Garden in July – The Weekly Look


I got a comment from a reader on garden walks in general. Before I got into the next posts on many of them, I had to noodle this question to find out the reason behind it. I was not sure how or where to respond, so I did not reply to all the comments on the post.

I show a lot of garden walks on this blog and have quite a few absolutely gorgeous ones coming up. I decided rather than address the comment in a post on a particular garden walk garden, I would do it on my own garden, which has been on garden walks previously. Plus, I have been showing its weekly change through the seasons. I don’t have time for maintenance, so please disregard any mess you might see, like my compost containers. Click any gallery to be taken to the slide show of the pictured images. Some are worth seeing bigger.

So what was the comment?

The commenter would be more interested in an “alternative garden walk with a greater emphasis on gardens that are not very high-end.” This got me thinking, what does this mean? High end?

Well my city garden might be considered high-end because if I had to pay the paving, walls, plants, concrete drive and installation costs, it would have been over $50,000 dollars to do what I have in this garden. Because of my job, if I pay at all, it is a small percentage of its value. If you want to see how the garden was designed, search back to posts I did when I began this blog. It shows the design process.

Then I thought maybe they meant native gardens. But I have designed native gardens on large properties, (where they look the best and belong I might add) and the cost of these jobs can easily reach $150,000 depending on the property with retaining ponds, lakes and stocked ponds. One property had a 1/2 mile long paved driveway, lined with 3 foot high hand-laid natural stone walls. A huge pond dug out on one side and wildflower fields  (acres big) on the other side. It was well over the price listed above and was very high-end.

The problem with most small gardens using native plants is they have a tendency to look weedy. Weedy looks messy and messy looks cheap. Often the soil conditions are wrong and native plants flop or easily get toppled by wind giving a very disheveled appearance. They don’t have the supporting grasses to keep them erect or the massing of each plant group to keep them looking natural.

I have no clue what an alternative garden walk would be and have been involved in the organization of quite a few. I can show some very modestly done, minimal gardens but honestly, who would want to see them?

To show my garden, I had over fifty images of just the back garden and it still does not show all I have blooming at this time. Two posts are needed in order to show the front. Maybe that is what was meant, if it has too much to see. Most of the garden walk gardens I show, have too much to see, but trust me YOU ARE GOING TO WANT TO SEE THEM!

I will continue my garden late next week. First I have to take you on a “high-end” garden walk. It’s a beauty.

See Nature and Wildlife Pics for some thoughts on nature with pretty photos. The recent posts are: Familiarity Begets Boredom and  Boundaries in Nature. I get rather direct on some thoughts there too.

Tomorrow, I am on an excursion to a daylily hybridizer to help make selections for our garden club perennial sale in 2015. I show this garden each year too. Take a look where I and three other of our garden club members will be…



About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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29 Responses to Garden in July – The Weekly Look

  1. Maybe what the commenter is referring to is gardens that aren’t as elaborate or large or manicured or showy. Those gardens make great photographs, but they can be difficult to maintain. Sometimes gardeners are intimidated by elaborate gardens. They want to see gardens that are a little more like their own, or what theirs could be with a little work. Those more modest gardens can definitely be seen on garden walks, and I think that’s great. The garden walks aren’t juried. You don’t have to be selected to have your garden on a walk. You just have to live within the boundaries for that walk and sign up on time– It’s even free to sign up. People should the lush and lavish gardens, but also check out the backyards with swing sets and tomato plants.

    • Some garden walks at one time the gardens needed to be approved. I am not sure if any of the 16 in our area still have this policy. You might be right on the manicured gardens, but mine has many hedges also, adding to the price. The looseness is in the inner plantings, the hedges contain the “free” plants. As for gardens like their own, I DON’T want to see gardens like my own. The point of garden walks is to give people ideas and have a wonderful day walking through them. I got to a garden yesterday that was a native garden and really thought to have wasted my time. I was rather surprised I did not like this garden considering my proclivity to native plants. As far as the swing sets and tomato plant gardens, if that is all they have, is that really any type of garden you would think people would enjoy seeing?

