23 May 2023

Garden visiting etiquette

This week we’re enjoying the Chelsea Flower Show, the traditional start to the British gardening season and a harbinger of horticultural delights over the next few months. As thousands of visitors pore over the innovative show gardens, revel in the floral abundance of the Great Pavilion, or treat themselves to a range of botanical treats from the exhibiting specialist nurseries, Chelsea is clearly an event that embodies and celebrates the British passion for gardens and gardening.

As late spring and summer unfold, millions of people will visit nurseries and garden centres, watch specialist television shows for guidance and inspiration and tend their own window-boxes, patios, terraces, allottments and gardens. Horticultural enthusiasts will enjoy participating in the Open Gardens scheme, which gives them a licence to snoop on other people’s gardens. At the grander end of the spectrum, they will enjoy summer visits to spectacular botanical display gardens, such as Kew or Wisley, and will be fascinated to explore the range of gardens expertly managed by organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage.

Visitor numbers can be overwhelming at many of these sites and no doubt the gardeners responsible for their upkeep look on in trepidation when they see the hordes descending. We all visit gardens because we care about them, and are ravished by planting schemes, stunning designs, spectacular displays and exotic plants. It is therefore extremely important that we do our utmost to ensure that our visits leave a light footprint and do no damage to the precious sites that we are intent on preserving.

Follow our etiquette tips ensure that your appreciation does not come at a price:

• Always stick to paths and mowed areas (when permitted). Any deviation from these routes is potentially damaging and remember that areas of bare earth may be seeded and mulched and therefore should be treated with as much respect as flowerbeds.

• It is permissible to smell flowers and to touch them, extremely delicately and carefully. But under no circumstances should you pick them or take sneaky cuttings.

• You may fancy yourself as an accomplished gardener, but you should never take it upon yourself to do any spontaneous weeding or deadheading. The hosts will see your interference as a veiled criticism of their garden maintenance, and you may well be inflicting damage, rather than helping.

• Many beautiful gardens are enhanced by statues, plant containers and water features. Leave these well alone; do not perch on the edge of a fountain or lean against a statue. Never let your children splash around in water features – they’re ornamental, not recreational.

• Some gardens will have wild areas, with rocks and trees. However, even though it looks untended, this is a managed landscape, and the trees will have been lovingly tended, in some cases for many decades. Never allow children to climb trees, which can be extremely damaging.

• Many gardens do not allow dogs, or request that dogs are always kept on a lead, and this should be respected. Always clean up after dogs.

• Some gardens feature wildlife as well as plants. Whether you encounter koi carp, swans and ducks, peacocks or ponies, restrict yourself to admiring them from afar and never feeding them.

• Smoking or vaping in the gardens will certainly prevent other visitors from enjoying the delicate fragrances of the plants. Respect the natural environment and only smoke or vape in designated areas.

• Many gardens will provide areas for picnicking, but request that visitors do not picnic on the cultivated lawns or on path-side benches, so it is best if you avoid bringing food or beverages (apart from bottled water) when you are visiting gardens.

• If you’re listening to music on your mobile, ensure that you’re using headphones – gardens are valued for being peaceful and tranquil places, so ensure that you’re not a source of noise pollution.

• Follow good photography etiquette. Try and take photographs when nobody else is around so you’re not blocking access to the plants, and try to avoid loitering in front of a star attraction, endlessly fussing over selfie sticks, composition and poses. Never use a drone to photograph the garden.

• Never leave any litter behind you. Gardens are pristine natural environments and should be left as you found them. If you can’t find a bin, or if the receptacles are full, take your rubbish home with you.

• Remember that gardeners are passionate enthusiasts, so whatever garden you’re visiting, whether it’s on a domestic or grandiose scale, you can be sure that they will always respond positively to questions about plants and plant care. Above all, they will revel in your appreciation, so always remember to compliment them.


MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Get In Touch
Subscription Enquiries
+44 (0)330 3339699
General Enquiries
+44 (0)20 3950 5240
Join our weekly newsletter
Subscription Form
MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Designed by Anna Ocipinska. Developed by BuiltByGo. © 2022 Debrett’s. All Rights Reserved
My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.