A Few Milestones From Our First 25 Years



We celebrated our 25th anniversary year in 2015, which also marked the 20th anniversary of our Open Days program.

Since 1989, the Garden Conservancy has helped more than 80 outstanding American gardens survive and prosper. And since 1995, our signature garden-visiting program has been opening the gates to hundreds of private gardens aross the country, allowing thousands of visitors to explore beautiful spaces not normally open to the public.

Below is a timeline with a few highlights of our first quarter century: our beginnings, our growth, our challenges, our successes, and our preparations for the next 25 years.


1989 - 1994: The Early Years
Frank Cabot, inspired by Ruth Bancroft’s artistic two-acre dry garden in Walnut Creek, CA, begins planning an organization to preserve exceptional American gardens

Fifty-member advisory committee formed, including Betty Corning, Vice Chair, and Angela Lansbury, Honorary Chair

Marco Polo Stufano asked to chair committee to identify gardens for preservation
Office established in Cold Spring, NY

Frank Cabot and Antonia Adezio rally support and establish membership 

Ruth Bancroft Garden designated first preservation project

Garden Conservancy becomes 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

Board of directors formed

Society of Fellows created to recognize patrons and engage them in garden preservation

Society of Fellows garden-study tours begin with trip to Portland, OR

First Garden Conservancy educational conference, “The Hermitage: A Case Study of Restoration Potential,” Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ

The Fells, Newbury, NH, 19th-century summer retreat of American statesman and author John Hay, named a preservation garden

Conservancy saves John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, Mill Neck, NY, from imminent closing;

Masters of American Garden Design” symposium series starts in New York City

Conservancy assists in forming advisory council for James Rose Center, Ridgewood, NJ
1995 - 1999: Open Days & 10th Anniversary
Page Dickey and Pepe Maynard launch Open Days program, opening 110 gardens in Connecticut and New York

Ione and Emmott Chase’s garden in Orting, WA, named a preservation garden

Conservancy helps to reclaim Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, DC

First meeting of Open Days regional representatives held in Cold Spring, NY

Conservancy helps create master plan to restore McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, FL

Conservancy supports efforts to save the Bernard McLaughlin Garden, South Paris, ME

Conservancy presents two-day symposium, “Roberto Burle Marx: Legend and Legacy,” in New York City and at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

Van Vleck House & Gardens in Montclair, NJ, named a preservation garden

Conservancy advises on master plan for restoration of Gardens of Gibraltar, Wilmington, DE

Janet Meakin Poor becomes first chair of Open Days and leads national expansion of program

Conservancy and Chicago Botanic Garden present “Gardens of the Midwest” symposium in Chicago, IL

Peckerwood Garden, Hempstead, TX, named a preservation garden

Conservancy helps Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, Bristol, RI, stay open to the public

Meeting of Open Days regional representatives, Birmingham, AL

Conservancy celebrates its 10th Anniversary in Charleston, SC, at national gathering of 400 members, Open Days representatives, preservation partners, and other garden enthusiasts

Anne and Joe McCann create Marco Polo Stufano Garden Conservancy Fellowship to foster skills in managing public gardens; the first of nine annual fellows assigned
2000 - 2004: West Coast Expansion
Conservancy joins effort to save Abkhazi Garden in Victoria, British Columbia;

Lecture series launched at New York School of Interior Design, New York City.

Conservancy publishes garden preservation handbook, Taking a Garden Public: Feasibility and Startup Conservancy, establishes forum—now known as the Garden Conservancy Northwest Network—to promote communication and resource sharing among gardens in the Pacific Northwest

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Crestwood, KY, named a preservation garden

Conservancy and Peckerwood Garden present “Vanishing Borders” symposium at Texas A&M University

Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, NJ, named a preservation garden

Conservancy presents “The American Garden in Japan” symposium at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Three gardens named preservation gardens: Rocky Hills, Mt. Kisco, NY (the first Open Days garden thus designated); Steepletop, home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz, NY; and Montrose in Hillsborough, NC

Gardens of Alcatraz, San Francisco, becomes a preservation garden, restoration project begins in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and National Park Service West Coast Council established

Conservancy opens office in San Francisco

Hollister House Garden, Washington, CT, named a preservation garden

Ruth Bancroft Horticultural Series of educational seminars begins, Walnut Creek, CA Hollyhock events on garden design launched in Los Angeles, CA

Conservancy and House & Garden present “Great Visions, Great Gardens” symposium in New York City and Pocantico Hills, NY

