Monday, June 22, 2015

Garden Tours: A Perfect Excuse to Snoop!

I admit it. I'm a nosey parker at heart. There's nothing better I like than having a chance to get on the other side of the fences that keep me from seeing people's back yards and gardens. The best way to do that and not get arrested for trespassing is to go on a garden tour, and prime time for doing that in the Northwest is right now.

These events are supposed to be in the service of gathering ideas for one's own meager plot, but really a part of the thrill for me is having the chance to stroll through what only friends and family normally get to see.

Snoopy, as my father would have said, is my middle name.

The gardeners themselves are often in attendance at these tours, so you might get a chance to chat with them if you so choose. As an example, one garden owner last weekend admitted to planting bamboo in a corner of his garden as a screen between him and a neighbor he's had issues with, knowing that the plant might just send runners under the fence, a little-known-but-used-more-often-than-you-might-think technique I like to call "Passive-Aggressive Gardening."

One of the best ways to take advantage of these tours is to join the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, which, for only $35 per year, offers its members self-guided tours of a rich and diverse array of gardens from April through October. Stretching from the coast to Bend and from the south Willamette Valley all the way north to Seattle, the featured gardens can be everything from a shade garden on a city lot in Portland, to a more rural but still gorgeous flower, fruit and vegetable extravaganza on 2 acres, to a historic garden designed by a major landscape architect. The society also offers workshops, lectures, programs, discounts at local nurseries and reduced prices on garden books.

Several neighborhoods offer garden tours, including Sellwood and Foster-Powell, and there's even a bike tour of community gardens in Northeast Portland. A national organization, the Garden Conservancy, offers tours in the region, and searching for "Portland Garden Tours" yielded several resources. So get out there and rubberneck to your heart's content!

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