Each year, the Garden Conservancy — a national nonprofit that works to preserve America’s gardens — sponsors its Open Days Program. Across the country, rarely seen private gardens open their gates to the public, both to share the beauty of the collections and to increase popular appreciation of gardens as an art form.
The program began with 110 sites in New York and Connecticut. Now, 10 years later, it includes nearly 450 gardens in 22 states and British Columbia. Both sites and dates for the progressive tour change from year to year, enabling regular Open Days attendees to experience a variety of gardens and seasons. In the Southeast, this year’s dates run from April 3 to Oct. 3.
In Asheville, this year’s event happens Sunday, May 16. It will feature three gardens, all on the south end of town. Last year, the local event took place in midsummer (see “Museums Without Walls,” July 9, 2003 Xpress).
Most sites included in the tour are private, but the French Broad River Garden is not. Located close to downtown, its native trees and flowering shrubs provide the setting for eight specialty herb gardens. The garden is open year round from dawn to dusk; the Open Days event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From U.S. 25 (Hendersonville Road), turn east on Ozanwood Circle, just south of the Mission St. Joseph’s hospital complex. For more information, call the French Broad River Garden Club at 274-5435.
The Gardens at 6 Stuyvesant, in Biltmore Forest, contain four distinct areas linked by boxwood and paths: a mountain pond with a waterfall, perennials and shrubs, an herb collection and a vegetable garden. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From U.S. 25 (Hendersonville Road), turn west on Busbee Road, just opposite the South Forest Shopping Center. Turn left on Vanderbilt Road and left again on Stuyvesant.
The third entry, owned by Charles D. Owen Jr. and located at 7 Greenwood Road, contains one of only two complete Dexter rhododendron collections in the world. This variety, developed in the early 1900s by Charles Owen Dexter, has proved to be one of the best rhodo hybrids for the mid-Atlantic region. The Owen garden will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. From the previous garden, continue on Stuyvesant Road past the golf course. Turn right on Hill Top Road. The first left is Greenwood Road (park on the road).
Admission is $5 per garden. The conservancy’s Open Days Directory 2004 — which lists all participating gardens in the Southern states and includes a free admission coupon — is available for $5 from Books-A-Million and Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe.