June is a spectacular time in northwest gardens. Many communities schedule garden tours during the month, often as a fundraiser for a local non-profit organization. These lilies, in large containers flanking the entrance to a nice home outside Mount Vernon, Washington were among the sights to delight the senses on the Skagit Symphony’s Gardens of Note tour on Sunday, June 28.
The week before, Whatcom Horticultural Society held their tour in Bellingham with six wonderful gardens. June 13 and 14 I toured gardens in Washington’s tri-cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco for the Academy of Children’s Theater. The Boise, Idaho tour was the same weekend, supporting the Idaho Botanical Garden. I missed the Yakima tour, which supports the Yakima Area Arboretum.
Garden tours are an opportunity to see how the other half lives and gardens. Often the gardens are expansive and show the hand of professional design. But that’s not always the case. Whether large or small, it’s always fun to check out other gardens and get ideas that might work in our own space. Most gardeners feel honors to be selected to have their garden on tour and they go all-out to make sure it’s looking at its best. Some folks take the opportunity to make additions and changes, but there’s always evidence that the deadheading, weeding, and mulching has been done.
Of course, as a garden photographer I use the tours as a way to find great publication-worthy gardens. When people learn that I’m a photographer they often ask, “where’s your camera?” I rarely carry one on tours. It’s much better to speak with the garden owner and get permission to return later to photograph. I don’t like to be in the way of other visitors, nor wait for them to clear the frame. Tours are also always scheduled mid-day, when the light is high, flat, and harsh.
I returned to the tour garden with the lilies at 6 am this morning. I was blessed with thin clouds, followed by a period of low sunshine for nice backlighting, followed by more thin clouds for rich colors and open shadows. I spent about 3 hours in this large garden before returning home for a second breakfast.