Garden walks are a great way for gardeners to spend a leisurely day outside and peek into the private yards of homeowners to get design ideas and growing tips.
For gardeners to make the most of a garden walk, sponsors and hosts want visitors to keep an open mind and use it as a learning experience, especially because these are often gardens and areas that visitors might not typically get to experience.
Here are tips from the experts:
Do some homework: Research what types of gardens are on display. The Internet can be your best friend here. Many organizations running garden walks will have information on their websites. Also, some will have printed programs available ahead of time that detail the varieties of gardens and their locations. But even if you grab that program the day of your visit, take some time to peruse it before you get started.
Stephanie Werskey, media coordinator for the Garden Conservancy, which runs garden walks of spectacular, rarely viewed private gardens across the country via its Open Days program, said its website includes information such as times, locations and costs.
Vital considerations: Your research also means scouting out parking and where to use the bathroom, perhaps at nearby restaurants or other public facilities, Charlier said.
"We encourage our hosts to not let people use the bathroom because we don't want people in their homes," he said.
He added that visitors who need wheelchair or stroller access should try to find out ahead of time if the area can accommodate wheels. Private yards may not be handicapped-accessible.
Payment plan: For any walk that charges a fee, check to see if tickets can be bought online, or if it is cash/check only on the day of the walk. (Sometimes buying ahead is cheaper.)
Ask questions. Margaret Roach, writer of a popular garden blog called A Way to Garden, and an Open Days garden walk host for 20 years, said garden walks present a unique opportunity to see how everyday people work their yards.
Though criticizing design is discouraged, Roach feels it's OK to ask a garden's owner why something isn't working. "There's a lot to learn beyond the pretty-pretty," she said.
Notebook, yes. Camera, maybe. Charlier said that on walks with many gardens, after visiting a few homes it's impossible to remember everything. So take a notebook and write down what the garden hosts say, whether it's garden tips, plant varieties or where they buy supplies.
Check to see if photography is allowed. Most garden hosts are fine with photos for personal use, but professional photography for profit is not allowed, Werskey said.
Dress for the weather. Many garden walks take place rain or shine, the sources said. Wear sunscreen and bring along an umbrella and bug repellent. Comfortable shoes are a must.
Etiquette tips: Following a few common-sense tips can make attending a walk enjoyable for everyone. Some basics:
Don't litter, don't pick plants and don't stray from the paths. And leave your dog at home.
Don't be a critic. Not everyone has the same taste in design, and garden owners are often on the premises and may hear comments.
Watch the kids. "[It's] wonderful for young people to see gardens, but you have to hold hands with the kids," Roach said. "It's not a playground."
Be mindful of posted times. Don't show up early and expect to be let in. By the same token, don't show up 10 minutes before closing time; it has been a long day for the hosts and volunteers.
Parking manners. Park your car in approved areas, and don't block neighbors' drives or prevent other cars from entering or leaving the parking area.