In the Garden:
July, 2012
Regional Report

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Unfazed by rain, garden writers visited Brush Hill Gardens in Washington, Connecticut as part of The Garden Conservancy's Open Days program.

Sharing Our Passion on "Open Days"

One great pleasure of being a passionate gardener is visiting other people's beautiful, sometimes eccentric, often artistic gardens. We so appreciate the vision, resourcefulness, and hard work behind an exuberant cottage garden border, a lush woodland path, or a butterfly-filled meadow of native plants.

The Garden Conservancy's Open Days give us the opportunity to step inside and wander through unique private gardens, both grand and intimate, then leave full of admiration -- but without having to pull one weed.

The Garden Conservancy is a national organization dedicated to preserving exceptional American gardens for our education and enjoyment. Gardens preserved by the Conservancy include Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, NJ, John P. Hume's Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, NY, Gardens of Alcatraz, The Fells Garden in Newbury, NH, Van Vleck House and Gardens in Montclair, NJ, and the Hollister House Garden in Washington, CT.

Open Days introduces the public to the Garden Conservancy and involves community and nationwide volunteers. There are still Open Days in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and Arizona. Donations to tour the gardens support the Conservancy's preservation work.

What Are Open Days?
Join me on our whirlwind Open Day in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Over coffee on a Saturday morning in late June, several of us garden writers scanned the two pages of open private gardens described in the Open Days Directory. There are eight; we'd already seen two, leaving six garden visits to prioritize.

Yes, we'd cheated. We'd started on Friday with visits to two impressive, very different gardens, thanks to Sabine Stezen and Karen Bussolini. These Garden Writers Association members organized a Regional Meeting that included special time at George Schoellkopf's Hollister House Gardens and with Barbara and Charles Robinson at their labor of love, Brush Hill Gardens.

Back to Saturday morning strategizing. Could we manage to visit all six gardens by 4 p.m., allowing for driving time and a lunch break? We'd do our best!

Who has a map? My GPS is not getting a signal. Many hands make light work. Sabine, Julie MacIntosh Shapiro, and Charlotte Albers navigated. I listened to their directions and drove winding back roads through the picturesque countryside.

What fun! These horticulture professionals have opinions, knowledge, and perspective that enrich anyone fortunate enough to be around them. Who better to tour gardens with?

Our first stop was Buddy and Monika Nixon's 25-year-old, labeled, specimen tree and shrub collection inspired by Buddy's study at the New York Botanical Gardens.

We could have tossed Latin names around all afternoon at Angela Cruger's 50-acre Lakeville estate that included perennial beds, woodlands, a walled garden, rock garden, pool, and her new "Big Dig" vegetable and cut-flower garden.

In Falls Village, Nancy McCabe's kitchen garden, brick patio, and sunken garden showed how creativity and international garden accents can bring charm to a smaller landscape.

Our last stop was New York City interior designer and garden book writer Bunny William's 15-acre estate with twin perennial borders, parterre, vegetable garden, swimming pool with a rustic Greek Revival-style pool house folly, aviary, and ....

Of course, the four o'clock finish came too soon. Two gardens unseen. In consolation, there's always next year!

Late August holds another opportunity to be with like-minded horticulture lovers. In conjunction with another Open Days event, Hollister House Garden is holding Garden Study Weekend III, Aug. 24, 25, 26 with expert speakers, plant and book sales, and a champagne breakfast. Enjoy!

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