BY KIM HUGHES –
The Polk County Extension Homemakers have invited Susan Harper of Hot Springs to their Fall Council meeting on Friday, October 23. Mrs. Harper tells the interesting story of Mrs. Verna Cook Garvan, a long-time resident of southern Arkansas and the founder and benefactress of Garvan Woodland Gardens. She lived in Malvern as a child and later in South Carolina and Florida. She returned to Arkansas and married Francis Patrick Garvan, Jr., son of a prominent and affluent family from New York City.
The site for Garvan Woodland Gardens was purchased in the 1920’s after a timber clear-cut in about 1915. Mrs. Garvan loved this beautiful place so much that she never allowed it to be cut again. In 1956, as a self-taught gardener, she began to develop it as a garden and possible future residence. She was intimately familiar with the land and laid out each path, marking every tree to be removed. Verna also personally chose each new plant and selected its location.
Over the next forty years, Mrs. Garvan planted thousands of specimens, which now form an impressive collection. There are hundreds of rare shrubs and trees, some more than 40 years old, including camellias, magnolias, and more than 160 different types of azaleas.
Upon her death in 1993, Mrs. Garvan bequeathed the property to the Department of Landscape Architecture through the University of Arkansas Foundation, a private, non-profit entity created to sustain university programs. Now an independent department of the University’s Fay Jones School of Architecture, the Gardens continue to flourish and grow through the support of the Arkansas Legislature, Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, many generous private donors, and more than 3,500 members.
It was Mrs. Garvan’s wish that the Gardens be used to educate and serve the people of Arkansas, providing them the joy and repose it had offered her. She noted the devastation of the environment that had taken place in her lifetime and wished to preserve a remnant of the twentieth century’s natural grandeur for generations to come.
The Polk County Extension Homemakers Clubs invite you to join us at 10:00 am at the RMCC Lecture Hall to hear this fascinating story. This is a free event and reservations are not necessary.