The Garden is Open
“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”
— Hal Borland
As I write this, I am trying to block out the fact that about 50 linear feet of copper gutters recently ripped off the back of my house, a lingering present from Snowmaggedon 2. So I decided to listen to Mr. Borland and think about spring and the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tours.
I can’t remember when I first learned about the Open Days program, but it was when I was still shooting film, some time after I returned from my trip to England. The Open Days program is modeled on England’s National Gardens Scheme, through which owners of specially selected private gardens open them to the public on designated days during the year. Admissions proceeds are donated to various charities. Brook Cottage, about which I wrote earlier, is among those gardens that participate in this program. (For a wonderful description of how the Brits’ program works, visit The Autumn Cottage Diarist’s blog.)
My first visit to a local garden open through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program was in Arlington VA, to a garden designed by Tom Mannion, APLD. It seemed pure magic to me. And the owners were on hand to talk about the garden and how it was created.
I was hooked. Then, for a couple of years, there were no gardens open through the Open Days program in our area. So, en route to my Hudson River Valley trip in 2004, I decided on the spur of the moment to stop in Nutley, NJ on a hot August day where I had learned there would be a fabulous garden open. When I arrived at the location, I discovered not one, but two amazing Garden Conservancy gardens right across the street from each other. Both were designed by Richard Hartlage, a well-known landscape designer, author and photographer.
The smaller of the two gardens, belonging to Graeme Hardie, was a masterpiece of getting the most out of a relatively small space, with numerous level changes. It was absolutely full of color, beautifully planted containers, and colorful walls, creating a tropical feel.
Across the street, Silas Mountsier’s one-acre garden was almost overwhelming. Large sculptures are dotted throughout the garden. Hartlage, who is based in Tacoma, Washington, was actually on site for the day, talking to visitors about both gardens and his plans to expand Mountsier’s even further (which I understand has occurred since my visit).
Wherever you live, there’s a good chance that there will be one or more Open Days in your area this year – the Conservancy’s program is expanding and new areas are added all the time. Consider joining the Conservancy; you’ll receive a free copy of their 2010 Open Days directory (I’ve met gardeners who plan their vacations by it!). Or sign up for information by e-mail about GC events. The GC has many stunning large-scale projects they’ve helped to fund, including the restoration of the gardens at Alcatraz.
Check out their schedule to see what’s available – and stay tuned here, as I write more in the coming months about what’s in store for gardeners in the DC area this year under the Open Days program.landscape, Travel comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.