Get out of your garden, even if it has to be via YouTube

The best way to become a better gardener is to get out of your garden.

That may seem counterintuitive, but with gardens, you don’t know what you’re missing until you see it someplace else. And that’s why touring other gardens is so inspiring.

I’ve walked through hundreds of gardens, from postage-stamp sized city gardens to public gardens that you’d need days to properly explore. But I’ve taken something away from every single one.

Often it’s a plant that I never knew about. One year I saw Amsonia hubrectii in at least three gardens, and in every case I was drawn to it like a moth to light. Clearly plenty of other gardeners knew about this feathery textured perennial with diminutive blue flowers in early summer and bright gold foliage in fall, but somehow it had flown under my radar. I remedied that the following year and now have several in my garden.

Sometimes the takeaway from a garden is more of a feeling, like I experienced at Pennsylvania’s Chanticleer Garden. I was overcome by an air of rule-breaking there. Containers are found everywhere, both in gardens and on patios. Plants of all kinds intermingle. Informal plants are arranged in a formal manner. Within a week of walking through that garden, I’d started plunking pots all over the garden, bought two new-to-me plants and looked at my garden in an entirely different way.

Touring local gardens is a particularly good way to see what might grow well in your own garden and to connect with fellow plant enthusiasts. Sadly, most garden tours, including the Port Washington Garden Club’s annual Garden Walk, have been canceled this year.    

If there is a silver lining to so many public gardens being closed and garden tours being canceled, it’s that many gardens can now be enjoyed virtually. Of course there is no substitute for standing in a garden, but a video tour of a garden you might not otherwise be able to visit can be almost as inspiring.

You can find many of these tours on YouTube. Some of the best are from England’s National Garden Scheme, which is perhaps the gold standard for garden tours. The nonprofit organization organizes open days for hundreds of private gardens, all highly vetted before they are accepted into the program. Virtual tours typically include commentary from the owners who offer all the info you’d find if you had flown across the pond and visited in person, minus the delicious homemade cake that is standard fare at such events.

Garden Masterclass, another British gardening organization, shares its Zoom presentations by famous gardeners and gardens weekly on its YouTube channel.

There are plenty of American public gardens posting video tours regularly as well. You can narrow them down by searching for a specific garden or area.

There’s a whole world of gardens waiting to inspire us. For now, at least, they just happen to be enjoyed on a screen.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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