Gardens of Inspiration

Gardening is sharing.  So is cooking, music and art, but especially gardening.  Look out your window, drive through your neighborhood or do just about anything outdoors and you cannot deny that gardens are very shared experiences.  We plant gardens for ourselves, but we soon share them with family, friends and even strangers.  I learned long ago and am continually reminded that gardeners are among the most sharing of people.

As we contemplate improvements and experiment in our own gardens wouldn’t it be nice to see what’s going on in other peoples gardens?  Hmmm . . . snooping around other gardens would be especially fun if they were my neighbors, so to speak, sharing my soil and climate.  And what if I could do the snooping in broad daylight, in the heart of spring and with several other curious gardeners just a shovels length away?

One of the highlights of the spring gardening season here in Orange County is the excellent garden tours that are available to us.  At last tally, I know of at least ten excellent, well-organized garden tours right here in our own backyard.  If you enjoy gardening, great gardens and talking to other gardeners then a garden tour is calling.  Most of the local garden tours are happening in the next few weeks.  They’re one-day events.  Miss them and you’ll have to wait until next year.

Here’s how garden tours work.  You buy a ticket to the tour of your choice, usually in advance.  Along with the ticket and hours of the tour comes a list of the gardens, complete with their addresses.  Often you’ll get a brief profile of the garden, the homeowner who tends it, its history and perhaps a bit of what to expect when you visit.  On the day of the event, pull on some comfortable shoes, select a hat; grab your camera and load your camera with film or a memory card.  Toss a notepad or your garden journal on your car seat (to write down all the new plants you’ll see) and drive to any of the gardens on the list.  Almost all garden tours are self-guided; you decide which gardens you want to see and in which order.  It is a very casual and relaxed day full of inspiration, ideas and friendships.

As you visit the gardens and talk with others you will learn of dozens of new plants, be inspired by striking plant combinations, learn cultural techniques that you never new before and return to your own garden inspired by new possibilities.

Here are three garden tours along the coast of Orange County that I have attended.  I encourage you to attend:

On May 4th from 11am to 4pm The Laguna Beach Garden Club is conducting their famous tour of six or seven beautiful gardens.   Appropriately named the “Gate and Garden Tour”, this is the second year this popular tour will be conducted as a walking tour. I really liked the unique walking concept last year. The gardens were near each other and the best way to explore Laguna Beach and its gardens is on foot.  This year the gardens are all within the beautiful gated community of Three Arch Bay.  Tickets are on sale now and are not sold on the day of the tour.  Information by e-mail at lagunabeachgardenclub@cox.net.

Just three days later, on Sunday May 7th from 11am to 4pm the Annual Spring Garden Tour sponsored by the volunteers of Sherman Gardens will visit seven coastal gardens in Corona del Mar and Newport Beach.  Always inspirational, visiting these gardens makes for a great afternoon of cool coastal breezes and colorful flowers.  During the day, be sure to include a stop at the famous Sherman Gardens as well, where light refreshments will be served.  Advance tickets are available at the gardens on Pacific Coast Hwy. in Corona del Mar or by phone at 949-673-2261 ext. 300.

A month later, on Saturday, June 3rd, from 10am to 4pm the San Clemente Garden Club offers their Annual Garden Tour.  Six great gardens will be open for inspection and ideas.  These coastal gardens often include a variety of offerings, from gardens on steep slopes to coastal bluffs.  Information is at www.sanclementegardenclub.com, or request a ticket order form at 949-498-2818.   While visiting the San Clemente you should consider a stop at the newly restored gardens and estate of Casa Romantica (www.casaromantica.org).  Now open to the public, this historic home and garden, in the heart of San Clemente, reflects the strong Spanish influences of the region.

So spend a day or two this spring snooping around other people gardens.  Maybe next year you’ll be ready to share your garden.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar

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