Saturday, July 17, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – South Dartmouth Open Day

Join The Garden Conservancy in the North and South Dartmouth area on Saturday, July 17 from 10 – 4  for a self guided tour of eight fascinating and diverse private gardens.

Fran & Clint Levin’s Garden, North Dartmouth

The gardens surround a house designed by an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright. The gardens have evolved over the past sixty years, working first with Allen Haskell, and since 2004 with Nan Sinton. The gardens include a rose garden, succulents, Japanese maples, a tropical garden, and in the last three years the owners have developed a contemporary stroll garden exploring different garden vignettes, vistas, and a “stumpery”. The gardens also include a fish pond, tennis lawn, and secret garden.  Francine Crawford of the Garden Club of the Back Bay reports that a tour of this garden with late fellow member Sandy Tishman several years ago was a highlight of the GCFMA Garden Tour Week.

Nancy & Richard Forbes, 523 Barneys Joy Road, South Dartmouth

Come see one of the most gorgeous properties on the South Coast. God provided incomparable views of the tidal Slocums River, farms tilting down to the river, and meadows, woods, and salt marshes. The Forbes’  part (and landscape architect Martha Moore’s) was to arrange native plant material so as to create interest and still to direct the eye outward. They have augmented the native material with an enclosed cutting and vegetable garden that includes prize-winning dahlias. You will be interested in how the two of them manage the place, with a little help, as they weekend and vacation in their Richard Bertman-designed house.

Frog Landing, 77 Elm Street, South Dartmouth

Set in mature coastal woods, Nan Sinton’s seven-year old garden draws inspiration from classic Renaissance design with an axial plan using native plants as key structural elements. Explore the street-side glade garden, then climb stone steps to a gravel entrance court planted with standard wisterias. Walk through tall wooden gates to discover the main garden areas. Here the designer/owner, who is also a passionate plant collector, has made a patterned viewing garden, a “green” room, and a formal allée. A hidden flower enclosure displays luxuriant tropicals, a vegetable and cutting garden is adjacent to the house, and a series of shaded woodland walks—the cool “bosco” of the historic sixteenth-century gardens—feature native viburnums, clethra, holly, magnolias, and ferns. The garden was featured in the August/September 2008 issue of Horticulture magazine.

Jardim Escondido, 147 Russells Mills Road, South Dartmouth

Jardim Escondido (Hidden Garden – and yes, the owner says it is Jardim, not Jardin) is a plantsman’s garden gem, tucked away behind tall hedges and large trees. The two-and-one-half acres is divided into two areas. Initially, you encounter a country garden: a large wildflower field, lush cutting gardens, and vintage milk house surrounded by specimen trees and backed by twelve acres of woodland. The garden surrounding the house is a romantic, Monet-like garden begun by the Perry family in the 1930s. This European-inspired garden includes beds of pastel annuals, perennials, mature specimen trees, and magnificent old taxus topiaries. Jardim Escondido offers the visitor a visual surprise sure to be appreciated.

Betsy & Greer McBratney, 29 Grinnell Road, South Dartmouth

Fifty years ago, Betsy and Greer McBratney purchased three acres of a new subdivision, Birchfield Farm, a defunct dairy on the shores of Buzzards Bay and Padanaram Harbor. In 1974, seven McBratney’s moved into their new house designed by Wills Association of Boston. The front retaining wall and rock garden were built by Lloyd Lawton of Tiverton, Rhode Island. Design assistance for plantings was given by Blanche Frenning of Little Compton, and later by Allen Haskell. The present sunken garden and attached greenhouse had two incarnations: the first had steps and walls of railroad ties; the second, with assistance of Chris Tracey of Avant Gardens, was of stone for steps and walls. Twenty-two hypertufa troughs line the sunken garden walls. Greer, a beekeeper, is also interested in the lawn, trees, fruits, and vegetables. Grass-cutting, pruning, picking, canning, and freezing are his domain.

Paradise Farm, 1157 Russells Mills Road, South Dartmouth

It takes a village to design a garden, at least in this case. Before the owners moved from Cambridge twenty-four years ago, gardening consisted of keeping house plants alive—barely. Here multiple overgrown acres were in much need of attention. Rather than trust their own green thumbs, they consulted an army of knowledgeable designers, drawing inspiration and information from each one. Lili Morss helped with the pool; Sue Underwood, Allen Haskell, Jim Sears, Nonie Hood, and Kathy Tracey with other gardens. Their collective vision, the rich soil, and a growing understanding of the evolution of a garden have brought the garden  to this point. The many rooms in the garden each have a different high season, and special feeling.

Seathrift – Alfred J. Walker, 288 Russells Mills Road, South Dartmouth

The home of Al Walker and Keith Karlson, “Seathrift” was built in 1860 by whale ship Captain Benjamin M. Wing. For the past twenty years the current owner has reclaimed more than six acres, designing garden spaces both formal and natural, creating the feeling of an arboretum of trees and flowering shrubs using English country and Italian influences in both structure, walls, and ornamentation, yet retaining a country feel. Keep an eye out for the wonderful conifers, a large selection of more than forty Japanese maples, and the granite creations of local artist Ron Rudnicki.

Sarah Spongberg Garden at Herring Run, South Dartmouth

Herring Run Farm is located in a bend of the Paskamansett River. The nine acres on which the house stands is part of old fields and groups of trees edged by native plants. Nothing has been done to alter the character of the landscape. The plantings are intended to enhance its natural swells and dips. The entrance to the kitchen has an herb garden and the entrance to the garden itself is a simple gate that is the portal to a serene natural landscape that feels timeless and is a welcome respite from the world. The reflection of the trees on the far bank of the river is the backdrop for an aerating fountain that reflects the light and adds sparkle to the dappled shade.

Admission to each participating private garden is $5 per person. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Admission may be paid in cash or check. Tickets are not required to attend Open Days. To purchase discounted tickets in advance or to order an Open Days Directory with complete directions to each garden, log on to The Garden Conservancy thanks Garden Design magazine, its national media sponsor for 2010.