Garden Tour Etiquette

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With multiple garden tours upon us each spring, we San Diegans have opportunities to visit yards where the landscaping is as integral to the home environment as the interior. Here are tips for getting the most from the experience.

When purchasing tickets:  

  • Read the tour information carefully for details about age limits for youngsters, hours of tour and other details.
  • If you have special needs, inquire in advance about accessibility (canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) and if service dogs are acceptable.
  • If possible, purchase tickets in advance of tour day to save time (and often save money).
  • Garden tours are fundraisers, so don’t complain about the ticket cost.

Come prepared:

  • Bear in mind that these are private residences and the homeowners are graciously sharing their garden with tour attendees.
  • Bring water, a notebook and pen, camera, sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
  • Understand that you may need to park several blocks away. Private gardens often lack adequate pathways for wheelchairs and strollers.


  • Ask the host if it is OK to take photos (most will say yes) and if you may use a tripod (do so very carefully).
  • Ask questions, but understand that your host may not be able to answer all of your questions if there are other people who also need help. Don’t monopolize the host’s time with endless questions!

Say thanks:

  • Do compliment the gardener on what you like.
  • Ignore what you don’t care for; these are intensely personal gardens and may not be to your taste (for example, lots of folks hate my conga line of plastic pink flamingoes!).


  • Don’t bring pets.
  • Don’t bring youngsters unless they’re under your complete control at all times. Ask your host before using a stroller in the garden.
  • Don’t arrive before the tour officially begins, and don’t stay after it ends.
  • Don’t take cuttings or seeds.
  • Don’t remove plant labels.
  • Don’t pick a flower or leaf to bring to the host for identification.
  • Don’t smoke or picnic in the gardens.

Five Great Reasons to go on Garden Tours

  • Inspiration and garden design ideas come from looking at gardens with a fresh eye. Seeing several gardens in the same day is invigorating. Think of incorporating some of what you see in your garden at home. You’ll probably see new color combinations or different ways to mix various kinds of foliage, for example. Look for water-thrifty plants to add to your landscape or self-seeding annuals to cut down on garden chores.
  • Learn about new plants you haven’t seen or used before. Folks whose gardens are on tours are generally very adventurous gardeners. Learn from what they’ve tried. Our local nurseries stock a huge range of plants, so be inspired to experiment with some you haven’t tried yet.
  • Meet great gardeners with warm hearts! Only friendly folks open their gardens for tours, and they’re happy to share their secrets, their triumphs and their mistakes with you.
  • See the same plants in different settings and think about what would work in your garden. For example, I’ve seen gardens mix pansies with veggies, or use spring-blooming bulbs and lavender with roses.
  • See different kinds of hardscape that may work in your own yard. What kinds of brick are used? Are raised beds made from wood or railroad ties, and which do you prefer for your garden? How about poured concrete pathways vs. gravel vs. wood chips vs. grassy paths? And how many different ways are there to make a trellis, edge a pathway or cage tomatoes?


Susi Torre-Bueno
Newsletter Editor
San Diego Horticultural Society

San Diego Horticultural Society’s Annual Spring Garden Tour, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 5, features nine gardens in Solana Beach and Olivenhain. For more information, visit or call 619-296-9215, ext. 5.

Categories: Gardening