Since its founding, the Garden Conservancy has done more than any other national institution to save and preserve America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public.
An overview of our programs
Working in partnership with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations, the Conservancy provides horticultural, technical, management, and financial expertise to sustain these fragile treasures. It helps ensure long-term stewardship of these natural assets, which are essential to the aesthetic and cultural life of our communities.
In October 2009, the National Trust for Historic Preservation presented the Garden Conservancy the prestigious Trustees’ Award for Organizational Excellence. The award acknowledged the Conservancy’s accomplishments in preserving exceptional gardens across America, many of which are National Historic Landmarks or on the National Register of Historic Places. The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California, the Conservancy’s first preservation project, is now a thriving public garden. The extraordinary topiary garden created by self-taught artist Pearl Fryar in Bishopville, South Carolina, continues to inspire thousands of visitors from this country and beyond. Since 2003, the Conservancy has spearheaded the rehabilitation of the historic gardens that played a powerful role in the lives of people who inhabited the harsh environment on San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island. After being deeded the property in 2010, the Conservancy is managing the transition of Chase Garden in Orting, Washington, to a public garden and horticultural center.
Since 1995, Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program has spread the garden preservation message to a broad base of people by providing access to some of America’s finest private gardens. In 2012, more than 300 private gardens in nineteen states opened to allow thousands of visitors to explore, first-hand, beautiful spaces not normally open to the public.
The Conservancy’s educational programs offer our members, experienced horticulturists, landscape professionals, and the public a source of contemporary ideas relevant to fine gardening, design, and preservation. Our handbook, Taking a Garden Public, presents an overview of the issues and strategies involved in preserving and sustaining a garden and points to resources to aid local efforts.
Through all of our programs and outreach, the Garden Conservancy champions the value of gardens in America.
Our strategic plan (2012) sets the Garden Conservancy's direction for the next five years.
History of the Garden Conservancy
The Garden Conservancy was established in 1989 by Frank Cabot, the distinguished American plantsman. In partnership with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations, the Conservancy provides the horticultural, technical, management, and financial expertise needed to sustain these fragile environments and ensure long-term stewardship of natural assets so essential to the aesthetic and cultural life of our communities.
The Conservancy recognizes that exceptional gardens most often begin as private affairs, the life work of passionate, dedicated and remarkably talented gardeners, and that a select number of these are capable of flourishing for generations as public gardens to facilitate their long-term historic and aesthetic significance as well as public visitation. The Garden Conservancy takes a leadership role in this transition for the American gardens in its diverse portfolio. It assists in the structuring of legal strategies and conservation easements to protect these resources from development, develops master plans for preservation, interpretation, horticultural management and public access, and helps establish sound fiscal and organizational foundations for each property. Once a transition period ends and the gardens operate independently, a process usually requiring a number of years, the Conservancy stays involved to make sure that they continue to thrive.
Resources for further information
About Frank Cabot, Garden Conservancy founder
About Tom Armstrong, Garden Conservancy chairman 2007-2011
Summary timeline of Garden Conservancy milestones in our first twenty years, 1989-2009.