June 06--BRANFORD -- The chairman of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be hosting a visit Saturday at his Branford residence to show off his own private gardens, an event organized through the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program.
Frederick Bland's sprawling Wallace Road property was described in a Garden Conservancy press release as an "intensively cultivated one-acre village garden" that features "more than 1,400 species of plants."
The release notes that Bland's property was one of 28 to be featured in author Jane Garney's book "The Private Gardens of Connecticut."
The book, released in 2010, was reviewed by the Hartford Courant. In an interview with the Courant, Bland called his property "a cottage garden with aspirations."
Reached Thursday, Bland described his comment from 2010 as a "bit of tongue-in-cheek."
"I'd say 'aspirations' since there are so many species packed into one acre," he noted. "That's almost unheard of."
He explained that a cottage garden refers to the types of gardens surrounding the average home in Great Britain and Europe. The gardens are known more for their variety than their beauty.
Bland said his gardens are the work of a plant collector. He said when he moved into the Stony Creek property during the early 1990s, there were two adjoining shacks and not much else. He planted the first garden in 1993 and the second in 1997. Eventually, Bland merged the two gardens. He has done all of the work himself.
"I don't go to the gym," he joked. "I do this."
He described his garden as that of "a plant collector's garden," adding that it is not necessarily beautiful. Bland works as an architect. He said the most exotic plant in his garden is a tree called a Wollemi Pine.
"They were thought to be extinct until 10 or 12 years ago," he said. "They were discovered in Australia. I first saw one about three years ago in Amsterdam's botanic garden. It was literally being kept inside a cage -- that's how afraid they were of someone stealing it."
A 2003 National Geographic story recounted the discovery of the Wollemi Pine in Australia. It was 1994, and the story compared the discovery to being "the botanical equivalent of finding a dinosaur alive today," describing the species found in a rugged gorge west of Sydney as "a bizarre-looking tree previously known only from 120 million-year-old fossil leaves."
Located at 30-34 Wallace Road, the press release states that Bland's property collectively features a long double-border, three woodland gardens, a pool garden hidden by a serpentine tapestry hedge and many other hedges and rock walls, all quarried from on-site stone.
"A main cottage and guest cottage with several other outbuildings are all purpose-designed to be subservient to the dominant garden," the release adds.
Bland said he's "excited" to do anything that raises the profile of the Garden Conservancy.
"I've never really showed off my garden before," he said. "I think the conservancy is a magnificent organization and I am honored to be doing this."
Saturday's Open Days Program at Bland's property will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the garden is $5 and the program will be held rain or shine. Visit www.opendaysprogram.org for more information.
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