Lacking the garden tour disposition

Every summer I look forward to the garden tours in our area.

Every summer I look forward to the garden tours in our area.

There are three communities within easy driving distance that all put on a great show.

I am always grateful to the people who plan these events and to the gardeners who are generous enough to fling open their gates so people like me can wander through and do a little dreaming.

I even forgive them for having gardens so beautifully designed and so meticulously manicured they make me want to go home, take a weed whacker to my own pitiful efforts and hang up my hoe for good.

In the very unlikely event my garden ever did become tour worthy, I still wouldn’t do it. I don’t have the disposition for it. Just the idea of other people looking around our place changes everything for me.

I’ll be admiring how beautiful the blue lupines look against the back drop of a red peony or how lush the rows of potato plants are looking and I’ll be thinking, “Wow. The garden looks great!”

I’ll stop to watch a pair of butterflies sip some nectar from a patch of violets and then I’ll lean on my hoe for a few minutes and just take in the aliveness of the place; the rush of colour, the scent of peppermint, the buzz of our bees hard at work. I watch a robin scratching about in the rich, dark loam. I love the idea of all these birds and insects benefiting from my hard work. No doubt about it, I’m having a great day in the garden.

Then I hear a vehicle coming up the driveway and everything changes. My garden goes from a personal Eden to an unsightly mess. Just look at that ugly black tarp I am using to smother a patch of grass in a new area I’m developing! And why haven’t I tidied up the mess behind the greenhouse?

Now all those discarded plant pots, buckets, stakes and all manner of gardening paraphernalia are just waiting to be discovered by my unexpected guest.

All the hay I use for mulch might be good for the garden but it’s downright hideous to look at. Yeekers! Would you look at that dandelion peeking out from beneath the potentilla’s skirt? It’s the size of a small child! A dozen more peek out from here and there until it’s a regular game of dandelion hide and seek.

There’s a black spot on the roses, the lilac needs deadheading and I never did get around to pruning the crab apple tree.

All the fireweed, goldenrod, bluebells and wild roses against the house were intentionally planted but it just looks like we’ve let the place go to weed. I know that’s the point with wildflowers but it hasn’t lived up to the image I had in my head. And why does the goldenrod have to lay down all the time? Stand up you lazy thing! Stand up!

By the time the poor visitors get out of the car I’m so distraught I’m ready to crawl under the ugly black tarp and hide until they go away. Or shout, “Get out of here! My garden is a mess!” I’m pretty sure this isn’t the sort of disposition you want from someone who puts their garden on a tour.

You probably don’t want a garden with black tarps, unsightly messes or dandelions the size of a small child either.

If you asked me if I cared what other people thought, I would probably say no. But clearly this isn’t the case.

It’s a trait I would like to yank from my personality like a big, fat thistle. It’s good to care about people — I don’t ever want to stop caring. But there’s nothing you can do about the thinking. People think. It’s what we do. And unfortunately we don’t always think positively about others. We compare, we judge, we criticize. But mostly we think about ourselves. And how we don’t want others to compare, or judge, or criticize.

I’ve noticed that if you go to a person’s house and they fall over themselves apologizing for the mess, you leave thinking what a messy house that person has. Go to the same house and have the person give you a warm welcome and a hot coffee without the side order of apologies and you leave thinking what a warm and welcoming home they have.

I believe people see you the same way you see yourself. Or your house. Or your garden. To change everything you simply need to change your attitude. And I plan to. I really do. But first I need to pull some weeds, prop up the goldenrod and clean up the clutter behind the greenhouse.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from northern B.C. You can read more of her columns at

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