Getting Ready for Garden Visits: It’s time to panic!


A week from today, this year’s first group of garden visitors arrives to tour Glen Villa. The following week, two more groups arrive. And not long after that, I have the first ever Open Garden Day.


A $20 admission fee will go to the Massawippi Foundation to support public trails that are now being built. About 10 kms of trails will open to the public in 2017. This wonderful initiative is our community foundation’s way of celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.


I am about to panic. After far too long with no rain and unusually hot days, and despite constant watering, many plants are drooping — including the weigela just planted by the cascade. The astilbes that add such a punch of colour by the front steps are on the verge of blooming. Will they have gone past their best by next week or will they still be approaching it? And what about the wildflowers at the Skating Pond? Last year they were in full bloom by now; this year, they barely have started.


These wildflowers covered the berm last July, almost turning the hillside blue. I didn't plant the flowers, I simply scattered the seeds a few years ago. Nature did the rest.
These wildflowers covered the berm last July, almost turning the whole hillside purpley blue. I didn’t plant the flowers, I simply scattered the seeds. Nature did the rest.


I always worry before a group visits the garden. I tell myself to relax. People will react as they react, and nothing I do will change that. But this year there are some special challenges. The Big Lawn to Meadow experiment-in-progress is progressing. It looks wonderful to my eyes, but how will more traditionally focused eyes respond? Will they call it a triumph or a disaster?


I took this photo of the Big Lawn/Meadow on July 2. I love the way it looks. But how will it look in a few weeks? How will it look in a month when the Open Garden Day is held?



The project I was hoping to have finished before the first group arrives hasn’t even started. Even if it begins tomorrow, the work will take a minimum of two weeks and the final part of the project won’t be ready until September at the earliest. So I can only hope that people enjoy seeing a work in progress. (More about this project called The Upper Room in the weeks to come…)


We roughed out the project on site in April. This area was formerly called The Egg. The newly-named Upper Room will be a tribute to my mother and to Virginia where I grew up.
This area was formerly called The Egg. Newly named The Upper Room, it will be a tribute to my mother and to Virginia where I grew up. This photo from April this year shows a roughed out version of the project.


But the thing that has me worried the most is the Open Garden Day. I’m thrilled to be opening the garden to the public for the first time and I hope that the number of visitors exceeds my wildest dreams. But how many will that be? I have no idea, and no way of judging numbers in advance. There are dozens of details to work out. Where will people park? Will people be content to wander or will they want to follow a clearly marked route? Will a map of the garden be guide enough or do I need to find volunteers to point the way? Will  I be able to find enough volunteers who are comfortable speaking French and English? Enough who are willing to work for a few hours on a day that could be punishingly hot or cold, sunny or pouring with rain?

And what about porto-potties and refreshments? Making a sizeable contribution to the Massawippi Foundation and to its new trail building initiative played a big part in deciding to open the garden to the public. Having cool drinks and something to eat would provide an additional source of revenue. But do I have the time and energy to find a supplier who will donate the items or who will at least provide them at cost?

I need helpers and I need advice. If you have opened your garden to the public, how have you managed these things? If you have visited open gardens, how would you answer the questions I’ve raised? Best of all, if you plan to attend the Open Garden Day on August 4, please let me know in advance, either by commenting on the blog or by email at [email protected]

I would really appreciate hearing from you. Whether you are able to come or not, please share your experiences and advice. I’ll be holding my breath until you do — or at least until the Open Garden Day is over.  Then I can start planning for the Open Garden Day in 2017!