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3 de febrer de 2012

Saving America's garden treasures


Houston Chronicle (Estats Units) [Cr˛nica]


A fan-shaped sculpture by John Walker rises above agaves in Peckerwood Garden.

Some American masterpieces hang protected in our museums. Others are planted across our country - outstanding gardens that are expressions of our cultural heritage and also worthy of preservation.

Founded in 1989 by the late visionary Frank Cabot, the Garden Conservancy has been on a mission to save exceptional gardens for public enjoyment and education. The nonprofit has joined with gardeners, communities and other partners to help more than 90 gardens survive.

Peckerwood Garden near Hempstead is one of 16 designated conservancy preservation projects. The long-term collaboration will sustain and transition the 39-acre treasure from a private oasis to a well-managed public garden.

The conservancy follows a detailed process when taking on projects. But gardens, like their gardeners, are distinct. No two are alike, so defining exceptional is not quite as exact.

"It is subjective," says Antonia Adezio, the conservancy's founding executive director and president. "A garden is a work of art that tells the story of the person who made it. You know an exceptional one when you see it. It's head and shoulders above the rest."

"We know we can't save them all," she says. "We have to be selective."

The following gardens are among the conservancy's highly diverse preservation projects:

Since 1971, John Fairey has gardened from his heart at Peckerwood, planting a mix of woodland and dry gardens with 3,000 species, among them Southeast and Texas natives and plants from Asia and Mexico. A painter, architecture professor and plant explorer, Fairey has planted an experimental collector's garden that's also an ornamental landscape with attention to spatial relationships and a seamless blend of vistas and details, shapes, textures and light.

Peckerwood is open to private tours year-round and open to the public on some weekends beginning Feb. 18-19. (Information: www.peckerwood

Exceptional and compelling, the Gardens of Alcatraz thrive on a mysterious island in San Francisco Bay, thanks to the conservancy's eight-year partnership project to restore plantings on the big rock. For decades, soldiers, prisoners, prison officials and their families gardened with soil, plants and water barged across the bay. Roses, bulbs, figs and other plants grew wild after the prison closed in 1963 but are now restored and on display for the 1.5 million annual visitors who take the boat ride to walk among the colorful gardens.

Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay's Steepletop is quite the contrast from a rocky prison garden, but hers, too, was overgrown when the conservancy took it on. The 600-acre farmstead in upstate New York is named for a pink flower common in the area.

For more than 20 years, self-taught Pearl Fryar shaped magical green figures in his South Carolina topiary garden Today, the conservancy works with the Friends of Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden to help care for and preserve the three-acre wonderland for the public's enjoyment.

Longue Vue House and Gardens, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, is yet another conservancy preservation project.

Thanks to the conservancy's annual Open Days Program, the public can tour hundreds of private gardens across the country. The 2012 Open Days begins and ends in Texas. On March 24, six Houston gardens will open their gates. Details will be posted in March at


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