Be Inspired by Birmingham’s Glorious Gardens Tour

Although I practically study beautiful gardens, I have somehow wound up with a landscape designed by what  my husband calls the ”Here’s what they had on sale at the garden store today” method. I can’t help being seduced by the bounty of lush foilage that has just been unloaded from the truck straight from carefully controlled growing conditions (a marked contrast to my own yard).

That’s why I love the Glorious Gardens Tour, which is proof to the rest of us that enchanted gardens can exist in our climate (curse this clay soil!).  The tour lets us peek at what planning and hours of time – or money for landscape maintenance – can do for a place.

I imagine the lucky residents who live in these homes getting to enjoy their morning coffee amongst fragrant roses, tinkling fountains and espaliered fruit trees. Some have precisely planted raised beds that promise abundant vegetables in season. Could I be an honorary member in their garden clubs and just hope for some cuttings? Of course, many of the most impressive gardens have professional gardeners to handle the work.

During last year’s tour, a representative from a  property’s landscaping company was on site to answer questions. This was a beautiful home and its surroundings were divided into formal and informal spaces, with topiaries in the grandchildren’s play yard and butterflies and hummingbirds appearing as if on que. (The homeowners chose to remain anonymous, so I won’t mention their name, but I had already heard tour guests whispering that this couple’s garden was a must-see.)

I struck up a conversation with the landscape guy asking how he kept it all watered (daily, sometimes twice a day in hot weather) and got the plants to bloom so profusely (a shake of Osmocote every other month). Finally, I asked how he got so many annuals to become well established early in the season.

“Ma’am,” he responded, “There’s probably three feet of topsoil and compost under those plants.”  Three feet? In hole-digging terms, that’s practically half way to China. It takes commitment for me to get a daffodil bulb the recommended 6 inches into the ground. More likely, the homeowner had truckloads of topsoil brought in, and a similar resculpting of the lawn is simply not in my budget.

Confronted with what it really takes to grow a glorious garden – back breaking labor, patience, and the time or money to maintain it all – I’ll gladly take a tour and enjoy the fruits/blossoms of someone else’s labor.

Tickets are available at any of the gardens for $25 to see all the featured gardens or $10 for a single garden. Proceeds benefit the Birmingham Botanical Garden.