July is when the garden is at its most magnificent. It is also garden tour season. Every city and most towns will have garden tours and some of the larger cities will have garden competitions through their different horticulture societies. I absolutely recommend spending a couple of weekends in July and August supporting your local horticulture society or group and visiting gardens in your community. Talk with the owners and complement them on all of their hard efforts. Eventually, take the plunge and try your hand. The judges often give very good advice on improving your garden and in a couple of years, you just may win. Although, everyone says it’s not about the winning … it really is.
Some of the things that judges look for are healthy looking plants. No diseases, or at least they have to look like they are being treated. The plants need to be staked up (your cages should not be visible) and deadheaded. That is, you must remove all spent flowers. The soil needs to be fluffy, i.e. freshly cultivated, and free of weeds. I judged for many years and we counted all of the weeds. Any more than 5 was a big error to us.
Also, we looked at other things: do you have noxious or banned weeds or plants, is your composter clean and tidy, are your trees and shrubs trimmed properly, and is your lawn green and free of dandelion.
Depending on what category you are competing in, the judges also look at design, four season plantings, and accent features. People will often compete for three or four years until they finally get a first. And it is incredibly satisfying. I have seen many examples of smaller homes knocking out large homes simply because they are the better gardeners.
If you are not into competition then many people have wedding parties or big summer splashes, where the garden is the venue. I know, “Pride goeth before a fall,” but truly when everyone is walking through the garden with a glass of wine in hand adoring how beautiful the garden is, gosh that makes you feel good.
-Kevin Napora, Landscape Designer & Master Gardener, Salisbury Landscaping, Edmonton & Area