Colonial Williamsburg. Alexander Craig House.

By Karen Cauthen Ellsworth

From its inception nearly a century ago, the Garden Club of Virginia has highlighted policy issues directed at the environment and sustainability.  Its 47 member clubs are comprised of more than 3,300 volunteers.  They have long advocated to conserve natural resources, plant trees and
promote environmentally sustainable gardening.  The Garden Club of Virginia encourages the use of native plants.  Gardeners everywhere know that setting plants in the proper location reduces maintenance and watering requirements, and eliminates or reduces the need for and use of commercial
pesticides and fertilizers.

A native landscape does not need to be mowed like a conventional lawn, reducing the demand for non-renewable resources and improving
water and air quality. Landscaping with wildflowers and grasses improves the ecosystem. Birds, butterflies, bees and other plants are attracted to these plants, enhancing biodiversity. “One has only to drive by a Kudzu infested roadside to understand how invasive plants rob native plants of their natural habitat,” notes Tuckie Westfall, Conservation Chairman of this statewide organization.

Renowned for its popular Historic Garden Week, the nation’s only statewide house and garden tour, the Garden Club of Virginia celebrates the beauty of the land, conserves the gifts of nature and challenges future generations to build on this heritage. This fundraiser began when a flower show organized by Garden Club of Virginia volunteers raised funds to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. More than 80 years later, proceeds from local Historic Garden Week tours continue to fund the restoration and preservation of nearly 40 of the Commonwealth’s significant historic public gardens, two annual research fellowships, as well as a new initiative with Virginia’s state parks.

This spring, there are four tours involving seven clubs in the Northern Virginia area alone.

 

Old Town Alexandria  Saturday, April 22 10am to 4pm

Overlooking the Potomac River and within minutes of our Nation’s Capital, Alexandria was established in 1749.  Rich in history,
Alexandria was a major seaport prior to the Revolutionary War, occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, and a torpedo production site during World War II.  In 1946, Old Town Alexandria was the third city in the
country to create a historic district to preserve its downtown.  It has more than 4,000 buildings with a historic designation. This walking tour includes five houses with gardens within the historic district and refreshments at a private home.  A Marketplace at the Athenaeum, boutique shopping, and fine dining are just steps away.  In addition, the tour ticket allows access to two Garden Club of Virginia restoration projects, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens and Green Spring Gardens, in addition to other local properties of historic interest.  To help plan your visit to
Alexandria, please visit: http://www.visitalexandriava.com for ideas on where to stay, shop and eat.  Cost: $45 in
advance, $55 day of event.

Leesburg  Sunday, April 23 and Monday, April 24  10am to 5pm

Visitors will travel along the Potomac River to six beautiful estates in Leesburg on this tour that includes access to five notable homes, some with spectacular river views, and remarkable historic structures. Journey along the old north-south Carolina Road (now Route 15) and
enjoy the scenic landscape.  Stone, brick and stucco mansions and restored barns provide the backdrop to picturesque gardens. Tour headquarters is located at Morven Park in celebration of Marguerite Westmoreland Davis’s centennial membership with Leesburg Garden Club, the hosting club.
Explore the Garden Club of Virginia’s recent garden restoration project at
Oatlands Plantation on the south end of this driving tour. Cost: $35 in advanced, $50 day of event.

 

Warrenton  Wednesday, April 26 and Thursday, April 27  10am to 5pm

The bucolic countryside includes one of the first houses in the newly established county as well as a very recent house built in the style of the Tidewater plantations. Three impressive manor houses attest to the gracious lifestyle of the area in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The county seat of Warrenton is the fulcrum between the rolling Piedmont hills with lush agricultural land to the west and the bustling urban centers to its east. Admire the county courthouse as you stroll down the streets of Warrenton for lunch and shopping as well a visit to the Old Jail Museum on this two-day tour. Cost: $35, available at any of the houses open for the tour. Credit card only accepted at Headquarters. Advance Tickets: $25.
www.vagardenweek.org. By mail before April 12, send a self addressed, stamped envelope and check payable to The Warrenton Garden Club, PO BOX 1073, Warrenton, VA 20188. Tickets available locally, until April 19 at Christine Fox, the Town Duck and Carter & Spence.

Winchester  Saturday, April 29  10am to 5pm

Going out of town, this rural tour showcases four estates dating from 1782 to 1993. “Visitors might not realize that their ticket purchase helps to preserve and restore historic gardens in the immediate area. Take a side trip to the State Arboretum of Virginia and experience one of the nearby gardens that Historic Garden Week has helped to sustain and grow,” explains Anne Buettner, one of the Tour Chairmen for the Winchester-Clarke County tour. The 175-acre Historic Blandy Experimental Farm at the State Arboretum is in nearby Boyce.  It contains over 5,000 woody trees and shrubs from around the world. A property of the University of Virginia since 1926, it is currently operated under its department of Environmental Services. Stone walls along Dogwood Lane that once led to the manor house of the original farm were rebuilt in 2004 by the Garden Club of Virginia using proceeds from past tours. Walking trails wind through the property, including the Native Plant Trail where visitors will see early blooming spring ephemeral wildflowers like Bloodroot, bluebells and trillium. These harbingers of spring are followed by violet, wild geranium, wild blue phlox and Mayapple. Cost: $30, in addvance, $40 day of event.

Visit www.vagardenweek.org for a complete tour schedule, to purchase tickets and for details regarding itineraries and Garden Club of Virginia current restoration sites.

Karen Cauthen Ellsworth is the Director of Historic Garden Week.