For ecological and native-plant gardeners in Hamilton
Garden Journey Open Days brings together gardeners, aspiring gardeners, and garden lovers in an open-gardens event over two weekends in August 2023. Under the umbrella of the Halton Region Master Gardeners, Garden Journeys is free for both garden hosts and visitors.
Garden Journeys showcases gardens that put Nature first. Call them ecological, naturalistic, re-wilded, biodiverse, native plant, sustainable–these gardens do more than look good. They’re about the functional connections among living things (above and below ground) and everything that affects them. Humans included!
On this page:
Info for Hosts
Info for Visitors
Questions & Answers
Public and Institutional Gardens
How to Sign Up
Help Us Promote this Event
August 11-13 and 17-20, 2023
On residential, public, and institutional land, these gardens are not traditional. They’re not focused on “tidy” and they’re not all about curb appeal. Their caretakers understand the important role of gardens not only around climate change mitigation, watershed health, species decline and habitat creation, but also the health of human neighbourhoods and communities, including the mental health of the people in them.
The gardens in this event have all begun the journey towards meeting these goals. Some may be in the starting stages, some much farther along. They’re examples of the process each gardener has chosen. Change often begins with small steps!
You don’t need a ticket, there’s no booking schedule, and all are welcome. Plan your itinerary using an interactive map that includes details about the garden’s size and features.
Best of all, visitors are welcome to chat with the gardener (or their designate) about the plants, the plans, and the journey so far.
Interactive Map Example
If you’re thinking about starting a pollinator garden or adding native plants to your traditional garden, Garden Journeys is a great opportunity to see variety of gardens up close, in real life, in their peak season. There will be mature gardens, “just planted” gardens, and many in between. Every visit will be a learning experience and a peek into the gardener’s journey.
There’s more detailed information for visitors at the bottom of this page.
Being a host
You don’t need to primp or fuss– visitors are more interested in how your garden works than how it looks. And it’s not a contest. The vetting process is a simple questionnaire; no one will visit to check you out.
Gardens need to be in the City of Hamilton.
Hosts have two obligations.
First, someone has to be there to greet visitors and answer questions about the garden. This person does not have to be the gardener–just someone who knows the plants and what you’ve been doing to make it a nature-friendly space. Garden Journeys not only offers inspiration to people interested in getting started but also helps participants make connections with fellow eco-gardening and native plant enthusiasts. Each visit, ideally, will be both a learning and social experience.
Second, you need to be open for five or more three-hour blocks. You get to pick the dates and times. You just need to be open for 15 hours in total over the seven days (42 hours) of the event. Addresses, dates and times will be shown on an interactive online map. We encourage you to coordinate with your neighbours to create clusters of gardens with the same open times.
Public and Institutional Gardens
If you volunteer at a public garden and you’d like to showcase it for Garden Journeys, do sign up. It’s a great opportunity to show-and-tell the fantastic work being done by volunteers and garden clubs. Hamiltonians can be proud of all its new pollinator gardens and native plant gardens in de-pave projects, trails, and parks.
We welcome gardens on “institutional” land: libraries, hospitals, schools, and businesses. Just arrange to have a knowlegable person there during open hours.
How to sign up
Sign-up is via a Google Form. You don’t need a gmail account to sign up. There’s a short questionnaire so we can learn about your garden and where it fits in the journey towards nature-friendly gardening.
To access the sign-up form, please send an email to email@example.com and we’ll send you the link.