      • My point is that many gardens that people think of as “good” gardens are full of flowers, with no ugly tomato plants or swing sets to ruin the landscape. Or they’re tended by a couple of retirees who spend hours and hours each day in their garden. I didn’t talk to your reader; I was just guessing that what he or she might be looking for are lived-in yards that are like hers, only better.

  2. If the commenter had in mind gardens that may be more ‘arty’ [although I have seen many of that type in your walks, your garden to begin with], I might understand it – maybe the commenter missed those. However, and I speak for myself of course, when I visit here I wish to see beautiful gardens which will trigger ideas maybe for my own [simple] garden or for my future dream garden. Main reason though is that I enjoy looking at beautiful gardens and admire all the imagination and hard work gone into the making of them. So, my dear Donna, thank you for all the hours of joy you’ve offered and here’s to many many more! 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your kind comment. I do believe the person commenting meant garden walks in their own location, but the preference would likely extend to those being shown around the world. I would love to visit the UK for garden tours for instance, and would surely see all those grand estates and castle gardens. I know I will not see them here and the closest is a few of the public estate gardens I have shown here on GWGT.

  3. And perhaps the person refers to gardens that are dominated by swimming pools, outdoor fireplaces, kitchens, and other structures. There may be lots of expensive hardscaping – either real stone or man-made patio stone. These would be things to communicate ‘the most expensive range of things/products in a garden’. They have a sense of being an outdoor living area rather than a garden. Most gardens like this that I’ve seen have nice plantings, but not distinctive, and look like a landscape maintenance firm comes in to do the weeding and mowing.

    These are in contrast to gardens where there is interesting, distinctive plant material, where walkways are more informal, where personal style comes through in every way. I have been to gardens with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of plants – and no one would have used the term ‘high-end’. So it is a most interesting and thought-provoking idea.

    And is there a distinction between a garden walk and a garden tour? What are your thoughts there? Being close to Toronto, most large-scale, fund-raising garden tours seem to choose homes and gardens on a grander scale. Garden walks in our area tend to be informal and locally generated.

    • Thank you for you thoughts. Living close to Toronto, I know what you mean about the tours having a grander scale. Especially a grander scale than Buffalo gardens made famous in magazines even. Oddly, many of these Buffalo gardens have more plant material than gardens of a greater scale.

      I would agree the person commenting would probably not like the gardens with the service contract or relaxing pools, but some busy people want gardens like this. Some want a serene space and that too might mean minimal or mostly green.

      The paths do say a lot about the gardener. When I design, I mix materials for paths. I like to have them distinctive and also fit the scheme of plantings whether formal or of a cottage look. I have to say the one garden I visited yesterday had a natural stone path that they obviously laid on the bare soil. It was a hazard to use with tripping a great possibility. They used the wrong stone too. One might look at that path and think it has the owner’s personality, but all I saw was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  4. You are right about native plants looking messy and weedy. I have a few, and they can also be invasive. I think, like you said they need to be planted in the appropriate area with grasses and have the room to grow and spread out.
    Your gardens are amazing and the lilies are so beautiful. I had a few planted, but I think some moles or voles got into them. I think before I plant more I’ll see how the few I have left survive next year.

    • Too small a space is the main problem. I was just talking about this with my garden club members. Floppy was their main concern. What many don’t realize is native plants like the soil nutrients and conditioning rather lean. They don’t want loose and fluffy soil because many of these native plants have a tap root and needs a “tougher” soil. They don’t want soils high in fertilizer or even compost either. Woodland plants are an exception. They do want moist, dark rich soils. Many over water native plants too. Native plants are always looked at like the prairie plants too, whether we live on a prairie or not. Prairies are big and expansive. Meadows are large also. Heck I have some of those plants too, just not the space for them!

  5. Laurin Lindsey says:

    Your garden is lovely! I have the similar conclusion on natives so I mix them with southern acclimated plants. The reason being they are more maintenance than my clients desire. I still want to support the local wildlife so I find a way to work them in where appropriate. As to high end do you suppose that they meant low maintenance and those you show appear to be a lot of work. As you know a garden can be lush and full of something flowering nearly all year long and have stunning lovely foliage all the time if it is designed and installed properly and then giving the right amendments to keep the soil healthy. Putting the right plant in the right place with a combination of other plants that complement each other is not easy but the gardens you show have it just right! This might make the look high end : )

    • Thanks for your link. Clicking your name is not linked. I like to visit those visiting here. I totally agree with all that you have said. The mess comes from not knowing the plants and associated conditions. I plant for wildlife too, and that includes plants not native to here. Some are just too hardworking not to have in a garden. I was really unsure what the person commenting meant. That is why either the low maintenance or too much work gardens could be either of what they were intending as the reason.

