The quiet, peaceful oasis that is Chase Garden has been under the wings of Garden Conservancy since 2010. (Dispatch file photo)
The quiet, peaceful oasis that is Chase Garden has been under the wings of Garden Conservancy since 2010. (Dispatch file photo)
By Pat Jenkins
The Dispatch
The future of Chase Garden is uncertain while an organization that manages the horticultural preserve near Graham looks for another non-profit group to keep it open to the public.
The quiet, peaceful oasis that was once part of a private home was under the wings of the Garden Conservancy until June 30. Then the national non-profit organization, which forms partnerships with owners or other non-profit operators of gardens to make them available to the public as examples of cultural heritage and environmental stewardship, closed Chase to the public.
The Garden Conservancy, which began working with Ione and Emmott Chase in 1995 when the couple wanted to turn their backyard into a public resource, holds a conservation easement on the land and has been helping Chase Garden's membership develop public support.
Lori Taylor, Chase Garden's director, said the group has been "negotiating with another non-profit who we hope will take the garden and keep it going as a public garden."
The garden "is not currently on the market," she said in reply to questions about whether it could be sold to private or non-garden interests if a new operator can't be found.
On Chase Garden's website early last spring, a post stated, "To better secure a sustainable future for the garden, the Garden Conservancy is pursuing a sale to a friendly buyer and continues to be open to finding a local organization to manage Chase as a public garden." A subsequent posting said the conservancy is "exploring the transfer of ownership to a local non-profit group. We will continue to update our website with information regarding the future of the garden."
The four-acre garden occupies a scenic, wooded bluff on 264th Street East, about three miles east of State Route 161. Starting in 1952 and continuing for 45 years, it was the lifework - a labor of love - for the Chases, who lived at the site in a home they built. They were married for 74 years until Ione died in 2006, followed by Emmott's death this year at the age of 99.
The property was bequeathed to the Garden Conservancy in 2010 to ensure its preservation and to share the couple's vision with the public. Despite the garden being closed now, the Conservancy will continue caring for it "in keeping with Ione and Emmot's vision," officials said.
The garden is both a local treasure and an object of national acclaim. With Ione doing the designing, the Chases crafted a naturalist wonderland, using the second-growth Douglas fir trees as a backdrop for native shrubs, groundcover and wildfowers. Perennials, Japanese maples and rhododendrons share the grounds among meandering, gently sloped paths that magnetically pull visitors into the surroundings.
In 2001, Homestyle magazine named it one of "America’s Ten Most Beautiful Gardens." It also was featured in 2003 in the New York Times, which raved about the "swirling drifts" of native plants that seemed to "soar" into the valley view, and also in "Earth on Her Hands," a book by Starr Ockenga about prominent women gardeners in the U.S.
Counting down to Chase Garden's scheduled closure, managers were urging the public to schedule their final visits. And a garden party for volunteers and members, past and present, was held June 24 to "share memories and celebrate" the garden, according to its website.
The garden has been open to individual visitors and tour groups Wednesday through Sunday. Admission cost $8 for adults, with prices reduced or free for large groups, active or retired military personnel, and children.