The Headley-Whitney Museum welcomes the spring planting season with “A Garden Affair,” a European-style garden show featuring vendors under tents on the museum grounds selling plants, tools, work gloves and hats, willow furniture, outdoor lighting systems and antique garden accessories like fountains and benches.
Also, the show will feature lectures and programs by landscape architects, garden designers and authors, plus children’s activities.
“In Europe, garden shows are often outside where you can look up and see the trees and the sky. It adds so much to the enjoyment because you are out in nature,” said Martine Head, chairwoman of the museum board.
A preview party will be Thursday evening. A special unveiling of the shell grotto, closed since 2011, will be among the night’s events.
With admission to A Garden Affair, visitors can also tour the museum’s galleries and gift shop, the jewel room, library and formal rose garden.
Currently on exhibit in the museum’s main gallery is “Art/Green/Design” that showcases objects and art made from recycled, renewable and sustainable materials. About half of the 25 artists are local.
Head encouraged parents to bring children and make the garden show a family adventure. The spacious grounds offer room where youngsters can run and play, she said. Children activities will include painting rocks and planting seeds.
The lineup of lectures begins Friday morning with Nashville landscape architect Ben Page, known for his highly detailed, historically inspired landscapes.
Following his lecture, Page will conduct a mini-coach tour of two of his Lexington projects, Mt. Brilliant Farm and a residence on Richmond Road. Space is limited and there will be an additional charge for the tour.
That evening, author Andrea Wulf will explore how the lives of the George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and their attitudes toward plants, gardens, agriculture and nature impacted their views on setting up a new nation. She will sign copies of her book, “Founding Gardeners and The Invention of Nature.”
On Saturday morning, Tom Kimmerer, chief scientist at Venerable Trees, Inc., a non-profit conservation organization, will talk about his work to preserve ancient trees in the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin. These trees were present before the first permanent settlements in Kentucky in the latter 1700s.
French garden architect Philipe de Boncourt will speak on Saturday evening about the challenges of working in various countries with different climates and plant material. Gardens designed by de Boncourt flourish in the Bahamas, Corsica, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Switzerland and the United States. Examples of his work in Lexington are at Vinery Stud and the home of the museum founder, the late George Headley, a few steps away from where the garden show will be set up.
Over the three days there will also be talks on hummingbirds, attracting birds and bees, making willow furniture, growing a cut flower garden, cooperative neighborhood gardens and Kentucky Heartwoods, a nonprofit that works to protect Kentucky’s native forests. Arborist Dave Leonard will talk about ways to keep trees healthy.
Headley, a designer, collector and socialite, had the money and artistic skill to create the Headley-Whitney Museum, starting first with the jewel room and library building in 1964 to house his bibelot collection. The shell grotto was added in 1973. Headley died in 1985.
The museum has faced financial troubles like many other museums have since the 2008 economic crisis. When the roof on the shell grotto needed to be replaced, there were other repairs looming on the jewel room and library. The museum board faced a dilemma, which to do first, said Amy Gundrum Greene, curator and director.
The board decided to do the jewel room and library first, so the shell grotto was closed to the public. In recent months, museum staff and volunteers have spent many hours re-gluing shells and polished stones that decorate the walls, furniture, chandelier, doors and window frames of the shell grotto. Other maintenance was done in preparation for its re-opening.
“It needed some love,” Greene said of the building that was originally a three-car garage. “These shells were glued up there in the 1970s. They have to be re-glued every so often.”
Producing A Garden Affair and returning the shell grotto to public view are part of an initiative to acquaint more people with the Headley-Whitney Museum.
“There are three art museums in Lexington — 21C, the University of Kentucky and us,” Greene said. “The other two are right in the city. More people know them. We’re a little off the beaten track. We want to get people out here to show them what’s here.”
The Headley-Whitney is about a six mile drive west of the Distillery District on Old Frankfort Pike, through iconic Central Kentucky horse farm country.
Reach Beverly Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
A Garden Affair garden show
Where: The Headley-Whitney Museum, 4425 Old Frankfort Pike.
When: Garden show opens to the public Friday, runs through April 30. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Admission: Daily admission: $10. Lectures: $20 with reservation, $25 day of event. The $100 run of show ticket includes admission each day and all lectures. $150 VIP package includes preview party, daily admission and all lectures. $100 private bus tour with Ben Page at 11 a.m. Friday.
Preview party: A Garden Affair Fete preview party, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Thursday, includes botanic inspired cocktails and appetizers made from local produce. Tickets $50 per person.
Visit: Hwmagarden.com for tickets and more information.