  6. lucindalines says:

    All gardens are a continual work in progress. Low end might be the year of the first seed then look out, it never gets “cheaper” after that. Keep showing what you do, it is so amazing.

    • That is a very good point. I don’t ever take photographs of the gardens I design because they look skimpy the first year after installation – even on big properties. We may install large trees, but they are still nothing of what they will be when fully mature and filling out their space. I was going to note that gardens don’t ever get less expensive, but infinitely more expensive. This is because many buy the wrong plants for conditions and plants die. They also don’t wait and let them mature, yanking them out before they even see what will develop.

  7. alesiablogs says:

    I have seen many gardens and I have never thought in my mind about this garden is in this category or this one. I have looked more at the central theme perhaps it might be showcasing. I suppose I am your novice when it comes to all this, but I appreciate a good garden no matter what. For example, growing up–my grandfather had a vegetable garden. It was manicured to a tee! I remember walking rows and rows with him enjoying the growing vegetables, but all along always enjoying flowers more that my grandmother would have on our dinner table.

    • I never categorize either and look at each garden or landscape as an individual. Designing, I do look more critical than most, but appreciate the work many of these gardeners do to have them ready for these walks. Garden Walk Buffalo gets over 60,000 people through these gardens and not every one of the gardens is a showpiece so to speak. Ideas can be had from some that are very creative, but would not be considered magazine worthy for instance. I saw a vegetable garden on one walk last week that was far more interesting than his wife’s flower garden. I took photos of his garden and very few of hers. It was more creative and neatly designed. Also, few visitors were walking through his garden. They missed the best part.

  8. acuriousgal says:

    I have a feeling the reader was talking about hardscaping, like one of the above comments stated. Always enjoy your lovely walks through the gardens!!🙋

    • If that is so, my garden would not be liked at all! 😀 I have an abundance of landscaping in paths and walls. The driveway takes up a large percentage of my property as does the entertainment area. I just have some interest (curved design and inlaid brick and granite) in the design of my driveway so it it is not straight concrete.

      • acuriousgal says:

        Garden envy here! I could just park a tent on your grounds and live out the rest of my natural life there, you won’t mind😂🙋🙋

  9. bittster says:

    The lilies are exceptional!
    If someone wants a low-end garden walk, they’re welcome to come by my place. There is bad taste and weeds galore 😉
    High or low, I agree that it’s ideas people are looking for, and if ideas are not available then plain old wow works too. I wouldn’t mind an alternative walk with messy gardens and garden ornament gone wrong, but that’s just me, and I just love any gardens and gardeners… but I know the alternative version wouldn’t be as popular as the beautiful gardens -and I would never give up the beautiful ones!
    Looking forward to more pictures and gardens!

    • Thanks, Frank. I do like lilies, but they need thinning out again. Busy little buggers. You have a great garden that would be wonderful to have on a garden walk. I love those chairs, similar to a garden I just showed and one coming up. They pop. Gardens gone wrong probably would be popular, just for the novelty. It is the ones that have little visual or horticultural interest that get the most disparaging remarks – them and “the replace the grass with native plants willy nilly and no color” that get people talking trash. Really you should hear these garden walkers. Some say really nasty remarks, but most are courteous and offer a compliment. It is all a matter of taste. Not everyone likes the same type of gardening. I just did not realize I would get a comment on the “high end” gardens. I live to see those. People with money can really deck out a space.

  10. Indie says:

    Love all the blooms going on at once in your yard! I love seeing more mature gardens, as I have yet to stay long enough in a place to grow one 🙂 I’m not sure what the commenter meant. Maybe he meant gardens you feel like you could grow more cheaply, but even lush gardens can be grown cheaply with growing from seeds and pass-a-long plants from other gardeners.
    It would be fun to have a garden walk in which the gardens displayed pictures of their process from empty yards to full gardens. Then new gardeners would see it is a process that usually takes quite a bit of time, but is quite doable with a little passion and work.

