Arts and Entertainment

Owners of PowellsWood looking ahead to urban garden's future

By BRAD BROBERG

For the Mirror

Monte Powell has spent much of the last decade creating a private garden of remarkable beauty, vitality and serenity.

Now, as Monte and his wife, Diane, prepare to once again open the gates of PowellsWood to the public for Mothers Day weekend, his thoughts are turning toward his garden’s long-term future –– a future that sooner or later must unfold without his guiding hand.

Located on three acres just off South Dash Point Road, PowellsWood bursts with a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and plants artfully arranged in eight garden “rooms.” The garden features meandering paths, swathes of lawn, a pond and a tea room –– all nestled at the tip of a 40-acre wooded ravine.

PowellsWood and gardens like it are truly labors of love. They rely on the vision and devotion of their creators to thrive season after season and year after year. But that leaves them vulnerable when the day comes that their creators are no longer able, or present, to ensure their survival.

The Garden Conservancy is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving exceptional American gardens for public education and enjoyment. Founded in 1989, the Garden Conservancy partners with garden owners and public and private organizations to secure the future of notable gardens, providing legal, financial and horticultural help as needed.

“One of two things usually happen to a garden when the owner is no longer in the picture,” said Monte Powell. “It either gets developed (for other purposes) or you create an organization to preserve it. The purpose of the Garden Conservancy is to encourage gardens like ours to become part of the national collection of gardens open to the public.”

While the Powells have yet to make any decisions about their garden’s long-term future, they are starting to explore their options. They’ve been in touch with the Garden Conservancy to learn more about the strategies available for preserving private gardens for future generations.

The conservancy operates a Preservation Assistance Center that offers owners the planning, fund-raising and organizational expertise they need to preserve their gardens. In some cases, it takes charge of the process by leading Garden Conservancy Projects. The key in both cases is to establish a local organization with the vision, resources and commitment to save and sustain the garden.

In some ways, the Powells already treat their garden as if it were public. Besides annual weekend openings for Mothers Day and a fall festival, the garden is open for self-guided tours from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays from April through September as well as by appointment at other times.

In addition, PowellsWood is participating in the Garden Conservancy’s annual Open Days program in which groups of private gardens throughout the country open their gates on the same date. PowellsWood’s date is May 20, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Without Powell’s passion for gardening, PowellsWood wouldn’t exist. But an equally important motivation, he said, is his belief that urban gardens such as PowellsWood –– especially if they are shared –– contribute greatly to a community’s quality of life.

“If you believe in providing open spaces in highly developed areas, gardens are an extremely important asset,” he said.

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