When secret gardens open their doors

Douglas Hunt
by Douglas Hunt
If a gardener can’t be in his or her own garden, where’s the next best place? Someone else’s, of course. And thanks to the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, you can walk through the gate of private gardens that you might not otherwise ever be able to see.
The program began in 1995 and is modeled on England’s National Gardens Scheme. Since then, thousands of gardens from coast to coast—including my own garden in New York’s Hudson Valley—have been included.
Each year, almost 50 percent of the gardens are new to the program, and I knew a road trip was in the offing when I found out the Garden Conservancy was going to have its first Open Day in Jacksonville, an hour and a half up the coast from me, last weekend. Just as I expected, the gardens offered beauty and inspiration at every turn.
This year the program includes gardens in 16 states and runs through the beginning of November. To find an Open Day near you, see the schedule here:
A screened-in porch filled with comfortable furniture overlooks this side yard
Lesson of the day: you can't go wrong with good, old, statuary
A small rose garden was turned into a potager of stacked raised beds topped by strawberry pots.
Had to include this for the amazing vase!
Looking up into a 100-year-old Magnolia grandiflora
The power of good greenery.
See lesson of the day, above.
I'm a sucker for an armillary.
Casual, comfortable seating on a back terrace overlooking the pool and St. John's river.
Clipped-box edging seems less formal when it's got great curves.
This is what a properly pruned crape myrtle looks like in winter.
Yes, there is something to be said for axial symmetry.
Florida or England? Delphiniums planted en masse as annuals.
I love these tuteurs for climbing roses made from rebar.
Note the "candle-lier" over this charming seating area. It hangs from a Franklinia alatamaha.
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation
4 of 59 comments
  • Rose S Rose S on Apr 07, 2014
    Where us Longwood Garden? Which zone? I tried covering mine up with layers of burlap, but didn't' have any luck. So the two I have left will stay confined in their pots until further notice. My fear is that possibly the deer might want to nibble on them when I bring them out - so I will keep them on the porch. Thanks so much for sharing. :-)

    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 08, 2014
      @Rose S It is outside of Wilmington, DE. But this was growing in a greenhouse. Deer don't usually eat ferns, but I can understand your not wanting to take a chance.

  • David Rupp David Rupp on Apr 16, 2014
    Love your yard! Grate photos.

    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 17, 2014
      @David Rupp Would that these were my yard, David. The photos were taken at gardens I visited.