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Martha Meets with the Garden Conservancy

Learn all about the Garden Conservancy, an important organization that preserves and shares exceptional American gardens.

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Photography by: Marion Brenner
In the small rural town of Bishopville, South Carolina, Pearl Fryar has created a garden that contains hundreds of elaborate topiaries and attracts about 5,000 visitors each year.

I am a voyeur of the first order when it comes to other people’s gardens. An organization that permits me to visit and study remarkable landscapes from the East to the West Coast is the Garden Conservancy (gardenconservancy.org), founded 26 years ago by the legendary American gardener Frank Cabot. The mission of the conservancy is simple: to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.

By partnering with gardeners and their communities, the conservancy preserves gardens across the country. The notion of sharing—which is at the core of the organization—is achieved in part by allowing the public to visit gardens on certain set “Open Days.” These practices allow the organization to champion the importance of gardens and the role they play in our everyday lives, our history, and our culture.

The conservancy publishes a complete annual calendar of Open Days, and I love to study it, hoping that I will have enough free time to visit some of the gardens. There is so much to learn in the vast world of horticulture, and I have never, ever been disappointed on such a visit. Last year, more than 300 private gardens in 22 states participated in the Open Days program—all beautifully varied in terms of plant materials, designs, intentions, and ages, to ensure that each visit offers diversity and interest and education. More than 70,000 people visited the gardens in 2015 alone.

In addition to an annual membership, there is a Society of Fellows, which offers an even deeper engagement for those committed to study through other forms of tours—both domestic and international—as well as lectures and study groups.

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the conservancy recently published an amazing, lovely book, Outstanding American Gardens (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2015), which should be a fixture in every gardener’s library. Some evocative photos from it are included on the following page. I hope you enjoy looking at them—and I hope you’ll be able to visit a garden or two (or three).

A Trip to Maine

I invited the Garden Conservancy’s Society of Fellows to visit my garden at Skylands last summer.

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Photography by: Pieter Estersohn
<p>The stone terrace is planted with containers I’ve collected over the years.</p>
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Photography by: Heather Kirkland
<p>The fellows travel throughout the world on garden-study tours; we spent a delightful morning at Skylands.</p>
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Photography by: Sarah Maingot
<p>A faux-bois table sits in the woodland garden.</p>

The Garden Conservancy celebrated their 25th anniversary recently with a beautiful book documenting all the public and private gardens it has worked with and protected.

Take a Sneak Peek Inside "Outstanding American Gardens"
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