For better or worse, I thought I’d spend a moment ranting upon something petty in the garden that drives me absolutely insane, has done for years, and which will probably turn out to be a nothing burger with no bun for the majority of the population.

In fact I’m almost guaranteed to be branded selfish, unyielding, boring, and no fun at a party. 

Here’s the gist of it: When it comes to choosing attire when garden visiting, would it be too much to ask of day-trippers to pick something that even slightly blends into the scenery?

Pretend you’re going to play paint ball if it helps.

I’m a garden photographer.  At least I pretend to be each time I write a book or give a talk.  Consequently, I take a lot of photographs of a lot of gardens.  Though I’m often lucky to get private access, many times I’m just walking through them like everyone else, praying the light will work, and the wind will stop blowing, and I won’t run out of memory, or fail to focus correctly due to what passes for my eyesight these days.

And then, just as the stars align and the shot is there for the taking, someone ambles into frame – which, no problem, as hey, this is a garden and we’re all allowed to be there and I’m not a total narcissistic monster and sooner or later they’ll walk behind a shrub and disappear. 


Good for an Alaskan fishing barge, not so great for a garden.

Even if I’m not taking a picture it’s jarring. And it’s not as if I’m a total misanthrope. Staring at a gentle garden vista and watching two lovers walk by in the rain wearing forest green parkas with hands held under black umbrellas is romantic – I may even make it the focus of my composition. 

Two lovers walking by in electric blue Northface garb with an umbrella that looks like it was last owned by Rodney Dangerfield during the filming of Caddy Shack will break my lens and pierce my heart.

The general public? Okay I get it.  You probably got dragged to the garden by a relative and would rather be at Hershey Park. Where, coincidentally, you got that fetching poncho. How are you to know that you are literally offending mine eyes and ruining mine shot?

But garden writers?  Gardeners?  Come on guys. The very first time I remember being conscious of this embryonic (possibly imbecilic), pet peeve was at a Garden Writers’ Association tour in a small garden in the rain.  A bus load of 50.

But I’m fast, and nimble, and managed to get a few shots in, until one of them picked the most charming and centrally located aspect of the garden and proceeded to sit down in the middle of it and bide her time discontentedly until the bus left, encased in an outfit that I can only presume doubled as a uniform in her side job as a school crossing guard.  

Ever since then I’ve been curiously aware of how people love to stick out and wear their flair. Which is great at a party. Or a high-school reunion. Or TGI Friday’s. But not so great in a quiet, reflective, gorgeous natural space. 

Unless of course you’re lost and being hunted for by a helicopter.

In short: Be boring. Meld with the colors around you. Seek ye not to outdo the landscape, BE the landscape. We’re gardeners. We work in green and brown. Green and brown are practically our school colors. So when choosing outdoor wear, how about a bit of school spirit?

And I’m totally fun at a party. Electric blue all the way. So there. – MW