Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses
By Julie Reardon
Let’s admit it, we all love to peek through the closed doors and through the windows and walled gardens of others, especially the wealthy. There’s a bit of voyeurism in all of us, and online pictures and videos just aren’t the same as immersing ourselves in these private gardens rarely open to the general public. Even if you’re not a gardener, Historic Garden Week in Virginia April 15 – 22 this year, offers a rare chance to visit some of the area’s loveliest estates during a time when they’re all dressed up in spring colors.
Historic Garden Week is a statewide event, and the only statewide event of its kind in the country; this is the 90th year it’s been held. It’s sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia and its local chapters. During this special week in April, 250 of the most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks statewide will be open during “America’s Largest Open House.” This 8-day event provides visitors a unique opportunity to see unforgettable gardens at the peak of Virginia’s springtime color, as well as beautiful houses and historic sites sparkling with over 2,000 flower arrangements created by Garden Club of Virginia members.
In the hunt country of the northern Blue Ridge, take in some or all of the homes open on several different tours scheduled for April 15 – 22. Beginning on Saturday April 15th homes in Warren County near Front Royal will be open for the tour, the same day as Alexandria’s homes are open. Skip to Wednesday the 19th and visit the open houses of the Warrenton garden club in and around that town in Fauquier County. On Thursday and Friday April 20-21 homes in the Middleburg area open their doors and gardens for you, and on Saturday the 22nd, homes of Clarke County just west of Upperville are open to tour. Most ticket blocks for the tours start around $30 in advance and some popular tours do sell out. You can also purchase single tickets for just one property for $20.
The horse country around the village of Middleburg, is the location of the Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club chaper’s 2023 tour, held Thursday and Friday April 20-21. Some spectacular properties in Upperville and Paris including two that belonged to the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, will open their doors. From an iconic Federal period mansion, to a French stone farmhouse, visitors will be delighted by the diversity of these grand estates and landscapes that celebrate the open spaces of Virginia’s Piedmont. The tour headquarters at the National Sporting Library and Museum, houses a world-class collection and exhibitions of fine animal and sporting art, to enhance your tour in the heart of hunt country. The area is also loaded with unique shops and quaint restaurants.
The fabled Blue Ridge mountain views, the stone walls, the dogwoods, and the redbuds in bloom for the backdrop, there is no better time than April to visit these rarely open homes and their gardens. Tickets for any/all of the tours across the state start at $30 in advance, and can be purchased online, or available the day of the tour for a slightly higher fee. For information on any or all these tours, visit www.vagardenweek.org
Back in 1927, a flower show put on by the Garden Club of Virginia raised $7,000 to preserve some of the trees on the lawn of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a huge sum at that time, and Historic Garden Week was born. The Garden Club of Virginia operates as a non-profit organization comprised of 47 member clubs and 3,400 volunteers. Proceeds go toward the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic public gardens. The first statewide tour was in 1929, and since then over $17 million has been contributed to this worthwhile cause.
The nearly 50 active Garden Club of Virginia restoration projects statewide include Mount Vernon, the Pavilion Gardens at the University of Virginia, and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, which benefit from Historic Garden Week tours. Tour proceeds fund the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic gardens, and provide graduate level research fellowships for building comprehensive and ongoing records of historic gardens and landscapes in the Commonwealth, and support the mission of the Garden Club of Virginia.
The Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) has been committed to preserving the beauty of Virginia for all to enjoy. The GCV advocated for maintaining the pristine beauty of Goshen Pass and the wilderness of the Great Dismal Swamp. It has worked to preserve the natural beauty of landscapes along Virginia’s highways and promoted the elimination of billboard blight. It has prioritized education about the importance of clean air and water. Over the last decade, the GCV has supported and recognized conservation projects along many of Virginia’s rivers and waterways. Each year, the Garden Club of Virginia sponsors workshops and a Forum that takes a balanced look at environmental issues. These efforts go hand in hand with educating members and the public about relevant topics, like using native plants in the landscape.
Its most well-known public event, Historic Garden Week is a beloved spring tradition with a fascinating history. Coming originally from England, early Virginians brought with them an inherent love of the land. They created splendid plantations with noble homes and handsome gardens. Without organized protection of this irreplaceable inheritance, the Garden Club of Virginia foresaw its inevitable destruction. Starting in 1929, they made it their mission to preserve our state’s historic public gardens. The first tours were organized to support restoration work at Kenmore in Fredericksburg. From Monticello, Mount Vernon, Bacon’s Castle, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, to the State Arboretum in Winchester, to name just a few – a full diversity of gardens is represented in the GCV’s projects. Tour proceeds continue to fund the restoration and preservation of more than 40 of Virginia’s historic public gardens and landscapes, a research fellowship program and a new initiative with Virginia State Parks. The Garden Club of Virginia was instrumental in establishing these parks, also in 1929, the year of the first Historic Garden Week.
Tickets for the Fauquier Loudoun Garden Club’s tour can be purchased in advance online and are $40 on the day of the tour. For online purchase, go to vagardenweek.com and on the day of the tour, they can be purchased locally at Buchanan Hall in Upperville or at the National Sporting Library in Middleburg. For the Monday tour only, box lunches can be ordered in advance for $15. For details, email email@example.com
More Garden Goodies
The Upperville Garden Club’s Daffodil Show, held annually for 60 years, will have thousands of daffodils on display at Buchanan Hall on the south side of Rt. 50 in Upperville on April 11th. Here, you can see every kind of daffodil, from the mundane to the exotic. More than 50 exhibitors are expected to enter from Virginia and nearby states; this year’s theme is Historic Virginia Mansions. Themed arrangements will highlight the Federal styles of historic Virginia homes such as Mount Vernon, Monticello, Morven Park, Montpelier and Oatlands, and more.
The doors open at 2 p.m., and although admission is free, donations are welcomed. According to organizers, anyone can enter an exhibit. If you think you have some prize-worthy daffodils and/or are good at arranging them, just pick them, arrange them and plan to arrive between 8 and 10 a.m. on April 11th; volunteers will be on hand to assist you. In addition to the themed exhibits, there are a wide variety of divisions; including large and small cupped daffodils, double daffodils, Jonquilla, one or multi stemmed, and more. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.