Locusts on the Garden Tour

June 29, 2010

The Barely Extended Family came to visit for our island’s garden tour. Only the very elite gardens are featured on this tour, and competition to be chosen is very intense. The Friendly Neighbours, gardeners extraordinaire, were selected. (The competition is very intense, and beneath the surface of immense politeness, fairly passionate, and even downright nasty…)

Mrs. Random became a docent for the tour. I was chosen to help guide visitors on where to park their Mercedes, BMWs, or Lexi.

Tickets to the tour are fairly expensive, hence the high proportion of visitors driving luxury cars. All the money from the tickets goes to charities. The visitors get to slake the need for natural beauty in their lives, and ease their guilt at being well off in a world of immense suffering.

Mrs. Random is very shy and very introverted, so it was only natural that she be assigned to help guide people. I have been a teacher and learned to act like an extrovert, so to keep me away from victims trapped in the garden, I was assigned to parking.

 Parking at big events such as this–over a 1,000 people came on one Saturday, is amazingly complicated. If not handled well, one could film a movie full of car crashes, shoot outs, carjackings, and the like.

 While I could write a novel on the day, I will limit myself to a short sketch describing my taking advantage of the opportunity to do stand up comedy as I helped guide visitors to an appropriate parking spot. Many of the rich visitors are elderly. They are easily confused and do not want to walk a long distance. Some are handicapped, with mobility limited by hip replacements and the like.

 In the battle plan, using cones and crime scene tape, we laid out the private dirt road with one-way parking, facing out, to make escape easy. Six parkers spaced over a mile of road carried walkie-talkies and wore road worker vests. Typical helpful advice I provided:

 “I am going to have you turn around here and send you the other way. I will guide you so you don’t end up in the ditch while you are turning around.”

 “As a special bonus for visiting the garden, you will get some cardiovascular exercise. It’s good for your heart. To make that possible, drive down to the next parker.”

 A lot of pedestrians walked in the middle of the road in a fairly clueless manner. Naturally, I warned people as they drove on the narrow road, “If you can hit at least ten people as you drive to your parking spot, we will provide a 50% refund of your ticket price.” [Seriously, one of the parking guides did suffer a mild, glancing blow from one of the drivers, but was not injured.]

 My best effort was, “You will need to drive a long way. Then you will get to turn around and get closer. It looks worse than it is. Except, it is worse than it looks.”

The parkers working down the road reported the drivers had a very glazed, confused expression on their faces and obeyed instructions in an obedient, almost robotic manner.

7 Responses to “Locusts on the Garden Tour”

  1. Karen O Says:

    So how did Mrs. Random handle being the tour guide lady? I would have been very nervous.

    • modestypress Says:

      Apparently, being a tour guide lady went pretty well. My wife has been practicing at the farmer’s market. As long as she is talking to people about gardening, she is fairly comfortable. It’s like going swimming; once you are in the water, it is not too bad.

  2. Norwichrocks Says:

    Splendid instructions from the parking guide man 🙂

    How many gardens were ‘open’?

  3. modestypress Says:

    Some people would be intimidated at the thought of feeding 24 people for a sit-down dinner. However, the owners of The Gathering Place have a knack for it and most of the dinner comes out of their own backyard garden—even the wine!

    For the past five years, the [friendly neighbors] have been building a garden that provides them with year-round food and lots of color. They let the site dictate what to do and built their cabin atop a ridge. While most of the lowland was logged 24 years ago, some of the upland has not been logged since the early 1900s. Flowing with the natural topography and applying permaculture techniques allowed them to harmonize with the natural stormwater control features. Rather than wiping the slate clean and building orderly beds amidst rectilinear fencelines, they meandered downslope to emulate some of their favorite hiking trails, complete with mesmerizing viewpoints.

    Walk in through the driveway gates and explore the colorful entry gardens before climbing up through rose-scented air to the cabin’s front porch. From here the garden’s full glory begins to reveal itself, and you will want to watch your step as you head down to enter the fenced area. Roses and ornamentals tucked under the stately firs gradually give way to edibles and orchard. You will see no slugs as the ducks are diligent-you may hear them as you pass the wildflowers and poultry yard. At the bottom of the garden, check out the espalier Marionberries before climbing back up to the entry-did we mention it was appropriated planted with alpines? This is a garden for sturdy footwear, as well as an appreciation for how to gather ornamentals, natives, and edibles into a place of delight.

    [Photos forthcoming]

  4. I’d love to have official permission to run down median-walking idiots. I should take you with me the next time I try to park at my local grocery store, a haven for aimless wanderers.

  5. modestypress Says:


    The gardens all had arty farty names. The Friendly Neighbors’ Garden as you can see from the previous comment, was called “The Gathering Place.”

    Your garden in Portland will be called, Haven for Aimless Wanderers. The people you run over will be medusa-ed into statues.

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