The judges are coming!

mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9July 25, 2014

The city where I live asked me to submit my yard for an award. The judges are coming on August 5th to look at my yard. Any advice?

My roses are burnt due to the extreme heat. Not too many flowers. Tomatoes are also starting to look a little bad. Birds are eating all my figs while I am away at work.

My low flow water system is working well. Drip working well. I need to pull some weeds and though I want to feed my plants (I only garden organically), I am concerned about doing so and having the new growth burned as it is still over 105 degrees in the day and barely cooling off to 75 or so for two seconds at 4 in the morning.

So any advice to get my yard ready for the judges? I am nervous and excited at the same time.

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muscovyduckling(Melbourne, Australia)

Well, my garden is by no means competition worthy (my pot ghetto is, though...), and I'm sort of a "warts and all" type gardener, but I have noticed that when I sweep up all the fallen leaves from the concrete patio and de-weed my paved areas it really makes a huge difference! I still only do this about 4 times a year, though, mostly when I want the fallen leaves to use as mulch. Hah.

This might be really ridiculous advice from a lazy gardener to a competition-worthy gardener....haha. But I think making your paved areas look "free of organic matter" really draws a clear line between your plantings and your hardscaping, and I think it might be the contrast (or perhaps it's just the neatness) that makes the garden look more inviting. My garden is totally overrun with a mishmash of weeds and plantings, and it still looks fairly orderly and controlled when I get around to sweeping :)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:19AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

I do not know what most people do in this situation. Do you have a map of your garden? Do you have a description of your plants?

Since we have antique roses, many people do not know that some antique roses nod, and they think something is wrong with them when they visit your yard. In a description you could insert unique traits of individual plants.

More than likely you have observed many other gardens that have been chosen, and you will know exactly what to do.

Good luck and Congratulations.
(I cannot imagine being on such a committee, and trying to decide which garden to choose.)


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:50AM
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Mendocino_Rose(z8 N CA.)

I imagine that they'll be looking at how well you have dealt with the summer heat in August. That must be why they do this at such a hard time of year instead of in the spring. I would think that they would be making a few excuses for people and not expecting spring in England. Getting some spots of color in is a great idea as long as it doesn't look last minute.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:06AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I would go stand on the sidewalk, the middle of the street and across the street and see what you notice good and bad. Sweeping off sidewalks and hardscape, cleanup dead or old growth from the very lowest parts of plants, any weeds or weedy looking plants and then the night before dead head your roses.

As far as adding color. I would suspect that being in California, you are going to have a fairly garden savvy group of judges. In a dry year, things that look water thirsty and just added will not help your cause. I would look to add color that is cool and refreshing but coordinated. It can be putting succulents or grasses in nice pots on steps or a porch. Also remember that white draws the eye so if you have something you don't want them to notice, make sure it is not white or has something nearby in white to distract.

If you can include a plant list for them, by all means include info on antique rose survivors that might not have the HT form. They might be savvy judges but not ones that know that roses come in different classes.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:28AM
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If you have any big teas or tea noisettes, it might be advantageous to mention in your plant list that these are heritage roses from California's historic past. It totally wows me, and I suspect many people are enchanted by this aspect.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:57PM
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I would deadhead spent blooms now.
By the tour date, you will have new buds & blooms.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:44PM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

Great advice from all of you! My rose "beds" tend to be in the back yard and I have a few roses lining my walkway in the front along with penstamens, laurentia (LOVE that plant), day lillies, iris, etc. My porch has a ton of succulents in pots. Along the driveway I have crape myrtles and lantana. The back yard has my "rose beds" (one to be exact as I have a very small yard), my fruit trees (lemons, key limes, Australian finger limes, yuzu, etc.) in pots and the very back has other fruit trees.

They are judging yards on water savings, beauty, organic and sustainable gardening practices, etc. I pretty much grow only Austin roses and some mini's (Ralph Moore was only 45 minutes from me).

Roses look awful as the leaves are so sunburned right now. I think I will try to feed everything this weekend (only supposed to be 108 degrees) and place some compost down as well.

My Munstead Rose, Pretty Jessica and Princess Alexandra of Kent are all in bloom now but that is about it other than my Peach Blossom rose.

These pictures are from the spring.

Thank you all so much for the great advice. I am just so excited although I have seen what has won in the past and I don't think I stand a chance. I will keep you posted.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:06PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I think your yard and combination of fruit trees and flowers is wonderful. I have a mix as well, only it will never make the cut you did. Congrats!!

I think much depends on the judges and what they like. My end of the area and I think the judges taste is bland. In town it seems you need a variety of grasses, sages, DG, a boulder, and a variety of aqua and teal pots and maybe a couple of iceberg roses.... :-)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:21AM
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Your garden is pretty! How about adding six rose trees (in classic flower pots) by the walk way, three each side (1st photo)? The garden won't look flat if you do that. You need to stage your garden. Check out the French garden designs....might help you with some ideas to spicy up your garden. If you want to win, pretty is not enough, you'd need something more, something you have room for a unique fountain? The best spot for a fountain is at the end of the walk way (1st photo). The 2nd photo, there are too many windchimes, take the big ones out just for that can add some crystal lights on the arbor.......

