Friends wanted to celebrate the completion of Patti and Les
Polette’s house in Auburn, California, so the couple planned a
housewarming party. It took a new twist when, in answer to offers of
household gifts, the owners suggested garden plants. The Polettes
turned the fall gathering into a “gardenwarming” by inviting
friends to come in work clothes and dig right in. If you are hurrying
to finish fall planting this month, you could adapt their idea to enlist
Here we describe how the Polette party worked. Gardeners who have
plants on hand and want help putting them in can just follow the
suggestions for preplanting preparation and party-day arrangements.
Since heavy rains are more likely as the month proceeds, it’s also
a good idea to list an early date as well as an in-case-of-rain date on
Along with a map to the new house, the Polette party invitation
listed plants that a landscape designer had recommended–mostly small 1-
and 5-gallon-can sizes of easy-to-find plants. Some friends pooled
resources to buy a specimen tree; others contributed cuttings and
transplants from their own gardens.
In the weeks before the party, the Polettes outlined planting beds,
prepared the soil, and installed an irrigation system.
On the day of the party, they put out additional soil amendments
and tools–can cutters, shovels, and rakes. You can also ask friends to
A large drawing of the garden design, placed where everyone could
see it, showed where plants would go. It also gave helpers a picture of
what the garden would look like in a few years. The landscape designer
helped volunteers follow the plan as they planted out their gifts.
Because nearly 200 well-wishers came, everyone had name tags to
help strangers get acquainted. Guests helped themselves to refreshments
and a buffet lunch.
How did the party go? Friends were enthusiastic and enjoyed the
old-fashioned barn-raising spirit. And now when the helpers return to
visit, they have the chance to see how “their garden” grows.