Timeline of Milestones Since 1989

Since our founding in 1989, the Garden Conservancy has worked to preserve, share, and celebrate America's gardens and diverse gardening traditions. We have helped more than 100 outstanding American gardens survive and prosper. Our educational programs have also grown apace, adding new programs nearly every year. One example is Open Days, which opens the gates to hundreds of private gardens across the country and allows thousands of visitors to explore beautiful spaces not normally open to the public.

Below is a timeline with a few highlights since the Garden Conservancy was founded in 1989. It chronicles a few of highlights from our beginnings, our growth, our challenges, our successes, and our plans for the future.


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 House & Gardens 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 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 and Programming Transitions
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 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 at festive dinner on December 3 at Metropolitan Club in New York City, honoring Jane Forbes Clark, John Kaul Greene, Dorrance Hill Hamilton, Richard William Lighty, and Marco Polo Stufano
2015 - 2019: 25th Anniversary, Renewal
Outstanding American Gardens: A Celebration – 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy, edited by Page Dickey, is published by Abrams in September Kayne Challenge grant to expand Garden Conservancy’s reach and impact matched Digging Deeper programs introduced to offer more in-depth educational opportunities in conjunction with Open Days garden visiting

The international Garden Writers Association awarded the Wilfred J. Jung Distinguished Service Medal to the Garden Conservancy for its Open Days program

Gaiety Hollow, the residence and personal garden of early landscape architects Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver in Salem, OR, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Society of Fellows garden-study tour to South Africa is first tour of gardens in the southern hemisphere

Garden Conservancy and Bard College enter into an agreement to work together to develop a strategy to rehabilitate Blithewood Garden, in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Jenny Young du Pont steps down as president & CEO Garden Conservancy grant supports new Visitor and Education Center at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA

James Brayton Hall joins the Garden Conservancy as president & CEO

Educational programs presented at 24 events in sixteen cities, including presentations by Fergus Garrett in Cincinnati and Atlanta Christopher Woodward, director of the Garden Museum in London, presents "The Memory of Gardens" in New York City on November 8

Conservation easement at Chase Garden in Orting, WA, expanded and property sold to local gardeners committed to preserving the legacy of Ione and Emmott Chase

At Bard College, Garden Conservancy presents panel discussion on the challenges of preserving "The Architectural Garden" Garden Conservancy board of directors leadership changes: Courtnay Daniels elected board chair, Robert Balentine, vice chair, and Ben Lenhardt becomes chairman emeritus

Charity Navigator awards the Garden Conservancy a four-star rating—its highest possible rating—for demonstrating strong financial health and a commitment to accountability and transparency. 

In New York City, the Frick Collection's new renovation plans promise to recreate its Russell Page garden according to the original design, as advocated by the Garden Conservancy

In Jacksonville, FL, the Garden Conservancy donates $20,000 to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens to help the Cummer restore its gardens after Hurricane Irma

First national speaker series presents fifteen programs by six speakers in eight cities across the country.

The Gardener, a full-length documentary about Garden Conservancy founder Frank Cabot, is released in the U.S.

In Fremont, CA, the Gardens at Palmdale, a new preservation partner, holds a dedication ceremony on May 10. A conservation easement is finalized and signed later in the year

Garden Masters Series programs, connoisseur-level events, added to the Garden Conservancy’s educational offerings

With the help of Lord Cultural Resources, the Garden Conservancy draws up its roadmap for the future, the Strategic Plan 2020-2025

Garden Documentation Program finishes its first film "garden portrait," describing the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll in Mill Neck, NY, and produced by Udris Film

Garden Conservancy sponsors a luncheon at the San Francisco Fall Show in honor of designer Bunny Williams In honor of Suzanne Rheinstein at the annual holiday dinner, donations significantly increase the Suzanne and Frederic Rheinstein Fund for Garden Documentation

2020 onward: New Directions
Garden Conservancy begins a five-year partnership with the Oakland Museum of California to renovate its landmark campus and gardens

The American Society of Landscape Architects awards its 2020 Olmsted Medal "in recognition of environmental leadership, vision, and stewardship" to the Garden Conservancy

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of our Open Days program in 2020, a 66-page book, #OpenDays25: A Quarter Century of America's Gardeners and Their Gardens, accompanies the year’s annual report

Charity Navigator awards the Garden Conservancy a four-star rating for the third year in a row; only 25 percent of the charities Charity Navigator evaluates receive three consecutive four-star ratings

In response to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, new virtual events and a new In My Garden email series are introduced to help keep members connected while most in-person programs are postponed

The Garden Conservancy Northwest Network, a consortium of small public gardens and horticultural organizations in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, expands its membership and offers new online programming

"Gardens for Good" grants launches

In-person events resume in May, with special precautions to address the evolving pandemic, and with a limited Open Days season

With the introduction of pre-registration and e-ticketing, in-person events resume

#GardenPreservation; Preserving, Sharing, and Celebrating America's Cultural Legacy, a 64-page oversize book and a companion to the previous year's #OpenDays25 publication, is published in conjunction with the annual report

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Click here to read about our 66-page book celebrating a quarter century of America's gardeners and their gardens

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2020 ASLA Olmsted Medal

"in recognition of environmental leadership, vision, and stewardship"

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Garden Conservancy Strategic Plan 2020-2025

Read a summary of our roadmap for growth through 2025

Anniv ar eflip front cover
Silver Anniversary Annual Report

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