The Garden Conservancy Open Days program was created in 1995 as a means of introducing the public to gardening, by providing easy access to outstanding examples of design and horticultural practice and proving that exceptional American gardens are still being created. With a mission to share American gardens with the public through the work of hundreds of private garden hosts and volunteers nationwide, the program offers home gardeners and plant- and flower-lovers a deeper look into the gardening world through immersive experiences with artists, designers, gardeners, authors and other creative professionals.
The Open Days program is America’s only national private garden-visiting program, and here in New York, the Garden Conservancy has planned Open Days garden tours in Columbia, Dutchess and Ulster Counties on Saturday, June 25. Visitors can explore eight private gardens in Craryville, Highland, Hillsdale, Hudson, Millerton, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie and Valatie, all of which are open to the public for self-guided tours.
In Dutchess County, visitors can explore Dappled Berms, the garden of Scott VanderHamm. Situated on a one-acre property within a 1950s (IBM-era) suburban community, the garden grounds are dominated by mature-growth trees. A perennial shade garden was created and cultivated over 18 seasons of weekend gardening. The assembled collection of plants, spread throughout numerous beds and manmade berms, relies heavily on juxtapositions of color, texture and form to bring interest and natural beauty to the garden. Visitors can see a collection of more than 105 different hosta cultivars, numbering more than 214 specimens, all labeled for ease of identification. VanderHamm will host a pop-up plant sale in conjunction with Adams Fairacre Farms, including some of the same plants grown at Dappled Berms.
In Columbia County, five private gardens are open to visit, including Rabbit Hill in Craryville, where many species and varieties of decorative understory trees, shrubs, shade perennials and groundcovers can be seen by strolling on a network of stone paths that interlace the woodland grove. A moss garden contained within the grove is bordered by an allée planted with specimen trees and shrubs and, to the east, by “Moby Dick,” a rock outcropping, several hundred feet long, uncovered by hand-digging over several years.
Texas Hill in Hillsdale features two protected courtyards, large groups of evergreen trees with island beds and a “whatever works” mantra with regard to plant material. The owners balance a formal density near the house and a more open naturalistic or wild feeling radiating out toward the pond, lawns, meadows, woods and the view.
The Happy in Hudson boasts garden beds that are laid out with Modernist elements, including a striped garden with rows of perennials and shrubs. There are enclosed areas as well as open areas with far-ranging views, and garden rooms have been created for specific purposes: entry, entertaining, growing food, strolling and lounging, as well as providing for nature and wildlife through food sources and habitat.
The garden of Helen Bodian in Millerton began 20 years ago with the construction of a naturalistic rock garden and has evolved into a series of different environments, linked together by paths that pass by a pond and through rolling fields, connected to many woodland trails. Additional features include a traditional square border planted with large perennials and shrubs, a walled garden displaying potted greenhouse plants around a small pool and an ornamental vegetable garden.
The garden of Kevin Lee Jacobs in Valatie actually includes numerous gardens on his urban property, including a woodland garden, a winding serpentine garden, two kitchen gardens and a formal boxwood garden. Jacobs is a cookbook author, a serious gardener and creator of the well-known website A Garden for the House. His house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Ulster County, two private gardens are open to visit, including Teri Condon’s Gardensmith Design in Highland, nestled in an old apple orchard with a view of the Shawangunk Ridge. This intricate garden is comprised of intimate spaces and surprises in unexpected places. Garden designer Condon and sculptor Richard Gottlieb have combined their talents, creating a feast for the eyes.
The Springtown Farmden in New Paltz is the work of garden writer Lee Reich. This private garden features an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and nut trees, with uncommon varieties such as pawpaws, persimmons, gooseberries, currants and medlars.
Additional Hudson Valley Open Days take place July through October, in numerous other villages in the region. All Open Days gardens are featured in the 2016 Open Days Directory, a softcover book that includes detailed driving directions and vivid garden descriptions written by their owners. The directory includes garden listings in 18 states and costs $25.95 including shipping. See the website for ordering information.
All proceeds go to benefit the Garden Conservancy to support nationwide garden education programming and the preservation of gardens all across America. Over the years, through partnerships with garden-owners, community and professional organizations and local volunteers, the Garden Conservancy has helped to save, preserve and rehabilitate more than 80 gardens.
No reservations are required; tours go on, rain or shine. Admission costs $7 per garden; children aged 12 and under get in free.
Garden Conservancy Open Days Program, Saturday, June 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 158 Maiers Road, Craryville (to 5 p.m.), 411 Texas Hill Road, Hillsdale, 331 Mt. Merino Road, Hudson, 3007 Main Street, Valatie, 74 Colburn Drive, Poughkeepsie, 50 Hillsdale Avenue, Highland, 387 Springtown Road, New Paltz; (888) 842-2442, www.opendaysprogram.org, www.gardenconservancy.org.