Going Native Garden Tour: Mission Accomplished

This is the fourth year that I've included my garden on the Going Native Garden Tour in Santa Clara Valley. And I really have two goals: I want to educate people about California natives, and I want for everyone (including myself) to have a good time.

For this years tour, I was just a little worried. As the sun was rising it was already in the high 60, and the forecast was for the low 90s. Still, it was pleasant to walk around in the morning light and distribute the signs for all the natives.

Every garden on tour must label all natives, and I use yogurt container lids that I distribute in the early morning and remove again at the end of the day. Looking around, I was pleased that more blossoms had opened on the Carpenteria Californica.

I wiped away some spit bug juice (they always arrive the day before the tour), brought out the books, my garden plan, and educational materials, then sat down to a delicious breakfast that Mr. Mouse had prepared for me.

At around 9:30, the fun began. My morning greeter (who is actually one of my neighbors, thanks again!), my fellow docent Country Mouse, and the nursery truck arrived. Yes, my garden had been selected to have Almaden Valley Nursery come and sell their stunning natives in my driveway. This was a special treat for all, not only because the visitors could buy plants, but also because the nursery staff was very knowledgable about the growing conditions of each plant and could therefore help with questions. They had quite a selection, here's a photo from later in the day. There's more on the left side of the driveway.

The first visitors started to arrive promptly at 10, and there were only very few lulls in the steady stream. Our attractive sign was out to make sure nobody missed us.

Right in front of the garage door, conveniently in the shade, we had the sign-in desk staffed by a volunteer and the cashier from the nursery.

As the sun got stronger, the garden looked more and more beautiful.

Especially in the shade. The neighbors' redwoods shade the back garden, so many of the visitors lingered, asking a few questions and sitting on the benches for a bit as the day got warmer. I really enjoyed meeting people, even some readers of this blog, answering questions, and being outside in the shade on such a beautiful day. My garden designer Chris Todd was my afternoon docent, and a second wonderful volunteer came for the front desk.

By 3:30, the stream of visitors slowed a bit. By 3:45, the nursery announced a special so the visitors that were there agonized over which plants to buy and we ended up running a little late. Then I collected the yogurt lid labels for next year, helped the nursery a bit with packing up (they even swept the driveway, I was so impressed), and then went inside and got a cool glass of tea. The next job was doing the math: 387 visitors this year. I was pretty impressed until I found out that the Old Adobe garden, featured in the Palo Alto Weekly the week before, had had over 800 visitors. But we actually were pretty close to the top.

As the totals from the different gardens came in by email, everyone remarked how delightful it had been to talk to people who were really interested in conserving water and changing their gardens. Everyone had more visitors than ever before, and we all felt our mission had been accomplished: Education... and FUN.

Meanwhile, the lizards and birds that like to hang out in the garden were greatly relieved that the circus was over and that the humans returned to their job of taking care of the plants and the bird baths.


Emily said…
I'm so glad it was successful! We had some complications and just couldn't make it out.

Your garden is gorgeous and so inspirational!
WiseAcre said…
More often than not people are unsure about natives. Having visitors seeing them in a garden setting is just the thing to make them believers. Having the nursery come by was really nice. I'm sure you inspired plenty of sales.
What a great idea to have a native plant garden tour! I can imagine it's a bit harrowing getting ready, but very satisfying to participate. By the way "spit bug juice"??? I don't think we have this particular critter in MI!
Town Mouse said…
Oh, I thought everyone has spit bugs. I remember them from my childhood in Germany, and they're certainly rampant here. Here's a brief article and a picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Froghopper
Usually I don't mind them, but it's not great for a tour ;->
Anonymous said…
T.Mouse, wonderful photos. It sounds like it was a very successful day. I wondered a bit when it turned out to be so hot if that would deter some visitors, but judging by the pictures, everyone was well-hatted up.

Love the yogurt lid idea. Do you attach them to some kind of stick? One of my favorite clients had her garden on a tour about 5 years ago. She is an avid gardener and a perfectionist, and had metal tags made. She liked them so much, she's never taken them down (which is great for me, because I don't always recognize the plants I chose a few years later!)
Country Mouse said…
It was a great day - Many people were very impressed with how green TMouse's garden is, even though it doesn't use much irrigation, compared to their image of a native garden - dry and sparse with wiry gray shrubs! Often people think of the chaparral and forget what a diverse range of climates and microclimates we have here. There was even a lady from the landscape committee of one of The Villages - a very large development of condos in south San Jose for people 55 or older - They have a lot of sweeping lawns, golf courses and water features. She was investigating possible landscaping alternatives, though she did say that the residents really love their lush lawns. Still, if water restrictions are enforced, they won't be lush for long.
Town Mouse said…
Garden-Chick, I just bury the bottom half of the lid under a bit of mulch, or a rock if it's a really windy day. Must be painful to have a garden and be a perfectionist ;-> Also read recently that one could use blinds, just cut the string and instant labels ready to stick in the ground.
Garden's not always as lush, and I do water every other day in the redwood habitat (not much, but those plants like a little bit pretty frequently). Having 8 irrigation zones really helps, and I reprogram frequently.
Hi from Texas! I've thought it'd be cool to have a garden tour in our little town. That's what we'd want to do too–educate folks about planting natives.
Anonymous said…
hi :) country mouse's long distance daughter here.

next year, you should leave some of the spit bugs in situ. i remember going on some sort of gardenish tour when i was younger and being impressed by spitbugs :)