Scott took a group through the Asian Collections this afternoon, cut flower producers, so I blew leaves off the paths, the parking lot, and a few groundcovers. I'd have done other things if I'd needed to but we seem to be on top of things at present. I think this is the first time in 20 years that I've prepped the collection for a visit. The first time I worked in Asian Valley was 20 years ago; I was paid by FONA with money donated by the very generous Dorothy Kidder. Her donations to FONA paid my salary, two other salaries in the Asian Collection, and supplied various things to the garden including a New Holland skid steerer and countless tractor trailer loads of mulch.
When she was scheduled to visit, and she always afforded us the courtesy, we did serious preparation. I used to hand rake the, then gravel, China Valley path not only to remove foreign objects, but to align the gravel. Beth and Roger raked the other paths. We removed anything that could be construed as unsightly and any tools, soil piles, plants in pots, that is any sign that the garden wasn't perfect already, disappeared. I don't think she cared about the garden being perfect but appreciated our efforts.
When Dorothy visited, she always brought a visitor or visitors. She loved gardens and had three herself: a roof garden at her residence at the Watergate; a lovely informal several acre riverfront garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; and a highly terraced garden in the South of France. Having them, loving them, and supporting them wasn't enough; she was a tireless and energetic proselytizer. Plus, she was proud of the Asian Collections and enjoyed showing it to others.
Of course her funds and attention were a large part of the reason there was something to be proud of. I guess that's the "chicken or the egg" aspect to finding donors. If I was giving large sums of money to a garden, I'd want it to be something I could share pride in, but sometimes it takes years of funding to improve conditions to that point. This means giving money to a place that really needs it involves something of a leap of faith. Or possibly a vision.