Mind Your Manners: House & Garden Tour Season Starts
Take a Peak Into Some of the Washington Area’s Most Beautiful Gardens
Always wanted to know what was hidden behind that neighbor’s brick wall or front door? House and garden tours allow you to indulge your nosiness and take a look into the homes and backyards of others – to contrast and compare with your own.
A number of home and garden tours are coming up in the Washington region. You’ll have access to some breath-taking homes and luscious gardens in neighborhoods all over the city and nearby towns. You can also feel good about the nominal tour fee you pay as most of them benefit local historical societies and charities.
Coming up this weekend is the Annual House and Garden Tour sponsored by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. Go to http://www.chrs.org/ to learn more. Also this Saturday is the Georgetown Garden Tour, see http://www.georgetowngardentour.com/.
When on a house and garden tour, you are a guest in someone else’s domain, please be aware at all times that the open house or garden is a sacrifice for your host. They expect a certain amount of minimal damage from inviting in the crowds, but try to respect their property as you would have them act at your own. The following rules well help you move through house and garden tours with the greatest of ease while giving the least offense.
• Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily slip on and off. You will be doing a lot of walking and stair climbing. Also, many home tours ask you to remove your shows before entering a house so wear clean, mended socks or get a pedicure if needed.
• Dress is layers and where a hat plus sunscreen. Going from home to garden and back again can involve a number of temperature changes as well as more sun exposure than you might expect.
• When entering a home, room, or garden gate, allow those who want to leave to exit first.
• When approaching a flight of stairs, look up first to make sure there is no one wanting to come down first. If there is, allow them to exit before you ascend the stairs.
• In general, home and garden tours are not designed for young ones. They are easily bored and exhausted as there is a lot of stair climbing, crowds, and adult conversation. Please leave your children at home.
• This same applies to pets. Please do not bring them. Garden hosts and homeowners thank you for your consideration.
• Take along a camera and notepad plus pen to take copious notes and record of all the great ideas you’ll see. Digital cameras are ideal for taking images of plants and their labels.
• When you stop to take a photo or notes, do not impede traffic and try to step aside to make way for others. Conversely, if someone is trying to take a photo do not jostle them or push past them. An “excuse me” works most every time.
• Listen and read. Nothing is as irksome to a host as repeating the same information 15 times that is already printed in your tour program. Additional questions are always welcome, but please keep them on topic and limit them to just a few to not monopolize their time.
• You have the same plant, paint color, or furniture at your home? Who cares! The home owner does not need to know this.
• Watch your step! Keep to the garden paths and inside a home stick to the designated tour areas.
• Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pick flowers, seeds, or branches. Do not touch household items. In addition, leave the plant labels exactly where they are.
• Watch your backpack and your bags. Do not smack them against other people, household furnishings, or plants. Leave big bags at home and pack as light as possible.
• Leave the “weeds” alone. The gardener-in-residence may not agree with your assessment of what a “weed” is nor will they appreciate the veiled criticism your grooming implies.
• Take your trash with you. Most tours also provide a rest stop, so use that opportunity to dispose of any items and use the restroom if needed.
• Do not expect refreshments, though many tours may have a break area or children selling lemonade and cookies to raise funds – many others do not. Bring a bottle of water and a snack to hold you over until your next meal.
• Park only where directed to – be aware of neighbors’ driveways, fire hydrants, plantings, and street signage.
• If the home or garden is not to your taste or liking, please keep your comments to yourselves. If you must voice your opinion, do not do so until you are well away from the tour and other tour attendees. That person near you in the next home or garden could be the previous home’s owner!
• If you meet the home owner or gardener compliment them lavishly and at the very least thank them for opening their spaces up to public scrutiny. It is a lot of hard work and takes a great deal of bravery to do so.
Home and garden tours can be delightful experiences for all involved. Not only will you see examples of beautiful homes and gardens, but you will learn what grows well here and what doesn’t. Get ideas for plant combinations and positioning. Most of all get inspired to get out there and plant a wonderful garden of your own.
This article originally appeared in the May 18, 2006 edition of the Washington Examiner newspaper.