Saturday, August 18, 2018

How to be an open minded garden visitor...and not




I have been gardening most of my life in one way or another and have gardened this particular space for 38 years. It has had many iterations but the current one is a result of a number of things, most importantly my retirement 3 years ago. At that time, space set aside for children's play in my family child care home reverted to mine, all mine. With a few specific goals in mind I forged ahead. I wanted a wildlife friendly (at least birds and insects, not so much rats and squirrels although I have those too), water sensible, manageable play space for myself. A place to relax, putter, enjoy. A place with room for a few veggies and plants that I think are pretty or at least interesting. And that is what I now have. It is not done evolving because there is always something new to try, some new obsession to indulge.
I have visited many gardens over the years in many parts of the country and a few out of the country and I have always found something interesting, evocative of that place, sometimes a new idea, sometimes a wonderfully done old idea. I hope I have never gone to visit a garden and immediately criticized everything because it was not the same as my garden, like a recent visitor did in mine.
A friend of a friend asked to come see my garden as we were finishing a Pilates class. I suggested she come over right then after class and that is what we did. As we walked through she started to tell me what I should let grow taller (the fruit trees purposefully kept short according to back yard orchard culture ideas ), what I should get rid of (the "pointy plants" like iris that apparently are bad feng shui and the wisteria which loses its leaves in the winter and therefore "looks terrible"), and what I should add (a bridge. Really, a bridge. In my flat garden). There was more but by then I was kind of in shock. She did say she could tell I worked hard...damned by faint praise.


You may have realized by now that this visitor had a very narrow view of what gardens should be like...she has a well thought of Asian garden. Very meticulously and tightly designed according to feng shui principles and kind of the antithesis of my garden.  Which is fine. I visited her garden when it was part of a tour many years ago and while it was not to my taste and felt claustrophobic to me I could appreciate the work and style and goals for which it aimed. But it never occurred to me to tell her to loosen up or tone down all the red accents. Even though I am not a fan of much red in the garden. Because it was her garden and I could tell she was happy with it, even proud of it.
So, to get to the point of the title above, here are a few of my thoughts. Don't isolate yourself from the huge range of gardens that exist. Go into a garden that is new to you with the idea of seeing what someone else gets pleasure from creating. If it is so far outside your frame of reference that you really don't get it, ask questions! If the gardener is standing right there try to find at least something about which you can make a positive comment. Don't critique if you have not been invited to do so. OK, critique as much as you want in your head but don't say it out loud! I almost feel that this is a ridiculous thing to post about since it seems simply common curtesy and good manners. So maybe this is just a way of working through my feelings. As I sit here writing in my, to me at least, peaceful and inviting garden I will think about the many people who have appreciated my results and try to remember always to look for things to appreciate in other gardens.

12 comments:

Gerhard Bock @ Succulents and More said...

Oh Leslie, my heart goes out to you. I cringed in embarrassment as I read your post. I couldn't agree more with what you said. And I have a very good idea of who your visitor was. I don't know her personally but have heard of her and her garden on numerous occasions. Enough said.

Rock rose said...

I am fortunate never to have had that happen although I have sensed on occasion that my garden was not well appreciated. How sad you had the experience in words. Of course we all have our own favorite style of garden but surely we can appreciate all the other styles too.

Leslie Kuss said...

Gerhard, you still need to come over and I will let you critique things...I think you could give me some great ideas! And Jenny...well anyone who didn't appreciate your garden is blind. You have already taught me a lot and there are a few photos from Fling that I am studying....

Gerhard Bock @ Succulents and More said...

Leslie, and vice versa! Let's make it happen.

Layanee said...

Well bless her heart! I understand the need to process the experience and am sorry that you had to endure that unsolicited critique. I love seeing your garden in pictures you post and hope to someday see it in person. Namaste.

Lisa Clarke said...

I have been told that I am not a gardener but rather a landscaper because my garden lacked flowers....I lived in a deeply shaded heavily wooded garden. Yes, it lacked flowers except for those from the gigantic hostas, every type of hydrangeas, toad lilies, brunnera macrophyllas, etc

Now in Florida, another large property, mostly wiped out by Hurricane Irma I already have critics and I have not planted a thing.

Leslie,I am certain this type of behavior originates in the critics insecurities. I like to think that people don't hear themselves and how mean they sound.

I,for one am GREEN with jealousy over your gardens.
Albeit, red is my favorite color and I love it in ANY garden.��

Kathy said...

I wonder what your critic would think of our gardens in the east where the vast majority of our plants lose their leaves in winter. Clearly your visitor not only has tunnel vision but a misunderstanding of what it means to be invited to visit another's garden. Unless a fee has been discussed and a contract signed, it's not a consultation.

danger garden said...

This is a very important post which I wish your visitor would read, but realize she probably will not. It's her loss that she's so uptight she can't appreciate all garden styles. I'm thrilled to read you and Gerhard exchanging invites to visit because it means I'll get to see your garden on his blog!

ks said...

Like you I visit many gardens every year , and there are always a few that just don't resonate with me, and even some that I think are just not very good. But this is completely subjective and I can't imagine making unsolicited suggestions to a garden host that had been kind enough to share his or her garden with visitors. Almost every garden I see whether I enjoy it or not has something to admire. Your guest failed in garden-touring etiquette.

Alison said...

I said this to Loree (danger garden) last weekend and I'll say it again -- this is why I prefer plants over people. It's also why I hesitate to open my garden to visitors. This person was unconscionably rude.

Douglas Owens-Pike said...

well said

Hoover Boo said...

Well that is sad and disappointing. Some people are just not attuned to the feelings of others.

I've never had any visitor say anything but the most gracious (too gracious really my garden is not that great) things.

Your garden is beautiful as it is, and agree 100% on keeping fruit trees at a fruit pickable size. It's common sense, for goodness sake!