Over the past couple months, I’ve been more of a garden gawker than usual.

In June, I was one of a group of garden communicators touring private gardens in Madison, WI. And last weekend I browsed a couple local garden walks. In Western New York, we have 13 smaller garden walks in area towns and villages within a 30-mile radius, 2 big city of Buffalo walks, and 90-plus Open Gardens that can be viewed on specific days throughout July. You can spend the entire month here looking at a very diverse range of gardening styles – and these are all free and open to the public.

I could stop this post right there. What other region does this on such a scale?

However, one does need to rant. So here’s a gentle one with my observations on what works and does not work when your garden is on a public or private tours. Keep in mind that impressions are made swiftly when people are on a mission to see a bunch of gardens in a relatively short period of time. And that I am likely guilty of a lot of this in my own garden practice.

Curb appeal! There’s some argument about how important landscaping is in real estate, but on garden tours, first impressions start with the front of the house. If it’s uninviting, visitors may never see the glories of the side and back gardens. For example I do like how the plantings here complement rather than overpower the strong lines of this house. 

I’m finding I care more about neatness than I thought I did. There should be some kind of  – how can I put this – plan or method to these front gardens. Nobody wants the meatball shrub-and-lawn aesthetic, but there’s a middle ground between that and an unkempt mini-field of perennials, most of which desperately need deadheading. 

I don’t agree with those who would report such front plantings for “high weeds,” but neither would I hold them up as great examples of what to do. Meadows are great if you have the space and you know what you’re doing (as above). 

Keep the manmade objects under control. It’s so hard to know when enough is enough with these. But at some point, a plethora of garden art can start to overcome the things one assumes most people are there for: interesting plants, whether they’re trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals. It’s best when gardeners achieve the best of both worlds, like a really unusual vintage metal wheelbarrow filled with some equally cool annuals (as seen at top)

Details. Here’s an obvious one: A stick-on product description was left on a container and because the plants inside the container were just barely making themselves visible above the pot’s edge, it was noticeable. Oh and the image above shows the only style of garden label I’ve seen that I like.

There are so many things that take minimal effort, but really help, like just pulling away leaves that are obscuring a walkway, or, as I do, mulching the small areas between particularly robust plantings. 

Apropos of nothing, I loved the way this gardener (above) found to use shower curtains at the very back of her shady space. 

Actually, even reading this small list kind of fills me with guilt. There are a few things I will really need to get to before Buffalo Garden Walk this weekend!