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Lev and Cheri interrupted my writing this morning to insist that I go with them on a walk up Cliff Road to see some spectacular private gardens that were open. My walks usually lead to the historic district, Main Street and the wharf, while they usually head past magnificent ocean-front houses to the beaches. Today they stumbled upon the first of two Nantucket Open Days, sponsored by the Garden Conservancy. Five homeowners opened their grounds to the public, a rare treat. Four of the houses were in walking distance of the hotel and three had ocean views. They ranged from grand estate to historic home to cottage. The historic house on Hussey Street was perhaps the biggest, most delightful surprise. This historic shingle house sits right on the sidewalk, with little hint of the huge side yard to the left. Stone steps lead down almost perhaps five or six feet, where I discovered massive beds of foxglove, delphinium and hosta–even strawberries–and shady, inviting sitting areas.

One of the things that immediately impressed me about Nantucket on my first visit in 2013 was the obvious philanthropy of the summer residents. At least one major charitable event seems to occur every week of summer. Residents recognize what a fragile, irreplaceable gem this island is, and they take very good care of its precious natural resources. The preservation of the land and the 400 pre-1850 homes, the gardens and all the rest are a tribute to their continuing generosity. This is not just a place where people come a few days and then leave. This is a summer community, in which people are deeply invested. It makes Nantucket a very special place to visit.

Photo gallery: Bells5.Calm, Easton Street, Hill House and Hussey Street.