More Lessons from Garden Tours

Path in gardenI posted over the weekend about the Hudson, Wis., Artful Garden tour, which included a variety of large and small gardens and different garden styles. On Sunday, I attended the South St. Paul Garden Tour, a one-day event with eight  private gardens (and one public) open to the public. The gardens illustrated many of the basic concepts of garden design and demonstrated how to put them into practice in your own yard. Here are four lessons I took away from my afternoon in South St. Paul.

Make a path. Gardens are meant for wandering. You want visitors (and the gardener) to be able to get from one garden space to the next easily. This photo was taken in a two-tiered urban lot that was immaculately designed. It had a Japanese aesthetic, I thought, and it felt very comfortable and soothing, in part due the the paths that led you around the garden.

Plant big. Big plants, like this fabulous giant Japanese butterbur (Petasites Japonicus), have impact. They cover a lot of territory, giving a grounded feeling to parts of the garden. This one is in a back corner where it disguises some utility areas and acts as an exclamation point in that section of the garden.

Hypertoufa container with rocksUse texture. Yes, plants can provide texture with their leaf shapes, prickles or downy coverings. But sticks, rocks and sculptural elements also add textural contrast. This hypertoufa container of rocks adds a different dimension than it would filled with fluffy annuals or spiny succulents. It’s especially interesting next to the twig arbor leading to the lower section of this garden.

Have fun! Why not hang a bird cage in the garden and put a black-eyed Susan vine in it? Or how about putting mannequin heads with caps on them in a shrub? Antiques make great additions to gardens because they have a patina and texture of their own.

Here’s a photo gallery with more shots from the South St. Paul tour, including some of the fun elements I saw. What are some of your best ideas from garden tours?

6 thoughts on “More Lessons from Garden Tours

  1. Amy — Tours are so much fun. All the garden tours I attend are listed in the calendar section of Northern Gardener. There are a lot of tours on the weekend of July 14-15. If you don’t get the magazine, it’s available at Barnes & Noble, many independent garden centers and at some grocery stores in the Twin Cities. You can also find the listings in the event section of the the MSHS website,

  2. What an excellent post. I’m off to interview two gardeners this am who are on a local garden tour – and I am going to pay particular attention to paths and texture. You are always teaching me, Mary.

  3. Thanks Mary for featuring my two tiered garden and using it for examples of path and texture as lessons. FYI, that broken sidewalk path is less than two months old and took about fifty hours to complete. The hypertoufa that looks like stone is actually made of a very heavy thick plastic and is left outside all year round. Thank again.
    – Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.