Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

November 27, 2014

Discouraging visitors from walking into the garden

My backyard is a tiny place, with a garden. It's not a backyard for throwing footballs, or playing soccer. It's a place to sit quietly and enjoy the flowers. I have a lot of interesting plants, which I have carefully selected for visual interest.

So when people are interested in seeing it, I am happy to show it off. But I don't want them stepping into the planting area. Walking in a garden is as rude as strolling across someone's dining room table, but most people don't know that. And I think I've made just about every design mistake possible, and watched with horror as people's big feet came crashing down on tiny plants beginning to grow, my watering system,  the Malibu lights and well, just about everything that could be accidentally kicked and knocked over.

I've learned from this experience, and I'm always watching my visitors to see where my design has failed. So, in spite of my specifically asking my visitors not to walk in the garden, in certain places it's seemed to be irresistible. And that means, in addition to killing plants, they create the problem of making me have to go back and do repairs to the watering system, which is intentionally hidden among the plants. So here it is so far:

• Don't create something that looks like a path if you don't want people to walk there. Originally, I had a bunch of stepping-stones that I used to help me maintain the garden, but I found that visitors would, naturally enough, step on them. Now I give people a very clear path of where I want them to step - I have flagstone along the edge that says, "step here". I keep an eye in the garden at anywhere that looks as if a foot can be placed, and I put something there, either a plant, or a pointy rock. Pointy rocks, by the way, discourage stepping on them because they're, well, pointy.

• Define the edge clearly, but don't do a curb. Walking along the edge of a curb, and balancing, is irresistible, and not just to kids. I remember seeing people talking on their phone, walking along the edge, occasionally losing their balance and stepping into the garden. The defined edge that I have has pointy rocks. Yeah, I like pointy rocks. They're also big and heavy, and set deeply into the ground, so that if someone isn't watching where they walk, their foot will hit the rock, and it won't roll into the garden.

• Give people places to stand, and sit. I have a table and chairs. A place for people is included in my garden. There's enough space for a small group of people to stand and talk, without having to wind their way around obstacles.

And there you go. No, you're not going to be able to keep the most thick-skulled people from walking in the garden. For them, I just try to get them away as quickly as possible. For everyone else, if I seem them stepping, or walking, in an area where I don't them to be, I see a design mistake that I will have to fix.
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