Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Historic Garden Week

Virginia's State Bird - The Cardinal 
The biggest week in the State of Virginia for Gardeners is this coming week, April 21 - 28 as this is the annual Historic Garden Week.  A state wide event sponsored by numerous Gardening Clubs that occurs in various municipalities.  Each locality opens primarily historic homes and gardens for tour on typically one day during the week.  I love reading through the 225 page booklet that can be found at coffee shops, book stores, libraries, etc (in host locals).  It contains details about each tour in 30 areas of the State.  These tours are annual fundraisers for historic garden preservation, COUNT ME IN!

I primarily perused details concerning road trips not more than 2 hours from Charlottesville.  It's a long day to drive 4 hours round trip and visit 4 - 8 homes!  My favorite selections were Staunton, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Winchester-Clarke, and Petersburg.  Last year we visited Staunton and it was outstanding.  It's hard to not go back once again, but we wanted to see a new town so Ashland (the center of the universe) it is. 

4/21, Sat, 10-5, $30.00 - Ashland is northwest of Richmond and a little over 1 hour drive, it sounds small and quaint.  Featured homes range in age from 1887 - 1974.  Garden details range from cottage gardens, chickens, large hardwoods, and a hidden garden room. 

4/21, Saturday, 10-5, $25.00 - Clarke County / Winchester features one of the oldest homes on the tour, built in 1753.  A pergola covered in Wisteria, Copper Beeches, and Stained Glass windows featured in three homes on the tour sound charming.  The State Arboretum is also in Clarke and I decided it was a temptation I could not resist will in the area so will plan to go up this Summer for a day long trek through the Bandy Experimental Station.

4/21, Saturday, 10-5, $25.00 Staunton is a wonderful historic town that also has one of the more vibrant restored Main Streets in Virginia.  You will want to plan on leaving time for a quick lunch downtown.  Architecture ranges from Queen Anne to Gothic Revival in this years featured historic Gospel Hill district.  During last years tour, the flower arrangements in homes blew me away and I assume the Augusta Garden Club members have been hard at work preparing for this special day.

4/24, Tuesday, 10-5, $30.00 - Fredericksburg has a wonderful historic downtown area that is not to be missed.  Large and expansive, much time could be spent here but you won't want to miss the Garden Day Tea hosted by the Rappanhannock Valley Garden Club (dressed up in colonial costumes).  There is also a free wine tasting, flower arranging demonstrations, and horticulture exhibit.  This tour is right up my alley as many of the homes have interesting accompanying gardens.  One home has a putting green below a pool.. cottage gardens and beloved plants collected from friends.  I love the sound of this tour!

4/26, Thursday, 10-5, $25.00 - The tour in Petersburg sounds outstanding but the drive is a little long so we opted for something closer. Petersburg is a wonderfully historic town dripping in old Southern charm. Sadly the historic district was nearly devoured by Hurricane Hugo but it survives and I highly recommend a trip to Historic Petersburg. The homes on the tour sound fascinating, Victorian-style, Italianate 19th Century, and a Mansion. Several homes have extensive renovation histories. This tour sounds more focused on homes than gardens but the homes sound wonderful.

4/21 - 4/24, Sat - Tues, 10-5, $40.00 - I can't leave out Charlottesville, Albemarle County.  The only 4 day tour in the State and the most expensive.  Homes are open Sunday AND Monday in Keswick (East of Cville in "Hunt Country").  Guaranteed breathtaking views and gargantuan homes.  One featured home was named Metropolitan Home's "House of the Year".  Expansive gardens (one home 25 acres), koi ponds, orchards, oak trees, and rose gardens.

4/24 - Tues - FREE - UVA - One of my favorite tours annually is the Academical Village on UVA Campus.  Tour through the extensive gardens located behind historic professors homes on the Lawn.  Giving a sneak peek at life back in Thomas Jefferson's day.  Across the street from the Rotunda is the Presidents home which is open this one day each year and don't miss meandering through the lovely attached gardens back down to the UVA Art Museum.

Whew - a lot to see and do.  ENJOY!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Through the Garden Gate

Tomorrow the wonderful Piedmont Master Gardeners seasonal series, Through the Garden Gate begins.  Occurring the 2nd Saturday of the month from 9 - noon, hosted at a different garden each month.  Hands down, this is my favorite Charlottesville area annual garden tour event.  Featuring absolutely amazing home landscaped gardens at an affordable fee of $5.00 a garden.

2013 Garden Schedule

Just a teeny sneak peek - there is so much more!
Several weeks ago, I was able to get a sneak peek of the magical gardens that are on the tour this weekend. The property of Fran and Andrew Boninti was carpeted in dainty yellows and majestic pinks.  There were so many different varieties of plants it's impossible for me to list them all but Tulips were at their peak and Daffodils were fading. 

