How to Get Inside America’s Secret Gardens

May 17, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Janet Hall

Spring has sprung, gardens are in bloom, and the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days season is in full swing.  True to its mission of “preserving America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of all,” the Garden Conservancy offers access to glorious private gardens, big and small, from Palo Alto to Pennsylvania, from Charleston to Chicago. It’s your chance to get behind the closed gates and hedges of hundreds of gardens across 18 states.  The gardener’s ultimate field trip.

Above: The Garden Conservancy Open Days Program runs from now through the beginning of November, featuring on average of four gardens in a particular region for each open day.  The cost is $5 per garden (you can pay cash at the door–or in this case, at the garden gate–or purchase ticket booklets online). Maps and directions are provided on the schedule, which can be searched by city and state. Image via Wertimer & Associates Landscape Architects.

Above: The San Francisco Peninsula Open Day this Saturday (May 18) includes four gardens in Los Altos, Atherton ,and Palo Alto.  Enjoy the Italian-inspired garden of Villa Bougainvillea, a Spanish revival house in Palo Alto. Designed by Zeterre Landscape Architecture, this garden features many rare citrus varieties, succulents, and espaliered fruit trees. Image via Zeterre Landscape Architecture.

Above: In the Northeast, there are open days this weekend (May 18 and 19) in four areas: Nassau County, Westchester County, New Haven County, and Worcester Area. The latter group includes the small, personal and romantic Glenluce Garden in Stow, Massachusetts.  Foxgloves at the Glenluce Garden in this image by Brett Woodvine via Flickr.

Above: On the other end of the spectrum, the grand Persian-inspired gardens of Untermyer Park in Yonkers, New York are part of the Westchester County Open day this Saturday (May 18).  Set on forty-three acres, the sprawling gardens include a Greek amphitheater, a rustic rock fantasy-cum-gazebo called the Temple of Love, and spectacular views of the Hudson River.  Photograph via Untermyer Gardens.

Above: Scheduled to coincide with the Spoleto Festival, the first-ever Charleston Open Day is Saturday, May 25 and features 13 private gardens. A highlight is sure to be the formal garden at the George Mathews House, which belongs to the current chair of the Garden Conservancy. Image by Brie Williams via Traditional Home

Above: Designed by Wertimer & Associates Landscape Architects, the garden at the Sword Gate House is also part of the May 25 Charleston Open Day. Photograph via Wertimer & Associates.

Above: The Vista Garden by LIving Green Design is part of the Marin County Open Day on Saturday, June 1.  This garden is dominated by sub-tropical plantings and an arrangement of outdoor rooms with vistas to Mt. Tamalpais and surrounding canyons.  Photograph via Living Green Design.

Above: An Architect’s Garden, featured in the Hunterton County (New Jersey) Open Day on June 16, is part of an ongoing project begun in 1992 as a complete renovation and expansion of an 18-century dairy farm by Tendenze Design on 35 acres in Pottersville, New Jersey. It includes a formal French potager surrounded by privet and fence (shown above).  Image via Tendenze Design.

Inspired to take more field trips? See our list of Garden Destinations.