Have you ever been garden-drunk?
As in tipsy, woozy or otherwise un-sober while surrounded by flowers, foliage and someone else's intoxicating vision of a backyard paradise?
It happened to me.
Just last week, after spending 3 days in Minneapolis for the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling, I found myself totally done-in by inspired gardeners and their landscaped works of art.
I was exposed to so many deeply-moving, developed-over-the-decades gardens that I didn't know which plant to turn to, where to point my camera, or which once-in-a-lifetime question to ask of the gardener.
Garden Bloggers Fling
The Garden Bloggers Fling was started in 2008, by a group of Garden Bloggers living in Austin, Texas. The Austin gardeners, who had begun to meet in person, thought that some of their other blogging friends might just make the trip from Cyberspace to Texas if an invitation were extended. The idea was to get together and tour a bunch of exceptional gardens - all while finally getting to spend some face time with one another.
Garden Blogger: a talented writer and photographer who uses the power of the internet as an excuse to never, ever, ever shut-up about plants.
The meet-up has continued every year since, changing locations and swapping out organizers, but the focus always remains the same: fun, friends, and over-the-top garden discovery.
Fling Highlights and Takeaways
As a Fling virgin, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect; I was mostly looking forward to putting some faces with the names I’d reaped from the blogosphere over the years. (I started my first garden blog in 2008 and had already interacted with some of the bloggers that were signed up through a now-defunct garden-blogging social network called Blotanical - RIP.)
Each morning, we filled up two charter buses which brought us from garden to garden - about 8 gardens per day. By garden number three on Day One, I realized that I needed to develop a plan of attack.
My personal gardening interests include:
- Foodscaping aka Edible Landscaping
- Medicinal plants, natives, and celebrating 'weeds' as showpieces
- Creative wildlife and pollinator habitats
- Garden Vibes, as in the immediate emotional recognition of the gardener’s personality, or the mood they are trying to create in their outdoor space. I always appreciate how a garden feels.
Luckily, I found stellar examples of all of these interests to celebrate during the Fling.
I will let my fellow Flingers do most of the talking here, as I've so enjoyed reading their takes on each garden:
- Pam Penick of Digging (and author of The Water Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water) wrote a great post about a fantastic edible landscape/pollinator garden that we visited at Rhonda Fleming Hayes' place in suburban Minneapolis.
- Beth Stetenfeld of Plant Postings also shared a nice piece that covered Rhonda's garden, as well as some great shots that she took at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden - the oldest native-plant garden in the US.
- When it comes down to vibes, I know that many of us feel we will never be in a place quite as special as Wouterina de Raad's sculpture garden and studio, just over the river in Wisconsin. Helen Battersby (co-organizer of the 2015 Toronto Fling) shared a beautiful batch of photos of this garden, as did Diana Kirby (of Austin) on her blog Sharing Nature's Garden.
- You can access all of the blog posts that were written on the Fling's own blog, where they have been collected and organized.
Celebrating Weeds in Style
However, there is one garden that really stood out to me that I haven't seen a post written about yet, and that's Squire House Gardens in Afton, MN. I feel they deserve some extra praise, not because they served us 5 flavors of effervescent ice-cold lemonade (including lavender and pomegranate) in wine glasses, but because they celebrated weeds as showpieces like pros.
While I love attempting this in my own garden, admittedly the weeds don't look that out of place, as there's a 'wild' vibe already in play. But here, at Squire House, everything is formal. Statues, reflecting pools, fountains, and walls of shrubbery transform the mullein and thistle into bold, architectural statements. I think I swooned.
The veggie garden, which appears in the Mullein photo above, was a bit hard for me to photograph in the moment - but I so appreciated its casual grace. There were also many tall, branching thistles around that got blown-out in the harsh sun.
I fell in love with a brand-new-to-me plant while at Squire House: Climbing Asparagus. While not an edible plant, it does produce the wispy, fern-like foliage and round seed pods that I love to see in my regular asparagus beds. Best of all, it climbs and vines vertically - so I added it to my running 'plants that offer privacy' list.
How to Tackle 24 Garden Tours in 3 Days
As I mentioned, I started to fall apart early on. Let's just call it sensory overload. You find yourself in this weird limbo of wanting to be completely alone, which reduces the amount of elbows, knees, and other peoples' fingers in your photos, and wanting to tie yourself to one of the many horticultural wizards who can id any plant, any where, at any time.
My brain was begging for a way to organize what was I was taking in. So, I returned to a project that I had started earlier this season and concentrated on photographing simple, yet inspired, 3-plant combinations.
No matter where we went, after I shot some quick, wide shots to remember the entire delicious scene by, I got to relax and enjoy 'the hunt' for beautifully grouped plant trios.
And that is how you tackle a wild and speedy garden tour!