"Nothing gives us more pleasure than visiting other people's gardens," Penelope Maynard answered when asked what inspired the "Open Days Directory" she and Page Dickey launched as members of the Garden Conservancy's advisory committee three years ago.
"We know England's Yellow Book [a yearly listing of private gardens open to the public in aid of charities] and thought opening American gardens would be a wonderful way for the Garden Conservancy to raise money, broaden their membership, and become aware of the extraordinary gardens here," Ms. Maynard says.
The Conservancy also encourages gardeners to communicate horticultural ideas.
"Problem-solving in your own garden can begin with looking critically at successes in other gardens. How can you accommodate a seasonal flood across your driveway, for example, short of building a bridge? On an Open Day visit, you notice a driveway with a shallow gully filled with large, smooth stones set in blacktop for the water to run through. The answer is an attractive ford, she says.
"My husband and I enjoy sharing our garden [in Bedford, N.Y., open in May and September this year]. It's built among rock ledges on the steep shoulder of a mountain so the challenge has been to create restful spaces. Some of our visitors have settled onto a bench for a couple of hours. Even with as many as 200 trickling through one day, people can enjoy a peaceful moment."