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:56AM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

Thanks Summerseve. At the end of the walkway in the first picture is my front door! I have a porch there with potted succulants.

I have my unique fountain in the back yard. I have crystal lights on my arbor that are solar.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 7:32AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Your garden is beautiful. Just make sure everything is clean and weedless. I don't think you need to add anything.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 8:54AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I also think that your garden is beautiful, and if the competition is judged partly on water savings adding a bunch of new plants or extra water features probably isn't the best bet. I read an article one time on how to prep your garden for a garden party that might be useful to you. They had some good ideas, like to find which areas are looking best and do things to draw the attention there while taking it away from areas that are more spent. Or if you have a bare spot where you want some quick color just bury a new plant in it's pot in the ground there - avoiding transplant shock and allowing you to pull it out and use it somewhere else when the event is over. Or just pop a plant from the nursery into a nice looking pot and place it where needed.

I always feel like my garden doesn't look 'good enough' but then when I have people over they usually think it's wonderful. I think as gardeners we tend to focus on what needs to be done or could look better, because we know how things look at their peak or 'should' look. But outsiders come into your garden and tend to see the good things, they eye is drawn to the beauty first and they oftentimes don't notice the problems that we gardeners get caught up on.

Good luck, and I hope you have a good experience!

Here is a link that might be useful: Whip your garden into shape!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:46AM
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Patricia43(z8 AL)

You know those prissy ladies and dapper gentlemen are only looking for design and tidy. The fountain's water is an added bonus and now that you shared with us, we are pulling for you. Just a couple container gardens makes the medicine go down, medicine go down and the colors soar.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:52AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

If you can see the table with the succulents from the street or on the tour, I would make sure that you pick out anything looking tired or dead from them and that all the colors of containers look harmonious to you.

I love your night time look. You might want to note if the fountain attracts birds etc because of the moving water. I would make very sure that there was just enough water to run the pumps but not enough to splash on to the ground.

Since water conservation is key this year, adding plants that look thirsty will subtract rather than add. I love the look of roses as standards, but not in a dry year. The judges will probably avoid voting for landscapes that appear to need a lot of water. Remember that these photos get shared and if they are promoting low water use, low water use looking gardens will win over higher water use gardens just because it is politically correct this year. They may prefer a lush look themselves but not vote that way.

As an example of a local and out spoken garden designer, this may very well be more the look they are going to vote for. Check out the types of plants used and how the colors of the plants work together (or not) It is not my style, but this very well might be what the judges are looking for due to water restrictions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Billy Goodnick

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:19AM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

Peachymomo, what a great article! Thank you so much for the hyperlink. I have done a lot of the suggestions already and will implement some of the other ones. Thanks again.

Kippy, I loved the hyperlink. What a beautiful yard, the water saving plants looked beautiful. Thank you again for posting it.

Everyone else, thank you so much for the encouragement and nice words. Was busy out there today until the sun and heat forced me indoors. Got the front fed, mulched and deadheaded. Got part of the plants in the back in pots pruned and fed. Got to do the other "beds" tomorrow when it is a bit cooler. It is 105 degrees outside right now and still climbing. UGH!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 5:34PM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

Well the judges came and went. My gardener, who comes twice a month had set my timer inappropirately for my sprinkler/drip system. They were not happy about it. I was not happy about it. However, most of them were very interested in my plants and the fact that I tend to grow varieties that are not normally seen here.

I heard back from them this week. I WON!!! I am shocked! There are probably three or four winners, both in the home and commercial divisions. Award ceremonies will be next month. I get a sculpture (of a large CA quail--looks like a penquin with a top knot to me) to put in my front yard for a year along with a plaque. Then I have to give everything back next year to the next winner.

Meanwhile, the heat and drought continue and I am looking forward to next year roses I will be purchasing. Thank you again for your support and suggestions. I can't believe my little yard won!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 11:58PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)


    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 12:09AM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

Congratulations!! How awesome! You must be so proud.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 5:10AM
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Ninkasi(6ish Germany)


    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 6:39AM
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That's awesome. Congratulations!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 8:09AM
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What an honor! Great job!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 12:22PM
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Z 7a E Tn

Congrats! It's a good feeling to have all your hard work and creativity acknowledged. But the win is just the icing on the cake. The real prize is that you have such a great yard!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!! :-) You should have a garden party to celebrate, rock the neighborhood!! What about a block party??

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 8:29PM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

I picked up my award yesterday morning. Got my certificate, quail statue and sign to put in my front yard. We had to make an acceptance speech (there were five winners in this area of 1 mil people). I thanked all of you (and other plant forums) for the great advice you give me on-line and for your kindness to novice gardners. I will take a picture of my "winnings" when I get a chance and post them. Thank you all so much again.

It was a memorable day. It started with me taking my boyfriend to the ER. We thought he had another blood clot in his leg but it turned out to be cellulitis. While we were waiting for the MD report, I went and got my award (it was less than a mile from the hospital ER) and ran back. Boy, my boyfriend will do anything to get out of going to a botanical garden!!!! :)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2014 at 2:29PM
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