Sunday, May 25, 2008

Garden Tours, Plant Picks

'Tis the season for garden tours, and I'm finding endless opportunities to truly turn green with envy virtually every weekend this summer. From the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, that holds open gardens for its members to tour each others' gardens, to the Garden Conservancy, which sponsors regional garden tours, to tours by groups that take an interest in one particular plant, there's no end to your choices.


This last weekend I went on the Inviting Vines tour, which visited the home gardens of people who collect clematis, the flowering vines that you see draping over fences and trellises this time of year. Whether you say "cluh-MATT-us" or "CLEM-uh-tuss" or couldn't tell one if you saw it, these tours often feature private gardens that are never open to the public and also give you a chance to ask questions of the homeowner about specific plants.

Garden tile.

The highlight of this one, for me, was a chance to see the private garden of Lucy Hardiman, local plant goddess and author. I've walked by her home in the Buckman neighborhood many times and peered through the foliage at what looked like a stunningly designed personal space. But having been raised not to impose, I've resisted the urge to jump the fence and conduct my own considered exploration.


So entering this space with its owners' blessing was like walking through the gates of Valhalla for a garden novice. Inviting and personal without pretension or preciousness, it felt homey yet impressive and would have been perfectly appropriate for a fancy dress affair or a six-year-old's birthday.

And for those of us who want to follow her example but need a little help in sorting out the "good" plants from ones that will croak if the temperature varies more than ten degrees or those that will run amuck in their beds while we sleep in ours, she was handing out copies of Great Plant Picks, a list of 600 of the best plants for Northwest gardens. Luckily they've also posted the list on the website, so everyone can benefit!

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