First international Society of Fellows garden-study tour explores Mexico City and Oaxaca
2005 - 2009: Foundations for the Future
Elizabeth Lawrence Garden in Charlotte, NC, named a preservation garden

James deGrey David becomes chair of the Open Days program

Conservancy presents “Hadrian’s Villa and the California Garden” seminar at Stanford University

“Gardens to Match Your Architecture” program (2005-09) launches in San Francisco, co-sponsored with Pacific Horticulture magazine

Conservancy begins providing preservation assistance to Gaiety Hollow, Salem, OR

Meeting of Open Days regional representatives, Newtown, CT

Conservancy marshals funds and a garden crew to help Longue Vue Garden recover from Hurricane Katrina. Longue Vue named a preservation garden

$250,000 Save America’s Treasures grant to Alcatraz project successfully matched

“Fresh Design, West Coast 2006” becomes first Conservancy seminar in Los Angeles

Endownment campaign, Campaign to Save America’s Exceptional Gardens, launches, co-chaired by Dorothy Gardner and Morris Cheston

Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC, named a preservation garden

Open Days regional representatives meet in Austin, TX

Founder Frank Cabot retires as chairman and is succeeded by Tom Armstrong; Antonia Adezio named president

First Preservation Weekend held in Cold Spring, NY

Garden design talks begin at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco

“An Age of Gardeners: Mrs. Bancroft and Her Horticultural Contemporaries” symposium in honor of Ruth Bancroft’s 100th birthday; Open Days preview program and reception at Chicago Botanic Garden

Conservancy co-sponsors first biennial Hollister House garden-study weekend

National Trust for Historic Preservation presents Trustees’ Award for Organizational Excellence to the Conservancy

First European garden-study tour by the Society of Fellows visits Belgium and Holland

Open Days preview program and reception at Denver Botanic Gardens

Society of Fellows (and friends) enjoy “An Afternoon in the Gardens of Los Angeles”

California Preservation Foundation presents two awards to the Alcatraz project
2010 - 2014: Leadership Transitions and New Growth
George W. Rowe Education Fund established to support educational programs on the West Coast

Chase Garden, Orting, WA, now under Conservancy’s management, becomes public garden

Campaign to Save America’s Exceptional Gardens exceeds $15 million goal

The death of Tom Armstrong in June is followed by that of Frank Cabot in November

Ben Lenhardt elected chairman of the board and Courtnay Daniels, vice-chairman

Conservancy welcomes LongHouse Reserve as our first affiliate garden

“A Singular Vision” tribute program in New York City celebrates Tom Armstrong’s life and his book chronicling the creation of Hooverness

“Envisioning a Greater Perfection” tribute to Frank Cabot held at the New York Botanical Garden, co-sponsored with Wave Hill

The Garden Club of America awards Medal for Historic Preservation to the Conservancy

Third Preservation Weekend held at Chicago Botanic Garden

Susan and Coleman Burke endow Distinguished Lecture Series

At year end, Antonia Adezio steps down as president

Jenny Young du Pont appointed president and chief executive officer

Magnificently restored, Greenwood Gardens open to the public on a regular basis

Conservancy co-sponsors “Preserving Beatrix Farrand’s Gardens” symposium, Bar Harbor, ME

First garden-study tour of Quebec and Les Quatre Vents

Open Days Advisory Committee established; first meeting held in Cold Spring, NY

Gardens of Alcatraz graduate to local management

Gaiety Hollow, Salem, OR, named a preservation garden

Hortulus Farm Garden & Nursery, Wrightstown, PA, named an affiliate garden

Conservancy presents talks by designer Luciano Giubbilei at four events in California

Celebration of 25th Anniversary year begins

A few personal perspectives

Why Save and Share Gardens?
“Important gardens are an essential part of our irreplaceable heritage — as much a part of the historic preservation landscape as buildings, birth sites, and battlefields.”

Upon awarding the Garden Conservancy the NTHP Trustees' Award for Organizational Excellence


Michael Pollan, Vogue:

“…the Open Days program will make possible tens of thousands of garden visits across the country this spring and summer… What they’ve launched is an institution, and if my hunch is right, it could do more for horticultural cross-fertilization than anything to hit the American garden since, well, the bumblebee.”

Anniv ar eflip front cover
Anniversary Annual Report

With quotes and perspectives from 25 years of saving and sharing gardens. To view a PDF, click here.