Antonia Adezio’s Gift

Antonia Adezio’s Gift

Antonia Adezio
Antonia Adezio, speaking at the opening celebration of the new Garden Conservancy headquarters in Garrison, New York, on October 14, 2012. Photo by Stan Wan.

When the founding executive director of the Garden Conservancy, Antonia Adezio, stepped down in December after twenty-three years, she left more than a hundred conserved gardens, a national membership organization with a network of engaged volunteers, a thriving Open Days program, a West Coast base in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a new headquarters in Garrison, New York. All this, she says, evolved from the “visionary idea” of the late Frank Cabot (1925–2011), in 1989. That year Cabot, a philanthropist  and passionate gardener, enlisted Adezio to create an organization that would preserve exceptional gardens—such as Ruth Bancroft’s, in Walnut Creek, California; John Hay’s The Fells, in Newbury, New Hampshire; and Pearl Fryar’s whimsical topiary garden, in Bishopville, South Carolina—after their creators leave or pass away. “The Garden Conservancy was founded to find and save the best American gardens, and we were successful thanks to the many professionals, allied organizations, and individual gardeners who believed in the importance of gardens as works of art and personal expressions,” Adezio says.

Ruth Bancroft Garden
Ruth Bancroft Garden. Photo by Marion Brenner.

In 2000 Adezio became the Garden Conservancy’s president. Since 2005, she has divided her time between the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and the organization’s Hudson Valley headquarters. Last year she decided to step down. “I had been balancing the needs of both coasts for nearly seven years, and, while it was difficult to leave the Garden Conservancy, I was eager to focus my professional efforts here in the Bay Area, where I have put down personal roots,” Adezio says, adding that her commitment to the conservancy’s mission remains strong: “Gardens are more important than ever as centers for community engagement and stewardship of our natural heritage and resources. Knowledge of our garden history, skilled horticulture, and creative design are the necessary components for carrying forward our gardening traditions in a changed environment and inspiring the love of plants and gardens in a new generation. I look forward to continuing to contribute to that process in the years ahead.”

The Fells Rock Garden
Springtime view of the rock garden at The Fells. Courtesy The Fells.

Tributes to Adezio flowed in from both coasts and in between. “She’s a smart, smart, smart woman,” said John Trexler, past executive director of Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Massachusetts. “She might have been a corporate executive, but instead she has given us this gift.”

Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden
Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. Photo by Bill Noble.

Banner photo credit: Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek, California (detail). Photo by Marion Brenner.