The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tours offer rare glimpse into private North Fork gardens

The Garden Conservancy Open Days

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair. (Credit: Vera Chinese photos)

Several years ago, Arnold and Karen Blair purchased a wooded lot adjacent to their Cutchogue home looking to ensure the peace and privacy on their waterfront property.

Today, it’s home to a sloping, meandering trail enhanced by lush perennials planted under towering oak trees.

“Once we had it, we said, ‘well, what are we going to do with it,'” Mr. Blair recalled. “Now it’s like a little park.”

The couple opened their three-acre property, which includes their backyard, pool and private dock, to the public on Saturday as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program. The non-profit organization, which strives to preserve public gardens, hosts several self-guided tours in private gardens across the country throughout the year. Proceeds benefit the Garden Conservancy’s mission.

“This incredible annual program is produced almost entirely by volunteers,” the organization’s website says of the Open Days events. “[H]undreds of individuals who help us showcase regional horticultural and stylistic expressions in a national context — celebrating the rich diversity in American gardens.”

The Blairs have been participating in the program since 2012. Newcomers also featured on Saturday included the Cutchogue garden of Britt and Peter Wallach and the Mattituck garden of James and Loraine Juliano.

Mattituck residents Dennis Schrader and Bill Smith also routinely open their property for the program.

Andromeda and rhododendrons were in bloom at the Blair household on Saturday, although the couple say that Memorial Day weekend is usually the most magnificent time of the year to see their property. Still, visitors caught sights of a large gazebo, spring flowering plants and the stone walls along the pool. The property featured an 80-foot elevation drop with the pool nestled on a landing in the middle of the hill.

“This was just a dirt slope when we bought it,” said Mr. Blair, adding that the pool is strategically placed. “We wanted a pool, but we didn’t want look at it in the winter.”

Participating in the program is a way to give back to the organization as well as to share their creation with other gardening enthusiasts.

“We went on other tours for beauty and inspiration,” Mr. Blair said. “Once our garden became mature enough, we thought we’d like to share it as other people have shared theirs with us.”

To learn more about the program and to check for additional Open Days events, visit gardenconservancy.org/open-days.

See more photos below.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.

Wisteria grows at the Cutchogue garden of Britt and Peter Wallach.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.

A scene from the Cutchogue garden of Arnold and Karen Blair.