Event – Open Days Garden Tour

Have you ever driven past a home and thought its yard so stunning that you wanted a closer look?  Or wished you had the nerve to knock on someone’s door and ask for a garden tour?  If you thought you would not get caught, would you take a quick peek behind a stranger’s garden gate?  I know on more than one occasion I have been tempted to trespass in hopes of seeing an exceptional garden.  Just when I think I have worked up the nerve to answer the call of one of these garden sirens I remember the stories about uninvited guests at Martha Stewart’s home and the rumors that these gawkers are sometimes arrested.

Thanks to the upcoming Open Days Garden Tour in Raleigh, we can be spared embarrassment and threat of arrest while touring six of Raleigh’s private gardens.  These gardens have been selected by the Garden Conservancy as “outstanding examples of design and horticulture practice.”  For the event the National Garden Conservancy has partnered with the JC Raulston Arboretum.

If you have never heard of the Garden Conservancy you are not alone.  It is one of the South’s best kept secrets.  The Garden Conservancy is a national nonprofit organization that was founded in 1989 to “preserve exceptional American gardens for the public’s enjoyment and education.”   Probably the most visited of the 50 projects that the Conservancy is presently assisting with is the garden at Alcatraz Island, CA.  The conservancy partnered with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to repair and maintain this garden, where many plants have been successfully naturalized into the thin soil of Alcatraz.   According to the conservancy… “Nearly every bit of soil and plant life found on Alcatraz is the result of 150 years of tenacious gardening by superintendents, officers’ families, and inmates.”  Thanks to the involvement of the Conservancy, more than 140 plant species have been enjoyed by more than 1.3 million visitors.

Here in North Carolina, The Garden Conservancy has tapped two gardens for preservation:  Montrose Garden is a 61-acre property in Hillsboro, NC,  and the second is the garden of writer Elizabeth Lawrence in Charlotte, NC.  These gardens are inspiration for books by both Elizabeth Lawrence and Montrose Garden owner, Nancy Godwin.

According to Helen Yoest, the local Garden Conservancy representative for the Open Days tour, “The Garden Conservancy is much more popular up north.”  In 1995, when the Garden Conservancy launched it first Open Days tour with 110 private gardens in New York and Connecticut, the event sold out in a matter of weeks.  The Open Days program is the only national private garden-visiting program.  Ms. Yoest is hoping that this year’s Raleigh tour will create enough interest to make this an annual event.

Whether you are a novice looking for ideas for plants that will thrive in your sun/shade garden or a seasoned gardener looking for that specimen plant or perhaps looking for ideas for an architectural piece that will fill that void in your garden, you will leave this Raleigh private garden tours feeling inspired.

The gardens below will OPEN THEIR DOORS on September 15, 2011.

Dennis & Georgina Werner Raleigh, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Maynard Garden Raleigh, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Quarry Hill Raleigh, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sorge Gardens Raleigh, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Gardens at Ashland Hall Raleigh, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Umstead Hotel and Spa Cary, NC 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a list of Garden tours throughout the nation and info on the Raleigh tour the website is:  www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays