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I Went to a Garden Party

Every year on the first Sunday in May, hundreds of people turn out to view a few Davis gardens. The nineteenth annual Pence Gallery Garden Tour was held May 2, 2010, and I joined a crowd of garden lovers, arts supporters and curiosity driven oglers in making the rounds of the nine gardens presented this year. I’ve enjoyed the tour many times over the years, some years more than others, but always coming away with ideas and inspiration for my own garden. One of the nice things about the tour is that just as you’re asking your partners in ogling why in the world this so-called garden is on the tour, you overhear someone tell their partners how much they love this particular design. From the over-the-top hardscape-heavy design to the garden that is obviously a loving work in progress by a true gardener the tour rarely fails to impress. Reminiscent of a once a year passeggiata, tour day is a fun time involving not only garden viewing but chances to happen upon friends and catch up with each other. And if you’re traveling in the same direction you may get to know some new friends after seeing them at garden after garden.

Coveted Fountain

All of this year’s gardens, aside from the empty lot turned vegetable garden, had a water feature of some sort, whether a pool, a fountain, a pond or some combination of these. The sound of water is wonderful in the garden and was soothing as the day warmed. My particular favorite, at least at this moment, was the column, set in a sea of ferns, that flowed over the top and recirculated. A lovely, suitable setting for a unique water feature. But truly, many of the water features were well thought out, nicely done and added lots of interest to the gardens.

Succulent Containers

Possibly the most popular garden accessory is the container…seen in abundance this year, as always. Succulents are a hit in containers, showing off their interesting forms and a good choice for our hot summers. Containers were also popular under patio covers where a little green interest was needed to break up stretches of paving.

I loved seeing all the vegetable gardens…six out of the nine gardens had some amount of space devoted to home grown vegetables! With our slow, cool start this year summer crops are just getting going but if this percentage is any indication many Davis households will be feasting on uber-local veggies later this summer. And seriously, what could be better than a tomato, plum or berry plucked and eaten within minutes? Tomatoes were the most popular item, although it is a bit early for some other veggies to have been up. In any case, I plan to get the rest of my tomato starts this weekend before everyone else beats me to my favorites!

Nancy LaBerge Muren

For the last few years this event has featured local plein air artists painting in the gardens. This year, as has happened before, the artists had a bit of wind with which to contend but despite that difficulty it was really amazing to see images taking place right in front of us.

Art was also present as decorative additions in many of the gardens. It’s always fun to see what has been used to convey a sense of the gardener’s style. Some of the artwork  was made by the gardener or a family member, adding an even more personal touch to their environment.

Artistic Bird House

Most of this year’s gardens occupy more space than the typical Davis lot, but there were still ideas that could be used by those with gardens of more average dimensions. Several gardens had given thought to sustainable practices in plant and hardscape choices. Seating areas were found in many places, reminding gardeners and visitors to stop and enjoy the environment. Even little touches like decorative hose bibs caused conversation among those of us who would like to do a bit less hose dragging.

The plant lists that were for years available at many of the gardens seem to have been discontinued. This is a loss as gardeners who would like to imitate a planting have little to go on for identification. A landscape architect who was present was unsure of the identity of one plant in her design, finally identifying it with a well known plant name that has a different appearance than the one in question. My recommendation to those who might attend the tour in future years is to be sure to bring your camera, photograph plants you like and take your photos to your favorite nursery for identification.

Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Gardeners wanting to be inspired should make a note and save the date for next year’s tour. I am still thinking about several things I saw that I would like to incorporate into my own garden…and wishing I had a sea of ferns waiting for a fountain.

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