Help this reader: How should she prepare her garden for her first garden walk?

aviary and street clock in garden in Amherst NY
Yes, we love huge yards and massive gardens, like this one photographed on the Amherst Garden Walk in 2013, but there are many kinds of gardens to see on garden walks. You can get inspiration from those other gardens, too. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here’s a question I received from a reader:

Hi Connie, thanks for your newsletter, it’s always so informative!

I have entered the Amherst Garden Walk this year. As a part-time transplant Buffalonian, I am unsure of what will be blooming on July 11, the day of the walk. I like a good challenge, however I’m thinking I bit off too much?

Are there tips, a web site to guide, anything to assist the process of  coaxing  a decent garden for those who make the effort?

Many thanks,

Linda Liberi

Amherst

Readers, do you have advice for Linda? Please leave a comment below.

Here are my thoughts.

No, you haven’t bitten off too much. Garden walks have lavish gardens, small gardens, evolving gardens, messy gardens, manicured gardens, quirky gardens, vegetable gardens, low-maintenance gardens, organic gardens, gardens around kids’ swing sets, gardens on balconies — that’s what makes it fun! The gardens reflect many different lifestyles and personalities and spaces.

You can get an idea of what things generally flower during your garden walk by going through past articles about garden walks. You can click on “Garden Walks” in the topic list at the right or type in the name of a particular garden walk in the search box at the top of the page.

Look at articles about your garden walk and other walks that are held the same weekend as yours. You can see the schedule of all the garden walks on our Events page or on the Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara site.

Keep in mind that I sometimes preview garden walks, so I may have visited a garden a week or more before the walk occurred. That’s okay because sometimes perennials that generally bloom during a particular garden walk are a week early or a week late because of the weather. For that reason, you may want to look at walks held the week before and the week after your walk, too.

Another thing you can do is to visit locally-owned garden centers to see what is blooming now, and ask them what will be blooming the week of your garden walk. They have knowledgeable staff and will be able to answer that kind of question. Click on the ads on our website, go to the Gardening Directory to find addresses and contact information.

There are several things you can do to make your garden a little more presentable for company. Gardening expert Sally Cunningham gave a talk a few years ago at Lockwood’s Greenhouses with tips on how to prepare for a garden walk. She offered great advice on how best to direct your time and energy.

Another tip I have is to fill in bare spots with garden art. The art could be a bird bath, statue, decorated stone, or ornament made specifically for the garden.

Or it could be what artists call a found object, also known by non-artists as stuff we picked out of somebody’s trash. I have a huge clear glass bottle that someone put out to the curb that has been in my garden for years. It gets moved around to fill in spaces and add interest.

On display in other people’s gardens I’ve seen a gum ball machine, pick axes arranged in a daisy shape, an iron mask with a bicycle helmet, a mannequin and a fire extinguisher.

If you want to get creative, make a simple glass mushroom or get inspired by the upcycled glass art in this garden.

I’ve never seen your garden, but I can assure you that it won’t be perfect. No one’s garden is.

Gardens aren’t museum pieces. They aren’t static. Gardeners often tell me, “You should have been here last week when such and such was blooming,” or they will say, “You should come next week when you can see a something even better in bloom.” Sometimes they say both things during the same visit.

Yes, some people go on garden walks because they want to be wowed by the large gardens.

But other people love garden walks because they can get so many great ideas that will work in their own yard. They want to see how someone else deals with a narrow space at the back of the garage or find out what to do if your dog digs up the flower beds. They want to chat with the gardener and exchange tips.

Garden walks offer a variety of gardens and the chance to meet other people who enjoy gardening. That’s what makes garden walks so special. Relax and have fun!

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10 Comments on “Help this reader: How should she prepare her garden for her first garden walk?

  1. All she has to do is Google garden walk or garden tour tips and Garden Walk Buffalo too. My own site, like yours, offers up much to help.

  2. I love this article, Connie. So many gardeners in our area think they can’t show their garden because it isn’t good enough. But you are right, there are all kinds of gardens and if you enjoy gardening, people will enjoy seeing what you grow. Also every year a garden changes, some things thrive and others do poorly or even die. The change doesn’t ruin your garden just presents new possibilities.

  3. I have been participating in my local garden walk for years. In the beginning, I worked hard to make sure the garden was as perfect as it could be. For me, that made it very stressful and not fun. Now, I treat it like a regular weekend except that I make sure the outside furniture is clean, all cushions out and fluffed, etc. I appreciate the gardeners who work hard to have their garden peak during a walk, but I prefer not to. My advice: grow some annuals in containers that you can move around if you think an area needs it and then relax and have fun!

  4. Linda, I’ve heard lots of gardeners say that, too, which is why I thought I should share this article. Some gardeners say they are waiting for next year when their garden is a little better to be on a garden walk, but you will end up waiting forever if “ready” really means “perfect.”

  5. Jenny, I’m glad you’re on my side. Garden walks are supposed to be fun for the gardeners as well as the visitors! Thanks for the tips.

  6. I am also on the Amherst garden walk. This is the fourth time. I notice that everything is blooming about 2 weeks earlier this year, so thing s will be different this July 11. Just hope for the best and enjoy.

  7. This will be our 8th year in the village of williamsville garden walk
    I use to stress out about everything being perfect
    I have learned to let it go
    Especially when it rains like it has for the past three years

  8. Linda,
    Oh, yes. Sometimes it rains during a garden walk. Still, some people will bring their umbrellas and have a good time. I’m glad you found a way to enjoy!

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