Garden Snooping

By Greta Belanger deJong

The garden tours of Salt Lake (and some tips on spying on your neighbors’ gardens). 

Many summers ago, the Utah Museum of Fine Art offered annual (or perhaps it was biennial) tours of elegant home gardens. Thousands of garden snoops would traipse through strangers’ artfully done backyards, gleaning for good ideas or just open to inspiration. I, myself, developed a crush on an alpine garden near the zoo that I tried to duplicate in my lower-altitude, shady plot; I was young and foolish, and it ended ridiculously, but inspiration takes its chances, yes?

That storied horticultural event (for many of the gardens, as well as their houses, were ambitious and grand) is from bygone days. A more down-home version is the Wasatch Community Gardens’ Tour de Coops. Know that if people have poultry, their gateway drug to food production was likely a vegetable garden, with maybe some xeriscaping and a pond for good measure. You’ll see a lot more than hen houses on these tours. Go.

South Valley Tour (Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Draper), June 23. Down­town tour, June 30.

An outing with the intriguing title of Hidden Garden Tour happens each summer to the south. Master Gar­deners of Utah County host this year’s tour on June 15 & 16. Visit 10 gardens from Orem to Mapleton. The tour includes gardening classes before the tour begins, both days.

Tour co-chair Denise Boyer tells me we’ll find cottage gardens and estates, gardens designed by home-owners and landscape architects, vegetable gardens (of course), and a BYU botanist’s garden of native plants. Watch website for details.

Red Butte Garden tours: This might seem more like ogling than snooping. But I advise you to take on a snoop’s demeanor. You want to know just what is the name of that iris resembling a parrot’s plume (maybe you can buy some at the upcoming plant sale) or see how they pruned the rosemary. If you’re lazy, you can go to their website and tour the garden right now. Of course it’s not the same. But it’s pretty.

Temple Square: Downtown Salt Lake City houses a 35-acre botanical inspiration. No, you won’t see a new technique for trellising your tomatoes, but you may see new things, with over 700 varieties of plants from all over the world. The gardens are redesigned and replanted twice a year. Wander at your leisure. (Garden tours are available May-September.)

And now for the serious snooping: Go for a walk or bike ride. Look for yards that mimic your own yard’s aspects—surrounding shade trees, slope, position in relation to the sun. Stop at the parking strips or front yards that catch your attention. If you see an unfamiliar plant you particularly like, take a snapshot (up-close, and at a short distance to see how it grows). Are people present? In general, gardeners are eager to engage in plant talk. You may even leave with clump or two of the plant that caught your eye.

This article was originally published on March 30, 2012.