Nonprofit Garden Conservancy helps preserve national treasures in the landscape

Contributing Garden WriterJune 13, 2014 


    Garden Conservancy. The group's website,, lists projects, events and Open Days for private gardens in various areas. It also is packed with photographs. Even more up-to-date details may be found on the Facebook page,

    Theodore Klein Plant Awards. The list of award winners, online at, offers ideas to gardeners for selections of landscape plants well-suited for Central Kentucky.


    Garden Conservancy Open Days tours

    What: Three Central Kentucky gardens — two private, one public — will be open for tours to benefit the national non-profit organization.

    When: June 22. Specific times below.

    Learn more: For more information and directions to each site, go to or to


    Mount Brilliant. 2-6 p.m. 3314 Huffman Mill Pike. $5.

    Botherum. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 341 Madison Pl. $5.

    Governor's Mansion garden. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 704 Capital Ave., Frankfort. Free.


    Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

    What: Arboretum near Louisville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public.

    When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue., Wed., Fri., Sat.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu.; noon-4 p.m. Sun.

    Where: 6220 Old LaGrange Rd., Crestwood

    Admission: $7 adults, $5 ages 55 and older, free for active military members with ID and children 12 and younger.

    Learn more: (502) 241-4788,

    Sculpture exhibit: Includes 60 works by 24 sculptors. Continues through Aug. 3.

If your favorite fantasy includes spending a midsummer's day wandering through estates filled with luscious landscapes rich with greenery and overflowing with cottage-garden blossoms, perhaps it's time to take a look at some of the real-world encounters the Garden Conservancy has to offer.

This nonprofit national organization dedicated to the preservation of exceptional historic and culturally significant gardens, some in Central Kentucky, has become a hub for garden lovers.

Since 1989, the Conservancy has partnered with more than 100 private gardens across the United States to offer expert horticultural, financial and managerial know-how, a mission aimed at sustaining those places as essential community assets.

Special preservations projects

It has named 16 gardens as special preservation projects, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Projects include rehabilitation at the Gardens of Alcatraz island, once a military base and prison and now a National Park in California's San Francisco Bay; help with maintaining the one-man, three-acre living sculptures at Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville, S.C.; and planning collaboration with the Millay Society for poet Edna St. Vincent Millay's 600-acre farm Steepletop in Austerlitz, N.Y., named for flowers that grew wild there when it was established in 1925.

Nearby in Crestwood, just east of Louisville, the Yew Dell Botanical Gardens are another of the Conservancy's special preservation projects.

Founded in 1941 by Theodore Klein, the 33-acre production nursery and display garden was bought by the nonprofit Friends of Yew Dell and is now an arboretum setting open to the public. Klein was an avid horticulturalist and plant collector who gathered more than 1,000 botanical specimens, which he kept on the grounds. In 1995, the Theodore Klein Plant Awards, a program that promotes the selection of outstanding ornamental woody and perennial plants, was initiated.

Gardens containing mature evergreen specimens and unusual plant selections are laid out around Arts and Crafts-style stone buildings, one of which is a small castle, that Klein designed. Yew Dell offers special events, including an annual outdoor exhibit of works by regional sculptors in a variety of media, from plastic tubing and fabric to stone. Pieces are placed throughout the garden, and most are available for purchase. The exhibit continues through Aug. 3.

Open Days tours

One way the Garden Conservancy raises money to maintain its programs is to offer Open Days tours, organized by members throughout the country.

Private gardens that usually are not accessible to the public team up in various cities to open their gates for a fee.

This year, three Central Kentucky locations will be open June 22:

■ Mount Brilliant horse farm on Huffman Mill Pike in Lexington. The farm has roots dating to a 1774 land grant from Thomas Jefferson to the Russell family, and has been steeped in Bluegrass history ever since. Now owned by Greg and Becky Goodman, the farm's gardens have been restored by designer Jon Carloftis.

■ Botherum, on Madison Place near downtown Lexington. Carloftis and his partner, Dale Fisher, bought the historic 1851 home in 2012 and restored the house and gardens, which had fallen into disrepair.

■ Governor's Mansion garden in Frankfort. The mansion just celebrated its centennial, but the French-inspired gardens were not installed until the 1980s under then-first lady Phyllis George Brown.

Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: Blog:

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