Do you know what the best thing is about visiting another gardener’s garden?
The possibility of getting some free cuttings or seeds? No! And don’t even ask. It’s against the unwritten rules of garden visiting to ask for cuttings, divisions, plants or seeds.
What? You don’t know the rules for passalong plants? Let me go over those quickly because if you don’t follow the rules, the passalong plant may not grow in your garden.
First, never, ever, ask the gardener for seeds or cuttings or plants when you visit their garden. If so inclined, the gardener may offer you something, but they are under no obligation to do so.
Second, never, ever, thank the giver for the plant. You can say something like “that will be a nice edition to my grass collection”, or “I’ll put this cactus under a window to make it burglar safe”. Or you could say “I’ll return the favor when you visit my garden.”
Just don’t say “thank you”. Saying “thank you” keeps the plant from thriving.
So what is the best thing about visiting another gardener’s garden?
It’s meeting the gardener who tends that garden!
When you meet the gardener in their own garden, you learn so much more about the garden than if you just walked around and viewed the garden on your own. It’s a chance for the gardener to tell you about not only the plants, soil, accents, etc., but also the stories of the garden.
They can tell you about how the garden was created, what they want it to be, how it looked yesterday and how it will look tomorrow. They can tell you about what they love in their garden, their favorite spot in the morning and their favorite spot in the evening.
There are just a few things to keep in mind when you visit another gardener’s garden.
Let the gardener lead you through the garden. Don’t rush ahead. Stroll beside or behind the gardener at a leisurely pace. Stay on the paths or in the lawn.
If you are a plant toucher (I am), hold your hands together to keep from instinctively reaching out and touching a plant, like you do in your own garden.
It should go without saying, no snipping a little cutting, taking a seed, tasting a vegetable or picking a flower without the permission of the gardener. In fact, these gifts of the garden should come from the gardener’s own hand and not by your efforts. (see above).
Don’t point out weeds or reach down to pull a weed. Are you sure it’s a weed? It’s not your garden, so leave it alone.
Don’t suggest what you would do differently, unless asked for your opinion or if the gardener invited you to visit to offer suggestions. Avoid asking the “why” questions like “why did you plant that”?
Ask before you take pictures or post about the garden on your blog.
Compliment honestly and freely and effusively. There is always something good to find in any gardener’s garden.
Finally, always remember that it is a privilege to visit another gardener’s garden.
A gardener's garden is often a highly personal space, even a private space, and always a special place. The gardener is letting you into their world, letting their guard down. Their garden is their creation. They are like a painter who, after hours spent behind an easel with their painting hidden from the eyes of others, finally turns the canvas around so others can see it.
(Oh, and one other thing to remember when visiting another gardener's garden. If you believe in garden fairies, never try to coax another gardener's garden fairies to leave with you to live in your own garden. Garden fairies turn quite mischievious under those circumstances and eventually go back to the garden they came from, anyway.)