Garden Conservancy Open Days Cause Acute Bouts of Rich-Folk Envy


Not that I've ever lacked for the essentials, of course, or even tuition at a private college.  But on hot, sticky summer days I would sure love to escape the air conditioning and take a dive in this pool, surrounded by acres of gardens in possibly the richest neighborhood in all of Virginia.  Lovely setting, doncha think?
Pool2-420 But hey, I'm not picky.  I'd be willing to take a dive into this more formal swimming pool, especially if dinner were served around it afterward.  You know, cooked by someone else.

If you're not familiar with the Garden Conservancy, it's the nonprofit that funds garden preservation.  Their main fund-raisers are the tours or Open Days, and I've gotta say all the ones I've seen are awesome.  But not because the owners have unlimited budgets – though they seem to indeed have deep pockets – but because they're also gardeners, at least all the ones I drooled over in Northern Virginia this past weekend.  Some of these owners of 5-15 acres even declare that they do all the work themselves, or  designed their gardens themselves, and that personal touch made these beauties stand out from the professionally designed and maintained estates all around them. 

Oh, just one more, the front garden of a diehard gardener, whose backyard with pool is shown in the top photo.


  1. “James, won’t you be a darling and pull that dreadful dandelion from the garden?”
    (That being my horrible impression of a rich person gardening)

    I would love more time to garden, but hey, I wouldn’t say no to more money!

  2. I went to our local Open Days and loved it! One gardener had hand painted their plastic pink flamingos a bright purple and this was in a nice neighborhood and very formal garden.

    Have you seen those new “natural” pools where they look more like ponds with gravel bottoms and plants in the water – me want bad!

  3. Hey, David, these folks DO garden. They’re not checkbook “gardeners”.

    My attitude toward the rich? Unless I know they got their money by some horrible means, I’m okay with it. And I’m even more okay with their spending money on wonderful gardens. That’s what my next-door neighbors did, replacing a crappy old swing set with a waterfall and gobs of plants to attract birds. I’m very happy they could afford it.

  4. Love the Garden Conservancy Open Days program.
    It offers a glimpse into how a wide range of people use , work , play, live and entertain in their outdoor spaces.
    The neat thing about the Open Day program is that not all of the gardens belong to wealthy gardeners.
    I had my garden open with the Conservancy program and I’m definitely not in the ‘rich’ category !

  5. Susan, I hope you can make it to the Raleigh area Open days September 19/20. Its the weekend before Garden Writers. We also benefit the JC Raulson Arboretum. I’ll have tickets waiting for you.

    When I first lobbied to have open days in Raleigh, I was cautioned that if we are to associate the JCRA with it, it better be about more than azaleas and dogwoods. Indeed. Many garden tours are actually landscape tours with little gardening going on. We have a garden tour. And we are not about deep pockets. We open exceptional gardens – regardless of the budget. There is a story in each…design, sustainable, water-wise, plant diversity, etc. No garden here can be “bought.”

    North Carolina is unique in that we have two project gardens – Montrose in Hillsborough (will be toured at GWA) and the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden in Charlotte.

    My garden, Helen’s Haven, will be open this year. Helen’s Haven is a sustainable, organic, water-wise wildlife habitat.

    Helen Yoest
    Regional representative for the Raleigh Area Garden Conservancy Open Days tour, also benefiting the JC Raulston Arboretum

  6. I am going to my first Open Days this Saturday with Kathy/Cold Climate Gardening. We are meeting to tour the ones near Ithaca, NY. They better be good, as this will be a 2 1/2 hour drive for me!

  7. Hey Eliz, I just picked up my trusty national Open Days Directory to read about the gardens in Ithaca. I see that two are listed, the Gibson Garden and Hillman Garden. Is this also near Ulster County? If so there are some gardens I have wanted to see for a while including Lee Reich’s. Have fun touring and hanging out with Kathy!

  8. Pam/Digging and I had a great time at the Austin Garden Conservancy tour last October and we’ve both been on those tours in other years.
    Some of the Austin gardens have been small houses & gardens, not always estates, but like Susan Harris, I like it when rich people spend money on wonderful gardens and then let me in to see them.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Helen, you’ve got the right area but the wrong month. The two gardens you mentioned are open in July, not June. And sadly, Ulster County is not close enough to combine with Tompkins County in the same day. I’d like to see Lee Reich’s garden, too.

  10. I saw some a garden conservancy gardens two years ago and was unimpressed. One had an outdoor fireplace (you sat on a couch facing the house), heating in multiple places, and an adjustable garden “house” (with a roof you could open or close and heating). The plants were relegated to admittedly attractive pots. Another garden had ivy and olive trees in the front yard. Sigh.
    It all seemed unsustainable and so last millenium.
    Susan, I like your no-lawn lawn better than these pictures.

  11. I’m jealous. There was an open day for a garden in my very own little CT town, but alas, I had to go out of state for my step-son’s college graduation that day. There are more in the area later in the summer, but I wanted to see one in my ‘neighborhood.’

  12. The most amazing swimming pool I ever saw was in California in the midst of garden designed by a Japanese Sensei, with hand chosen boulders creating a mountain down which various computer controlled rivulets fed the pool lined with smooth black Japanese river stones. The garden was a glorious wonder, but oddly in this very classic and tradtional Japanese garden, the natural pond-like pool was painted pool turquoise.

  13. Susan, it is so true that after touring several of these estates, you start wondering where is YOUR pool and free-standing green house?

    I’m just so excited that the DC-area has back the Garden Conservancy this year — I’ll be hitting as amny as I can this Saturday after the Smithsonian Garden Fest on the Mall.

  14. I often have a bad case of rich gardeners envy. The only thing worse is large garden property envy.

Comments are closed.