I love to pat the heads of perfectly shaped lettuce, run my fingers through fragrant herbs, and tickle the undersides of fuzzy melon leaves, sprawled on the warm, soft earth. There is something alluring about a formal vegetable garden edged with clipped boxwood and shaded by small-leaved lindens, especially when you're not the one to weed it. So when my best friend Rich suggested we elope to the Benjamin Waller Garden in Williamsburg, Virginia, I quickly accepted his proposal.
Fourteen years after the marriage commissioner of Williamsburg pronounced us man and wife in the garden gazebo, we are still crisscrossing the country, admiring the beauty and bounty of America's private gardens.
A handy, new guidebook from The Garden Conservancy is the perfect traveling companion, with more than 300 private gardens to visit in 23 states on designated "open days."
Foodies in search of ideas for their own kitchen gardens will be happy to know that nearly 25 percent of them include edibles as part of their landscape.
Garden of Linda Allard, Washington, CT. Photo by S. Werskey. Open Day: June 27.
Old Goat Farm, Graham, WA. Photo courtesy of The Garden Conservancy . Open Day: June 7.
Northview, Ambler, PA. Photo by Jenny Rose Carey. Open Day: September 20.
The Garden Conservancy's 2009 Open Days Program also offers opportunities to visit Fordhook Farm, home to W. Atlee Burpee & Company in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of culinary favorites such as Golden Bantam, the first yellow sweet corn, Big Boy tomato, Iceberg lettuce, and the Fordhook lima bean. Fordhook Farm, on the National Register of Historic Places, will host four, two-day events on their 60-acre test farm and trial gardens, along with garden tours, workshops and lectures.
Fordhook Farm, Doylestown, PA. Testing grounds for W. Atlee Burpee & Co. Photo: S. Werskey. Open Days: May 8 and 9; July 10 and 11; August 21 and 22; and September 25 and 26.
At Fordhook Farm, you can sign up for "Root Camp," where you'll learn about container gardening and raised bed gardens, May 8 and 9; enjoy the "Midsummer Garden Party" on July 10 and 11; participate in tomato tastings at "Burpee's Harvest Festival" on August 21 and 22; and get tips on planting your fall garden and preparing for the following spring during the "Autumn Garden Tour" September 25 and 26.
The Open Days Directory ($21.95, including shipping and handling) provides descriptions of all 300 private gardens, visiting dates and hours, and driving directions. The directory includes one free admission ticket to any Open Days private garden, a $5 value. To purchase a directory or to join the Garden Conservancy as a member and receive a free copy, call 1-888-842-2442, or visit www.opendaysprogram.org.
Sponsors for this year's Open Days Program include W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Heronswood Nursery, The Cook's Garden, and Garden Design Magazine.