SALEM — For Bobbie Dolp, the gardens at Gaiety Hollow are a laid out in a complex, extraordinary way that’s hard to convey.
She said they’re built around the concept of rooms, much like a house.
“It feels much bigger than it really is. People are always amazed,” Dolp said.
The gardens were designed by Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, the pair behind the first women-owned landscape architecture firm in the Pacific Northwest. The women’s influence can be seen in various gardens around Salem.
For nearly two decades, Dolp has made it her mission to preserve their legacy. Now, her work is being recognized with a state historic preservation award.
After Dolp retired from teaching chemistry and physics at Central High School in Independence, she had quite an extensive garden.
Over time, Dolp said she shifted from vegetable gardening to planting more flowers.
“I’ve always loved being outdoors and being active and working with my hands,” she said.
She was drawn to the uniqueness of Lord and Schryver’s story, two women from different backgrounds and education levels who met in 1927 while abroad in Europe studying gardens.
They had both gone to a school in Massachusetts for women in landscape architecture, but attended years apart. They moved west to establish their business in 1929, in Lord’s family home in Salem.
“They certainly blazed a trail and left a significant legacy,” Dolp said.
She said their skills blended well, with Schryver doing the engineering, design and layout while Lord excelled at plant combinations.
“It’s interesting to see how they developed their business sense as well as incredible aesthetic sense” Dolp said.
She and another gardening friend began to envision a group that would explore the story of Lord and Schryver, who designed more than 200 landscapes and gardens in the region from 1929 to 1969.
They brought garden preservation specialist Bill Noble to see Gaiety Hollow, Lord and Schryver’s personal home, garden and studio located at 545 Mission St. At the time, the garden was privately owned.
Dolp said Noble told them there was no garden like it on the West Coast.
“Well, we better get organized,” Dolp recalled thinking.
She helped establish the Lord & Schryver Conservancy in 2005, with an eye on one day purchasing the garden where the women did their work and opening it to the public.
Dolp said she had no idea when that opportunity would come about.
Pam Wasson, executive director of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, said Dolp is “a real go-getter” who worked hard to get Gaiety Hollow listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“She really had the passion and drive to go through all these steps and processes,” Wasson said.
She said accomplishing what Dolp has for the historic property took a lot of work.
In the intervening years, the nonprofit raised money to hire a firm to document what the garden was like in its “period of significance.” It also rehabilitated and maintains the historic gardens at the Deepwood Estate, also designed by Lord and Schryver.
Dolp said Lord and Schryver did all the work themselves in a studio above the garage. There’s no record of an intern or secretary helping them.
In 2015, the conservancy purchased Gaiety Hollow after 18 months of fundraising.
Through the decade-long process, Dolp said, “It’s just one foot in front of the other.”
On April 29, Dolp will be recognized for her work establishing the Lord and Schryver Conservancy during the Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards.
Awards are for those who “have made outstanding contributions to preserving Oregon heritage.”
Dolp said she’s spent “a lot” of hours in the garden, and many more getting the conservancy off its feet through grant writing and communicating its importance to people.
“I haven’t regretted any minute,” Dolp said.
“I just felt really fortunate to have the time and energy when this story and the opportunity were kind of coming to the front.”
Gaiety Hollow has a free open garden tour Saturday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dolp said it’s a prime opportunity to see the tulips in bloom.
More information is available at www.lordschryver.org.