"Why do you want to put our gardens again on display for a tour?” I can hear my dear husband saying. Of course, my first reaction is defensive. It’s not the first time he asked and besides I had promised not to. “Well, I think people just might like to see them,” or: “It helps my landscape design business,” or, “ The money goes to The Garden Conservancy and the Berkshire Botanical Garden”, I blurt out.

This is not to say he hadn’t been raking, weeding and pruning — at times even with alacrity.  Still, when I suddenly discover him watching soccer on ESPN I’m a tad annoyed. This is the day before the tour and he had just said: “what can I do to help?” I point out that aside from disappearing, he had attached the Open Days Program sign with gray duck tape atop a political campaign sign on our front lawn. You couldn’t quite detect the guy’s name but still… “It’s just not acceptable!” I belted out as he was watching a goal being scored. Bad timing. I went back out and re-cut the styrofoam board using a stapler instead.

The next morning was gorgeous. No storm, no bear, volunteers showing up on a time, friendly visitors — as well as a couple of neat looking, well-dressed cops. My heart skipping a beat, I asked: “Is there a problem with the parking? No, someone had called 911. The cops needed to inspect the house. I told them to check out the gardens while they were at it. “Do smell the roses!” I added as they were leaving. The younger one shot me a smile. Of course, his gun didn’t quite jibe with the whole garden “experience”.

24 hours later and quite relieved not to peer at the gardens so critically — or my husband, I took my bike out for a spin. While zooming down Seekonk Road past the Berkshire hills, an insight dawned on me: this is just like preparing a big feast and partaking in it with others. You wouldn’t think of eating it alone. The point is to taste it, smell it, relish it, talk about it.

So, is showing your garden an ego trip? Sure. But why wouldn’t an artist — or a chef, not want to share her creation with like-minded folks?  I quickly throw that nagging ego “issue” out like a pile of yellow, wilted daffodils onto my compost heap.

Indeed, I do want to show off the fruits of my “artistry” that came with OCD labor. As a reminder, the garden whispers: “don’t you remember the gazillion hours you spent weeding, watering, staking, dead-heading, edging and mulching me? And even though it was pouring, you still did your usual dividing and moving — and moving again routine. And then just the day before your tour you began ripping out my beautiful irises and suddenly yanked out a big clump of something or other that you mumbled just didn’t make the grade. And then you began planting those “fill-in annuals” you usually shun.”

The bottom line is that opening up a private garden is about meeting and sharing experiences with others. Among the 96 or so who came, I met landscape designers, horticulturists, “regular gardeners” or people just out for a pleasant Sunday ride. Some offered plant tips, gardening vignettes, and even tales of exotic places like Nepal or Veracruz.

Finally, I also savor “my moment” by actually identifying a few of the countless species in this plantoholic jungle of mine. The main stars today: the Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ with its ever so delicate, variegated white, green and pale pink foliage and the 6’ tall Persicaria polymorpha with its billowing flower plumes that someone compared to astilbes on steroids. Next time — if there is one — I may even provide a handout. But why lose the satisfaction of whipping out words such as “persicaria” and “hakuro nishiki”.

After the bike ride as I plop down on the grass in the summer solstice evening light, I also see in my mind’s eye the people who upon leaving gave me a warm smile and said: “thank you for letting me see the garden.”  I’ll never know who called 911. Perhaps my husband…



Johanna Maria Rosewrote:
June 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Honey! What a wonderful piece. You had me laughing out loud in the first sentence! (Of course knowing you and David helps too…)

I love your writing, and insights too, but wouldn’t expect anything less from you. Nearly died at the “fill-in annuals'” bit. My mom occasionally did open her garden in Upper Nyack, and it was mayhem even with the help of her professional landscaper son-in-law, so I don’t know HOW you do it alone.

Such gorgeous gardens…looking forward to seeing them again later this month. And you and David too!

Much love to you both.

honeysharp wrote:
June 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

Wish I could say I do it all alone! The creative part at least is my baby. I liked your other title Cops and Roses — or vice versa. I’d probably have to insert something about the roses though!
Maybe I should send this piece to the nice cop. Hey, I’ll just drop off a copy at the station when I drive by today. Hopefully he won’t come back bec. I mention the gun! But hey, that’s in our constitution! …

judy boullet wrote:
June 13, 2012 at 2:09 am

Absolutely wonderful, Honey! Everything we like: the thoughts, planning, work, pleasure, and humo…r resulting in shared satisfaction and accomplishment. A joy for all to behold. Bravo. Judy B.

honeysharp wrote:
June 13, 2012 at 8:31 am

Merci ma cherie pour l’avoir lue!

Mona Houghtonwrote:
June 13, 2012 at 9:56 am

What fun to read–and a great way to catch up after, what, &^ years…
I like the way the public space of the garden sits next to the private space of your garden. Gardening is so contemplative and yet there is also the space (and time) for sharing the fruits….Nice…and such an engaging article.

honeysharp wrote:
June 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

Yes, that’s what I love: the kind of meditation you get into when working (and hopefully taking time to pause!) and the more social, fun times with friends and family.

Adele P. Rodbellwrote:
June 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed my Sunday morning stroll in your garden. It is truly a work of artistry and clearly you have the knack and energy and a patient husband! And, yes, there is nothing like a good local cop when you need him!

Thank you for your generosity. A great gardener is truly an artist and so please keep sharing your talents with all of the rest of us! Adele Rodbell

Johanna Maria Rosewrote:
June 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

Did you drop off a copy to the cop?? I’m so curious! My little joke was a reference to the rock group Gun ‘N Roses. The cop might get a kick out of that (if he’s heard of the band)! xoxo

Johanna Maria Rosewrote:
June 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

Did you drop off a copy to the cop?? I”m so curious! My little joke was a reference to the rock group Guns ‘N Roses. The cop might get a kick out of that, if he’s heard of the band! xoxo

Johanna Maria Rosewrote:
June 15, 2012 at 11:24 am

Oops! My comment posted twice! Didn’t mean to do that–sorry!