Fellows Focus: Jeanne Anderson

Excerpted from our Society of Fellows e-newsletter, February 2017.

As a self-proclaimed “garden hobbyist,” Jeanne Anderson has a long history with diverse and unique gardens to thank for her unending passion for gardens. As a child, she would spend weekends picking plums, apricots, and citrus with her father in the family’s small orchard. Jeanne recounts, “another of my earliest memories is sitting under a tree with my mother and listening while she read The Secret Garden to me. Now I spend my life looking for gardens wherever I go.” She credits her fascination for tropical plants to a lifetime of Hawaiian vacations. When she was fifteen, she also traveled to Japan, where she formed a strong love for Japanese gardens and textiles. She has studied Ikebana for the past twenty-five years.

While Jeanne has always been inspired by gardens, she reports that her inspiration has expanded thanks to traveling with the Garden Conservancy Fellows, as well as through her work at the Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills, where she is a board member and past president. After returning from the Garden Conservancy Fellows tour to Newport, Rhode Island, in 2008, Jeanne compiled all of her photos and shared them with friends; “I realized then the tremendous interest people have in seeing what gardeners are doing across the country.” This moved her to start a thriving Fellows group at the Virginia Robinson Gardens, inspired by the Garden Conservancy’s own Fellows.

Jeanne has also been hard at work as a volunteer in our Open Days program for many years. Since 2002, Jeanne has been an Open Days regional representative, helping open the gates to hundreds of gardens in and around Los Angeles. After she was invited to open her garden for the second Open Day in Los Angeles in 2001, Jeanne has established herself as an integral part of our Open Days community of passionate gardeners that stretches from coast to coast. Jeanne reminisces on that very first Open Day at her own garden, “the first visitor knew the Latin name of the rare plant in my entry, and right then I knew I had found my people.”

With co-rep Joseph Marek, Jeanne works with the Los Angeles community to bring a wide diversity of hosts and visitors to the Open Days program. This year, all of the garden hosts included in the Los Angeles Open Days have created different ways to collect water and adapted their gardens to the drought restrictions that California has been facing. Jeanne comments, “the gardeners and landscape designers I meet…are all kindred souls. We speak the same language, and thanks to Open Days, more people than ever are learning the language.”

While she now focuses her Open Days work on bringing other gardeners into the spotlight, Jeanne's own garden at her Beverly Hills home of twenty years boasts an impressive display of unique plants. She’s been an ardent collector of rare tropicals and finds that the Garden Conservancy’s Fellows tours often tip her off to what Jeanne calls “must have” plants. “Tours with the Garden Conservancy Fellows are an inspiration for any plant collector,” she says. To address the drought, she also has made changes in her garden; for example, Jeanne replaced her lawn with California natives and Mediterranean plants and installed a pebble pathway inspired by gardens she saw in China.

As a Garden Conservancy Fellow and dedicated Open Days representative, Jeanne is proud to be a part of a community dedicated to preservation, beauty, and history. Jeanne adds, “We have a common bond with people everywhere. I have truly learned the value in sharing outstanding gardens.”

We can share in Jeanne’s passion for gardens at the Westside Open Day on May 7, 2017, and the “Legendary Beverly Hills” Robinson Gardens Tour on May 20.

Photos of her garden in Beverly Hills are courtesy of Jeanne Anderson.