The FWVGA Era (1984-present)
In 1984, three local gardeners, Martha (Marti) Stuart, Louise Martin and Marion Asher, approached the NPS to ask permission to attempt to restore the plantings in the garden. By then, the beds had disappeared and only a few of the original vines and cherry trees had survived.
That autumn, seven volunteers removed the sod for the annual beds, using historic plans provided by the NPS. In May 1985, the annual beds were planted for the first time since 1938. By then, the FWVGA had grown to 32 volunteers. The two levels of annuals now contain annually over 6500 plants.
The FWVGA then turned its attention to the perennial level, restoring the beds and the famous 'Cherry Walk'. By the summer of 1986, the perennial garden was complete with approximately 3200 plants. In later years, the stone wall plantings and the iris beds around the Reflecting Pool would also be restored.
The most ambitious project was yet to come, however, restoring the rose garden. This consisted of two levels below the perennial garden and originally contained thousands of rose bushes. In order to fund the restoration of this part of the garden, the FWVGA created an 'Adopt a Rose' program. A donation would allow you to dedicate a rose bush to someone or in memory of a friend or relative. The program was an overwhelming success, resulting in the purchase and planting of over 1400 rose bushes in 1987. Each bush contained a plastic tag commemorating the donation. This was a feature of the rose garden for many years until the NPS requested removal of the tags.
During this time, the FWVGA also began to take steps to ensure a regular income of funds to cover the cost of maintaining so large a garden. Replacement plants, mulch, fertilizer, tools and equipment had to be purchased each year. Therefore, fundraising activities began to become a priority for the association.
In 1989, volunteers from Central Hudson Electric Corp. ran electric lines to the Potting Shed and down to the Reflecting Pool. At this time, the FWVGA also started restoring the pool. By 1990, the restoration was complete. The statue seen dipping her 'toe' into the pool is 'Barefoot Kate', or 'Katie' as she is affectionately known. Placed in the garden in the early 1920's, she and her reflection in the pool are one of the most photographed scenes in the garden. The black color of the water in the pool is achieved through a chemical, non-toxic dye, which gives the pool its reflective qualities and keeps down algae.
In 1993, six garden benches were installed which replicate the ones which originally stood in the garden. Each bench was purchased through donations.
Despite all the work of the last couple of decades, the current garden is still only an echo of the original. Projects continue to restore more of its grandeur. During 2002, the small Boy/Dolphin fountain was restored to working order, carrying water for the first time in over 60 years. The panel beds located on either side of the fountain were restored and replanted starting in 2003. They now hold roses for the first time since 1938.
Other projects remain in the planning stages for future funding, such as the restoration of the Orpheus fountain in the Rose Garden, replacement of wood arbors that are deteriorating, repair of brick walls and replacing many of the rose bushes with 'heritage' roses. These will bring the garden closer to what it would have been like in the 1930's. This in addition to the regular garden maintenance which must always be done.
All of these projects are both expensive and technically difficult to do. However, the volunteers of the FWVGA remain committed to their mission to make the garden both beautiful and faithful to the vision of Frederick Vanderbilt.