What's your zone? That might be a good conversation starter if you are trying to meet a gardener, but don't expect it to tell you much about what he is growing. As any seasoned gardener will tell you, the U.S.D.A's zone hardiness map is a nice starting point, but if that's all you consider, your garden will likely end up the Dead Zone.
“We must cultivate our garden,” says Voltaire’s Candide - sound advice perhaps, but completely contrary to human nature. We like peering out from behind the curtains and looking into our neighbors’ yards. Thank heaven for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days, when passionate gardeners and aspiring Martha Stewarts are invited to view some of the country’s most beautiful private gardens. There, enquiring minds can openly converse with the owners, take pictures, steal ideas, and generally drool with envy. Voyeurs, rejoice.
The 2012 Raleigh area Open Days took place last weekend. I popped in to three gardens and, of course, found them all quite lovely. Each displayed a dazzling assortment of sensational plants, many of which I had never seen in person. Each had picturesque architectural elements – fountains, trellises, gazebos - and each was impeccably maintained. My favorite, though, was Dennis and Georgina Werner’s garden.
Fall is here. Maybe not according to the calendar, but the air conditioner is off and the holly berries are red. As far as I’m concerned, it’s fall.
The berries in question belong to Sparkleberry, my female winterberry holly. Sparkleberry and her male pollinator Apollo were among the wet-tolerant natives that I chose for my problematic back yard, which floods whenever there is a heavy rain. Since joining my garden in 2007, this unlucky pair has been subjected to the most outrageous abuse that either I or nature could heap upon them - flooding, drought, hungry deer, two relocations, and some accidental swipes with a lawn mower. Yet here they are, five years later, sailing along as if nothing had happened.
Gardening is an expensive hobby. Living near Plant Delights Nursery doesn’t help.
I mention this because I will be heading out to Plant Delights tomorrow for the fall Open House. Tony Avent’s nursery, specializing in unusual perennials, is primarily a mail-order business; the general public can visit only by appointment or during its eight Open House weekends. And so, on Friday, I will take my place among the bevy of besotted botanists who - having exhausted every possible inch of garden space and spent far more than they could afford on plants with unpronounceable names – return, like swallows, to Sauls Road in Raleigh.
A veteran of six Open Houses, I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. Compared with the hardcore, I’m a rank amateur: my five-year tally is a measly 39 plants totaling $591. I’ve seen people buy more in one day. But I flatter myself that I have some insights for the uninitiated, and it is to them that I offer this unofficial guide to the Plant Delights Open House.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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