Photos above provided by Tim Evans.
My name is Tim Evans, a Registered Massage Therapist for over 26 years and a gardener for even longer. I am also a long-time friend of Julia Schoen, past coordinator for Nature Manitoba’s garden tours. Julia got me involved many years ago when showing my garden from my previous home on one of the Nature Manitoba garden tours. Since then I have become ‘hooked’ on garden tours.
In 2020 I took over as garden tour coordinator from Joe Leven, who ran the garden tour for 3 years after Julia stepped down. And, with the help of a long-time Nature Manitoba member, Gail Thiessen, we enlisted gardens for our 2020 garden tour. It was great fun hunting them down, standing on our tiptoes peeking over fences to see what the back garden looked like, trying to decide which gardens to select, and hoping once you find a great garden that the owner(s) would agree to participate in the garden tour. A few times my request was declined, but we ended up finding an amazing assortment on both sides of the Red River to eventually show for 2022.
This year’s garden tour didn’t happen without numerous trials and tribulations! We were supposed to present in 2020, but a phenomenon called COVID happened so the garden tour got postponed until the next year due to the isolation required. We were all rarin’ to show in 2021 but again, COVID restricted our ability to have our tour despite some advanced ticket sales. For those who purchased tickets in 2021, we were happy to be able to offer replacement tickets for this year’s 2022 garden tour.
Some of you may have noticed the change of name for our garden tour from “Our Natural Garden Tour” to “Gardens of Distinction Garden Tour”. I have sold tickets for both Nature Manitoba and Manitoba Master Gardener Association (MMGA) out of my office (Ironically I am a member of MMGA and a Master Gardener), but found my office sold many more MMGA tickets over the years. Apparently this was because the name “Master Gardener” made it seem like the tour would have better quality gardens! Since I attend all the Winnipeg tours, I knew better!
Well, the change of name to Nature Manitoba “Gardens of Distinction Garden Tour” has paid off! We did incredibly well this year financially as a result of the name change and the hard work of our dedicated volunteers. Our total intake for the garden tour and plant sale was over $7,200.
As the new tour coordinator, I am doing my best to keep Nature Manitoba’s garden tour competitive by constantly improving our garden tour format.
Things that I think contribute to making our garden tour successful
• Pre-tour evenings for the gardeners and volunteers the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings prior to the garden tour. This way everyone gets the opportunity to see what each other’s gardens look like! Because gardeners and volunteers stay put in the gardens during the tour itself, this also gives them the opportunity to meet each other as well as the volunteers who help them out.
• A potluck is planned a week after the garden tour at my home so the gardeners and volunteers may tell stories of their experience with the Saturday tour. They can also connect to exchange plants or seeds.
Every year we choose one public location, such as a museum or city park, as one of our garden tour stops. There we sell the donated plants as well as tickets for the tour on the morning of the garden tour. This year’s museum/city park site was Seven Oaks House Museum at 50 Mac Street. Next year’s is still to be decided.
For 2023, I am already formulating ideas to continue to be a top destination garden tour.
• We will be adding a QR code to our tickets, which will be scanned to reveal in your smart phone’s Google Maps the exact address of each garden to help you navigate from one place to the other.
• At the end of each garden description on the ticket we will add information about the accessibility of each garden.
• We will put signs in each garden to indicate any important plants which the gardener may treasure and want to highlight and/or discuss. Look out for signs that say, “Plant of Distinction”, in keeping with our theme.
If you, gentle reader, can think of any other ideas worthwhile implementing, I accept all suggestions and ideas. Please contact me and let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to thank Lynsay from the Nature Manitoba office for creating our beautiful new poster design of great greenery and a single Lantana flower in bloom and a bud, which was very tasteful! The signs for the front of each presenting garden along with name tags for the gardeners and the volunteers were also matching with the poster design - all beautifully coordinated. I can’t wait to see what Lynsay will do with the new 2023 poster design!
Also thanks to the gardeners, volunteers, the entire team from Nature Manitoba, and to Julia Schoen for her advice over the last 3 years when I ran into stumbling blocks. Next year’s 10 gardens have already been selected and I have to say they are a spectacular assortment of gardens!