Click here to preview the sign-up form (opens .png file in new tab)
Thursday Aug. 11: 6 – 9 pm
Friday Aug. 12: 9 – noon; 1 – 4; 6 – 9
Saturday Aug. 13: 9 – noon; 1 – 4
Thursday Aug. 17: 6 – 9 pm
Friday Aug. 18: 9 – noon; 1 – 4; 6 – 9
Saturday Aug. 19: 9 – noon; 1 – 4
Sunday Aug. 20: 9 – noon; 1 – 4
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Q & A
But… my garden is too new/small
It’s not a contest! There’s no judging or set criteria. You don’t need to spend a lot of time trimming or primping. We ask only that your garden has started the journey from conventional to functional, from manicured to full of life. Even if you’ve just started to make changes (such as adding native plants, shrubs, and trees, rejecting pesticides, supporting insects and wildlife, and adopting ecological gardening practices (such as on-site water management and composting) you’re welcome to be a host. It’s an opportunity to meet and learn from the like-minded gardeners who will visit.
I don’t have a lot of native plants…
You don’t need to be 100% native, or even 50%. But you do need to understand the importance of native plants and you need to be working towards a garden that is mostly native plants.
I have invasive plants…
A lot of gardeners are coping with decisions made before they understood the risks of invasive plants. Vinca, lily of the valley, goutweed, burning bush, barberry, privet–- these are just a few of the species that are still popular but longer welcome in ecological gardens. We ask that you are able to identify the invasive species in your garden (you know what you’ve got) and that you are working to remove them. Effort counts! For more information on invasive plants: https://ccipr.ca/canadian-invasive-plant-lists/
I grow for food and some of my native plants are edible…
Garden Journeys is about creating habitat and helping heal damaged ecosystems. So the focus is on support for wildlife, not food for humans. But if you’ve got a garden that does both, do sign up.
Do I need to “show” my garden? Provide refreshments?
No. You don’t have to give a guided tour if you don’t want to. But you do need to be around to answer questions. There’s no obligation to provide snacks or drinks or allow visitors to use your washroom.
I have a front-yard garden that people can look at whenever they like. Can I let people know this?
Yes. There’s a “sidewalk showcase” category. You can have open hours AND be listed as a sidewalk showcase, or you can just list your front yard garden with no obligation to be around. The sign-up form has details.
May I ask visitors to sign a guest book? I want to get to know other ecological gardeners.
Yes, you may have a guest book but visitors are not required to “sign in” or otherwise provide contact information.
May I sell plants? Or craft items? Or other stuff?
Garden Journeys is a free event, designed to connect and inspire visitors to do nature-friendly gardening. While it’s tempting to use this event as an opportunity to host a yard sale, art sale, or food stand, it’s important to remember that the event is about gardens and neighbours.
May I give away plants?
We strongly discourage it. The risk of invasive jumping worms is real . Worms and eggs / cocoons spread undetected in garden soil. Please do not share anything that has been dug from your garden, even if you have not observed jumping worms. Your garden may be infested without you knowing it.
What if something happens to a visitor when on my property?
Most homeowners insurance policies include third-party liability coverage. It’s a good idea to check, though. Visitors are respectful, courteous, and extremely interested in what you’ve created. And you’ll be around to supervise.
If there’s a garden area you don’t want people to enter, feel free to rope it off or place a sign.
Be respectful of hosts’ time. Please do not arrive just before closing time or expect hosts to stay open to accommodate your late arrival.
Bring your own water, snacks, and sunscreen.
Ask permission before taking photos. If you plan to share photos on social media or on a web site, ask if they would like their name included.
Some hosts may have an invasive jumping worm infestation. You may be asked to change your shoes (hosts may provide ‘crocs’) or put on shoe covers (also provided by the host). If you’re worried about the spread of jumping worms, mention them to your host. You may want to take precautions; worm infestations can go undetected for several seasons.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions or offer praise and encouragement. We’re doing this to help promote ecological and native-plant gardening, so do engage your hosts. Everyone can learn and enjoy!
Help Us Promote Garden Journeys Open Days
Here’s the two-page event proposal for an overview of the event (opens pdf in new tab):
Here’s a promotional message you can send by email or post on social media (opens pdf file in new tab)
Here the same promotional message as a blog post on this site–easier to copy/paste.
by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We respond usually on the same day.