One of the best ways to discover new plants or design ideas for your garden is to visit other gardens, regardless if you travel down the block or on an overnight trip. Looking at how someone else arranges plants, combines colours, positions paths or places ornaments reveals the immense creativity of garden design.
Admittedly, walking through a grand garden in a climate more benign than our own might make me greedy for more space and time, and a longer growing season, but even large estates and well-staffed botanical gardens can offer insights a home gardener can use. And there’s simply a lot of pleasure in exploring a new garden.
Design Ideas, Issue No. 20 of Garden Making, includes an article by Lorraine Flanigan about public gardens in Canada, U.S. and Europe that serve as wonderful outdoor classrooms for those of us looking for fresh ideas. Lorraine groups her suggestions by theme:
- gardens with terrific plant combinations;
- gardens with interesting designs;
- gardens, festivals and shows with a specific focus.
In the past year, some of the new gardens I discovered were on driving trips in the U.S. Some people travel to go to concerts or big sporting events. The trips I love always include a garden or two.
In September, we took advantage of the opportunity to travel to see the gardens in the Berkshires region of the U.S. northeast that were open the public for one day as part of the Garden Conservancy tour. Some belong to long-time home gardeners who open up their private gardens, while others are large estates where gardens are part of the not-too-subtle display of wealth and success.
I’ll spend this winter going through photos to sort out all the inspiration gleaned from these visits — and look forward to their influence next spring on our modest home garden.