Welcome to fairyland.
Nestled in a forest, full of dusting's of native plants, it illustrates how they can be used in any landscape. Little rockery plants tucked here and there and a special place is set aside for their large Daffodil collection.  Obviously a lover of bulbs, my favorite collectible as well, I was in bulb heaven.  Their garden has a wild fairyland feel to it with surprises around every corner.  A mix of plants trail over a rocky hillside giving the garden privacy from the home activity.

Volunteer potting up for the sale!
At the Boninti's, I was happy to help pot up native plants for the upcoming Native Plant Society Sale (another event NOT TO BE MISSED).  Fran was allowing volunteers to dig up plants to pot up for the sale (there were plenty to share).  Come to the plant sale with a box or two because you will fill it up in about 30 seconds upon arrival.

If you love gardens as I do, you will not want to miss this tour series!  Check it out.


Monday, April 9, 2012


Given my volunteer history of giving for nearly 30 years, it's not surprising that I was lassoed and hog tied, along with three others, to serve on the NewComers Club of Greater Charlottesville's Community Outreach Committee.  Actually, the experience has been quite rewarding and I truly enjoy my monthly committee meeting with partners in crime, Tory (our leader) and Sylvia.

Our task is to identify one day (or less) community service projects.  Over the last year we have participated in a variety of projects (which keeps it fun and interesting).  Some tasks clerical, many super easy, others requiring a little bit of manual labor.  None requiring too much brain or back power!

Just one cart load of many that were delivered!
I was fortunate to help the Hospital Auxiliary at UVA Hospital with their annual Daffodil Day.  Each Spring, a sweet bud vase of Daffodils is distributed to every hospital patient and many reception desks.  This year nearly 500 vases were created and delivered by volunteers.  Patients at UVA come from all corners of the US.  Not everyone has someone locally to visit with them so getting a bouquet hopefully brightens their day.  I tied bows on the vases while the Hospital Auxiliary delivered.

The Bag Ladies and one Dude.
Another opportunity was to help the local Meals on Wheels program clean their food travel bags.  It's a dirty job but Keith the Volunteer Coordinator made it fun for us by giving us the official title of "Bag Ladies".  We scrubbed down 60 bags in under 1.5 hours!  They just served their one millionth meal and are the only hot meal service for our city/county.

A special upcoming project for Community Outreach is our annual trip out to Camp Holiday Trails to help prepare for Summer visitors.  We'll split up into am and pm shifts to clean, garden, and help however we can.  A camp for children with special health needs, this is truly a deserving group of our help.  If you are a newcomer, we still need volunteers to signup for this team effort next Wednesday, April 17.

The Bag Ladies gettin' down and dirty.
I'm so happy to be a very small part of this committee.  There are an unlimited number of volunteer needs in our community.  If you are new to the area, I can't think of a better way to meet people and get to know your community.  If we each give a little a lot can be done!


Monday, April 2, 2012

A Riot of Color at Maymont

One Mallard among the turtles, Koi, and Geese.

Yesterday the Gardening Group of the Newcomers Club of Greater Charlottesville toured the Japanese Gardens at Maymont in Richmond, Virginia.  The garden was at the height of Spring and the day was a cool but bright sunny day.  Maymont is a Richmond treasure gifted to the City of Richmond upon the death of the original owners, The Dooley's.  Other generous gifts were given upon their death to area non-profits, an Orphanage and the Public Library being a few.

Just a small bit of the Japanese Gardens.
James and Sallie Dooley purchased a tract of farmland along the James River where they built their combined Romanesque Revival style and Queen Anne home and transformed a field into a glorious park like paradise complete with an extensive Japanese garden, waterfalls, an Italian Grotto, and formal gardens.  Sallie Dooley was the horticulturist of the two and also a Poet.  They also had their summer home built just outside of Charlottesville, the amazing Swannanoa.  There is a nearly life sized Tiffany stained glass window of Sallie at the top of the magnificent stairway at Swannonoa.  Tours are given at set times and Swannonoa has yet to be restored and has no gardens at this time.

The Formal Gardens.
The Newcomers group specifically toured the Japanese Garden and participated in a tea tasting afterwards.  All teas were Japanese green teas.  The health benefits of green, white, and yellow teas outweigh the brown and black European teas.  We were pleased to be able to taste a tea that was over $250.00 a pound and Matcha (a tea in powder form used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony).  I liked Matcha probably the best of the eight teas we tasted.

Looking up one of the mega-huge trees at Maymont.
Coming up next at Maymont on April 28th is their annual Herb Sale which has actually become a huge plant sale.  I've not yet been but have been told it is a wonderful sale - not to be missed!  Keep track of this and other gardening events on my blog --- over on the right hand side in my Garden Lovers Calender.

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