my house, it was the perfect ending to my self-guided garden tour. Not only was it a tad hot by the time I arrived (about 1:00 p.m.), but I left with a treasure I was excited to introduce to my hugelkultur bed when I got home. But more on that later.
What was so exciting about this property is each visitor was encouraged to take a clipping or seeds from anything in the garden, which spans an acre and a half. As I walked up to the sign-in desk I was offered black lima bean seed pods. Too cool! I’d never heard of them, let alone seen – or eaten - black limas.
There are veggie gardens, native gardens, butterfly gardens, beautiful vines, and much more to see on the Cole property. They also propagate milk weed to encourage Monarch butterflies. Many screened enclosures are located in a designated area of the backyard devoted to Monarchs and their favorite food source. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the enclosures. To be honest, I didn’t know what they were until I asked as I was leaving.
I fell in love with the property and the owners. How many gardeners offer to share their plants with strangers? They had buckets, bags, clippers, and shovels on hand just for that purpose. I really wish I’d taken advantage of their offer (other than the limas), but I thought it better to take a good survey of my own property, lighting, etc. before doing so. There’s always next year, right?
Anyway, walk with me. There’s a lot to see here:
This Garden Tour Inspired Me
I was stoked when I got home. I’d started a hugelkultur bed in late spring of 2014. In early 2015 I added some soil mixed with my homemade compost but did nothing else, other than trim around it. I wanted to see if anything would actually grow there, so I broke open a pod of black lima beans, poked them about an inch into the soil and let nature do her thing.
The garden tour was held in June – just before the official beginning of Florida’s rainy season, so the timing was perfect. Two of the three seeds I planted are now pretty little lima bean plants. I’m pretty excited. My hugelkultur bed isn’t very big, but I’m inspired to see what other edibles my experiment will sustain.
My Hugelkultur ExperimentClick thumbnail to view full-size
I chose to visit four of the eight homes featured on this particular garden tour. I’m glad I didn’t go the full circuit. Although it was early June, by midday the heat was just too intense to go any farther. Maybe next time the weather will be a little more kind.
The next time you find yourself in a rut, take a walk and see what nature has to offer. Be inspired by what gardeners are doing to enhance our environment. Strike up a conversation. Take the knowledge you gain home with you. Create your own backyard oasis. Then relax, breathe in the air, listen to the breeze, and the songs wildlife rewards you with. Treat your eyes and mind to the beauty that’s all around you.
If ever a garden tour is scheduled in your area, do yourself a favor and attend. It’s a wonderful way to spend the day. I’m glad I did!
How About You?
Have you or would you go on a garden tour?
© 2020 Shauna L Bowling