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Dyann Skelton, Luncheon Co-Chair; Sarah Jo Hardin, President, Women’s Council; Therese Rourk, Luncheon Co-Chair; Donna Arp Weitzman, Honorary Chair.

The Right Honorable Countess of Carnarvon Spoke About Her Newest Book Seasons at Highclere at A Writer’s Garden Celebrating A Woman’s Garden’s 25th Anniversary as part of the A Noble Celebration Week of Events


The Right Honorable Countess of Carnarvon, author of many books including her latest Seasons at Highclere, otherwise known as the site of the filming of the hit television series Downtown Abbey, was the featured speaker at A Writer’s Garden Literary Symposium and Luncheon benefiting the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and A Woman’s Garden.
Chaired by Dyann Skelton and Therese Rourk with Donna and Herb Weitzman as honorary chairs, the event was part of A Noble Celebration, a week of happenings celebrating the 25th Anniversary of A Woman’s Garden and the 40th Anniversary of the Women’s Council.  The day began with a VIP reception at A Tasteful Place at the Dallas Arboretum, which included a photo opportunity with Lady Carnarvon, sponsored by Gittings Photography. Guests were treated to mimosas, small bites and a coffee bar sponsored by Patti Mitchell and Kay Weeks, and then strolled the path to Rosine Hall, where the presentation, luncheon and book signing took place.
At the Reveal party at the Angelika months ago, sponsored by Sarah Jo Hardin, Women’s Council president, everyone was delighted to watch a very special pre-recorded video featuring Lady Carnarvon at Highclere Castle saying how truly excited she is to come to Dallas to celebrate this year’s theme, “Growing Friendships for 40 Years” and “... walk the paths of your beautiful garden,” referring to A Woman’s Garden. Her live presentation did not disappoint.
Sarah began by thanking the chairs, honorary chairs and especially Lady Carnarvon for traveling to Dallas. Lady Carnarvon said it was her first time in Dallas and she was delighted to be a part of the Women’s Council’s ongoing symposium and luncheon.  She said she was going to take us to a different world via her presentation to experience the four seasons of Highclere with slides and highlights of her new book, Seasons at Highclere.  
She began by giving a history of Highclere from its earliest records in 1216 through the changes brought over the years, saying that in 1908, there were 100 gardeners and today there are four. She and her husband are often outside planting. The images were beautiful, reflecting their plantings with the seasons in mind. Spring bulbs blooming. Fields of new grass. Rolling hills. Summer wildflowers. Acres and acres of vistas of leaves changing in the fall. Wintery snow on the trees. Everywhere one will see beautiful views with paths made on purpose not only for humans to enjoy, but the wildlife, as well. Trees are placed to encourage wandering. Flowers planted to encourage insect and bee habitats. She and her husband have seven dogs and enjoy walking them and love to “Beat the Bounds,” which means walk the boundaries.
Their life at Highclere also includes a menagerie of animals, including Lady Mary, the pig and others. Animals are named after characters in Downtown Abbey: horses, sheep, lambs. Chickens have the names of characters from Jane Austen books.
Lady Carnarvon’s vision for the grounds, gardens, and Highclere itself includes expanding endeavors to include Highclere Castle Gin, which has won 74 gold and platinum awards, developing Chateau Highclere vineyards and a pink sparkling wine. One of the newest additions is the group Friends of Highclere, where members can explore wearing 3D goggles, which makes them feel like they are really there. This year they launched the Lady Carnarvon Rose and Highclere Castle Rose. Much more to come with another new book, The Earl and the Pharoah.  She encouraged everyone to visit her blog at After her absolutely enchanting presentation, she stayed to sign books personally.
After Lady Carnarvon’s presentation, Therese and Dyann thanked donors and sponsors, especially hosts of the Patron Party the evening before, Holly and Philip Huffines, which was chaired by Renee Farren and Bettina Hennessy. They also thanked Nikki Beneke, Auction chair and Dorothea Meltzer, Book Sales Chair.
Auctioneer Samantha Sisler from Heritage Auctions hosted a lively and spirited auction, which was followed by the luncheon. A very special treat was the appetizer, Chilled Parsnip and Apple Soup, which was Lady Carnarvon’s recipe, followed by an entrée of Chicken Crepes with Creamy Mushroom Sauce, Parsley Wild Rice Mix, Texas Baby Greens and dessert of Molten Chocolate Lava Cake.
Find out more about the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum, events and exclusive membership opportunities. Details are available at


ABOUT THE WOMEN’S COUNCIL: Celebrating its 40th Anniversary.
Since 1982 the major goal of the Women’s Council has been the design, construction, funding and endowment of A Woman’s Garden, the only public garden in the United States conceived by women, funded by the efforts of women and dedicated to the spirit of women. The support of over 500 members of the Women’s Council makes possible the continued expansion and development of A Woman’s Garden. The Women’s Council is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.


ABOUT A WOMAN’S GARDEN: Celebrating its 25th Anniversary.
A Woman’s Garden is the only public garden in the nation conceived, constructed and maintained by the funding efforts of women. Ablaze with color in every season, A Woman’s Garden sits majestically as a living testament to the passion and vision of the Women’s Council founders and the boundless energy and devotion of its members whose commitment to creating a garden dedicated to the universal spirit of women across generations is realized in its inspired design. Our beautiful garden celebrates the power, creativity, resourcefulness, passion and unwavering commitment of the women who came before us and those entrusted with its care now, and into the future.      

*Photos by Rob Wythe/Wythe Portrait Studio

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