After the horrendous winter we had in my area, we are all ready for spring, and to spend some time in a beautiful garden or two.
On May 22nd (and again on September 25th), you’ll have the opportunity to do just that, courtesy of The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program here in the DC area. Established in 1989 by Frank Cabot, the distinguished American gardener, The Garden Conservancy’s mission is “to preserve exceptional American gardens for public education and enjoyment.” To date, it has spent nearly $9 million helping over 90 important gardens in the US survive and prosper (most recently, Longue Vue House & Garden in New Orleans and Alcatraz Island in San Francisco).
Across the country, The Conservancy sponsors a series of Open Days in which the owners of special private gardens welcome visitors for a day to learn more about gardens, plants and design. The program is based on England’s National Gardens Scheme. This year, more than 350 private gardens in 22 states will be on display.
For a modest admission fee ($5 per garden), you can visit six gardens in our area on Saturday, May 22nd and another four in September. Neighborhoods on the spring tour are located in Cleveland Park, American University Park, and other parts of the District of Columbia. One is the well-known shady woodland garden of Sally Boasberg,
and another was originally designed by the famed landscape architect Thomas Church.
Two other interesting gardens on the tour have connections to the design firm where I work. One of them, the Sessums/Biles garden in AU Park, was designed by H. Paul Davis, ASLA, the landscape architect at American University. Installed by our firm , the garden incorporates an imposing array of perennials, native shrubs and small specimen trees into an existing woodland setting. The owner is involved in maintaining the garden, composting plant material, capturing rainwater for re-use, and eschewing irrigation and the use of pesticides except for treating some mature hemlocks with wooly adelgid problems. Recently, the owner and designer received some very exciting news: the garden has received a Merit Award in the 2010 Perennial Plant Association’s Landscape Design Awards competition.
The other DC garden, designed by DCA Landscape Architects and maintained by our company, is an impressive example of dealing with a challenging, steeply sloped site in order to create spaces for entertaining, a spa and fountain, storage, and circulation while providing screening from surrounding properties and a plant palette designed to soften the expansive hardscaping.
Another garden on the May tour in the Cleveland Park area, designed by the landscape architecture firm of Fritz & Gignoux, is on Newark Street NW. It incorporates Arts & Crafts elements in the hardscape design (think custom-made stone-faced columns supporting wisteria on the patio, and a whimsical weathervane with a mermaid holding a star). The plantings are lush and cottage-style with a natural feel to them, and a “writer’s cottage” perches on a hill at the rear of the garden, offering beautiful views back towards the house.
All of these gardens will enrich the gardening knowledge and provide pleasure for any visitor. For e-mail alerts about the schedule for tour days you can sign up on their website.
Booklets of discounted tickets can be purchased online at www.gardenconservancy.org in advance; and if you become a member, you will receive a copy of the 2010 Open Days Directory with descriptions and open dates for hundreds of gardens across the country. What are you waiting for? Mark your calendars!