    • Thank you. I do plan for lots of flowers for the insects. I was not sure either, but it really made me feel bad for the gardens I feature here. Many are large and well furnished, and others take enormous time in preparation and care like the train garden I recently featured. I am certainly not going to stop posting these type of gardens, but I am guessing the native garden (and not all natives by the way) I just saw and did not prefer was exactly what this person would like to see. I was very disappointed in it and could not even find a way to frame images to make the garden look interesting. Usually I can take a really poorly designed garden and find something. I was just too unmotivated I guess.

      Garden walk owners do have out photos and scrapbooks of their gardens before they made them what they are today. I did when my garden was on our block club garden walk. I have it on my blog too. It is a series of posts on the Process of Design. The design is not what it is today, but was the beginning of what you see now. If you feel inclined, search it on my blog. It starts in January of 2011.

  11. debsgarden says:

    Your garden is fabulous! A walk through it would be a great pleasure and a source for inspiration.
    I think the commenter may have meant a garden done on a budget. In that case, mine is definitely an alternative garden! I long for the funds to put in stone walls and other expensive features. Meanwhile, over the years I have added to my garden each spring and fall, and little by little it has taken shape. In the beginning it was only my yard, but when I started my blog I realized I had to call it a garden! Because of the size of my garden, I have to focus on low maintenance trees and shrubs, many with flowers and/or interesting foliage. My garden is full of paths, and I have garden ornaments and accents placed here and there. I would hope someone could see that even an ordinary space can be made beautiful and that it is doable on a budget. Of course, I would love to have megabucks to do it all at once, but the would not have been so much fun!

    • Your garden is beautiful and it in no way looks like it was done on a budget. The paths through the woodland are wonderful, as are all the ornament throughout. I am unsure of the meaning of the comment other than the words that were written. I just hope it does not affect readership on my garden posts being most of the gardens are rather large..

  12. Interesting post and discussion (and great photos, of course). I think I would take issue with you that native plants in a small garden necessarily look weedy. I guess small can be relative of course, but I’m thinking of standard city or suburban lots (mine is 50 x 100′). Native plants can get weedy, of course, but so can exotics (Achillea comes to mind). To prevent weediness, you have to do the things that gardeners do: cut back, stake, divide, and so on. Overall, I would argue that weediness is not really a function of a plant’s origin.

    • I would say I have more than fifty percent native plants in my garden and if I had more it would likely look weedy because because many native plants are not long blooming, turn brown shortly thereafter and don’t always have a nice appearance until winter snow falls. They then look great against the white if not cut back. I don’t cut back for the wildlife. I did say,”they have a tendency to look weedy.” And many do.

      I actually don’t, “have to do the things that gardeners do: cut back, stake, divide, and so on.” I guess I am not a gardener as you state then since staking is something I do try to avoid unless strong winds are predicted. I companion plant to keep plants erect and natural without putting the strangle hold on them like they are corseted into unnatural shapes just to have the flower heads stand at attention. If you follow along on my garden walk gardens, you will see what I mean. Many folks do just that and to my eye, it looks terrible. If designed right, the native plants will preform as intended. On these garden walks you will see them on too small of properties. I can show native gardens on large properties and the plants look great. You have to know what I am talking about. Like at the Lurie Garden.

  13. Not sure what the commenter meant either…I find natives will volunteer much more but that is what they are meant to do…like in any garden they take the right location, soil and maintenance especially if in a small space. I tend to not plant more aggressive natives in my smaller front beds….Joe Pye will seed there even though it was not planted there, but I yank it out and move it to places where it can spread itself a bit more. And I succession plant to hide those earlier plants that go dormant. As I am watching my garden grow a bit more, it is interesting to see what is working where and what needs to be redesigned a bit.

  14. Oh, Donna, you’re garden is gorgeous and the above slide-show galleries are an abundance of riches. My garden has been a real disappointment this summer. After the worst winter in 30 years, we are having an unusually cool summer. we haven’t had enough hot days to make my roses and perennials happy.

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