“The mission of the Garden Conservancy is to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.” That is the simple mission of the Garden Conservancy. In practice, it means providing financial support to protect selected American gardens chosen for their beauty and significance.
There are a number of these beautiful historic gardens not too far from us. Ashintully in Tyringham is the only one in Massachusetts. It is the creation of John McLennan, Jr., a classical musician and composer. He and his wife Katherine spent 30 years designing a garden that includes fountains and bridges, stone stairways, forests and flowers, places to admire panoramic views, and places to sit in the shade of great trees and enjoy the breeze. McLennan gave the Garden Conservancy a large part of the estate before his death in 1996. The gardens are open only Wednesday and Saturday 1-5 PM.
Since I spent part of my young life in Vermont I am very glad that the Garden Conservancy has chosen to support Justin Morrill’s garden in Stafford, Vermont. He served in Congress as a Representative and then as a Senator. He wrote the Morrill Land Grant Acts that were signed by Abraham Lincoln. These acts established federal funding for public colleges in every state. As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts I am very grateful for this gift. There are now 105 other institutions of every flavor including state universities and agricultural colleges.
Morrill (1810-1898) designed his own gardens with serpentine pathways, graceful flower beds and beautiful trees including an orchard.
The historic house is open for tours from May 25 through October 13, Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tours are conducted on the hour. Admission is $6.00. Self guided tours of the garden are free to everyone during open hours.
One of the most beautiful landscape gardens I have ever visited, the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington, is supported by the Garden Conservancy. On 150 acres there are natural woodlands as well as beautifully pruned trees in the Japanese Gardens. Of course, there are also brilliant flower gardens, a quiet reflecting pool and green vistas. My whole experience was of serenity, beauty, mist and rain.
Of course with a substantial list of beautiful gardens financially supported by the Garden Conservancy the question is how do they do it?
The answer is finding skilled and congenial gardeners, asking them to open their gardens for one day. The Garden Conservancy website includes information about all of this year’s Open Days gardens organized by state and month. Usually several gardens in a single area will be listed together. You can enjoy a whole day of visiting a variety of unique gardens.
Rorer and Buell Gardens
Last weekend I visited two Open Days gardens in Petersham. I went to the Rorer and Buell Garden first. It has a welcoming garden in front of the house. Here are shades of green hostas, primroses, epimediums, and even a climbing hydrangea scrambling up a majestic tree.
Around the house were rock gardens, and stone troughs. The family makes good use of all our New England stone. In addition there were flower beds, lots of peonies, and vegetable beds. Blueberry bushes, too. No one at the Buell house is going to go hungry.
A wide path was mown across and around the meadow. The invitation is to a hill crowned with large stones and a tranquil view. There was a stone bench that allowed you to ponder the woodlands in one direction, or take in the serenity of the mown fields in the other direction.
When I strolled back to the house, I stopped to peek into the attached substantial low greenhouse. It was filled with all manner of succulents.
The Lockhart and O’Donnell Garden
The Bruce Lockhart and Helen O’Donnell garden is only about five minutes away. The approach is through the woods. I knew I had arrived when I saw the lush hedge of hobblebush viburnam at the edge of the road. These viburnams were the backdrop of the shady, graceful Woodland Walk . Here blooms columbine, hellebores, bloodroot, hostas, foam flowers and peonies.
In comparison, other flower beds were planted in geometric squares. One of those squares was a comfortable gazebo that looked over a koi pond. There are fields and woodlands beyond as well as an orchard complete with bee hives.
We are always learning when we visit other gardens. The Lockhart garden tour included a Digging Deeper talk. Lockhart explained that after a new septic field was installed he was left with a little hill. His response was to plant that hill with all manner of pollinator plants and grasses to create a Meadow Garden with mown paths for strolling through it. Not everything on his planting list was in bloom. We saw camassia, alliums, and grasses. The goldenrod, liatris, perovskia, veronicas, salvias, and coneflowers will come into bloom later.
Log on to www.gardenconservancy.org for information about Open Days which continue into the fall.
Between the Rows June 15, 2019