Virginia’s Historic Garden Week starts April 23 – The Virginian-Pilot


Historic homes, flora and contemporary creativity will be on display across Tidewater during the annual Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week April 23 through 30. Garden clubs statewide will show off plants and flower arranging while raising money for preservation and education projects for gardens and historic sites.

Times and ticket prices for each tour vary; the full schedule can be found at www.vagardenweek.org. Some, like the Williamsburg tour, are completely outdoors and focused primarily on public gardens and sites, while others, like ones in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the Middle Peninsula and Yorktown, will also include house tours and private gardens. The official tour guidebook, available online at www.vagardenweek.org/guidebook, is a resource for planning visits, including day trips to Richmond, Northern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

“Every location is different and has different draws. Some tours will have more gardens than homes; some will have more homes than gardens. You can go from one tour to another. It’s a great big traveling party,” said Val Harvard, a member of the Hampton Roads Garden Club, which is helping put together the Yorktown tour.

Among the biggest draws of the garden week are the flower arrangements designed by club members, said Vanessa Sigmon, president of the Garden Club of Norfolk. Designers draw inspiration from the homes in which their creations are displayed, tour themes or even a container or scrap of wallpaper.

“Every year I think we can’t have any more spectacular arrangement and the next year the talent comes out again,” Harvard said. “We have amazing flower arrangers.”

And at the end of the day, it’s about appreciating regional horticultural beauty, said Leslie Coe, president of the Williamsburg club.

“I think during the pandemic we realized how important it is to get outside and just enjoy the pleasure of being in a garden,” Coe said.

Here’s a summary of local tours. Additional information and tickets are available online. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available at tour sites.

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April 23. 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.; tickets are $45. Tour headquarters, Christ Episcopal Church, 320 Williams Wharf Road, Mathews. Shuttle tour and most sites are within five minutes of one another.

Mathews sits on the East River, which leads to the Mobjack and Chesapeake bays. All featured homes are situated on the water.

  • Christ Episcopal Church, 320 Williams Wharf Road. Kingston Parish was established around 1652 as one of the four Anglican parishes of Gloucester County, which included what is now Mathews.
  • Riverlawn. Accessed through a shuttle from the church or a quarter-mile walk. This classic white frame house was built in 1874 and has undergone rehabilitation that began in 2012. Riverlawn’s interior is a four-over-four central hall plan repeated on three floors, with a staircase that provides access to all levels. The home contains architectural surprises, such as a breakfast nook tucked into an old passageway near the kitchen, as well as large center halls and eight fireplaces. Riverlawn has numerous old-growth hardwood trees, including a massive willow oak that measures 23 feet in circumference. Its 20 acres include a cottage.
  • Samarkand, 341 Samarkand Lane. This estate includes 26 acres on an estuary and a landscape of crape myrtles, camellias, boxwood, perennials and several outdoor features including a small pavilion next to a lotus pool and a fountain in an oval garden. The three-story Federal-style home was built in 1927 by Edwin Treakle, who was known as the “Clam King” — he made his fortune at the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. The house is being opened for garden week for the first time. The gardens were previously opened in 2013.
  • Eastham, access on the shuttle. Eastham was once known as Nottingham House and stood in the middle of Mathews village. In 1954, when it looked as if the house would be torn down, it was bought and moved to its current spot and renamed. It sits among pines, giant magnolias and great oaks. The house is a three-story, two-over-two Greek Revival-style frame house from about 1825. All rooms have river views. The pool and pool house were added by the current owners in 2018-19. The home was last opened for garden week in 2008.

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April 26, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tickets are $50. Tour headquarters, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, 301 S. Nassau St.

“A Walk in the Park” is a self-guided tour of Bicentennial Park with docent-led tours of Colonial Williamsburg gardens and the Custis Square Archaeology Project. Tour ticket includes the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and a guided tour of the National Center for State Courts. Stops include:

  • Wolf Garden, 410 S. Henry St. The garden begins with a stone path that leads to an outer promenade brimming with plantings that include Yoshino cherry, American elm, Chinese pistache and Eastern redbud trees. Layered shrubs shield the street view while dressing the brick walls that form the interior parterre. The ornamental garden is a composition of six geometric shapes. The appearance of red tulips in this outdoor oasis is celebrated annually as a first sign of spring in the area.
  • Bicentennial Park, 320 W. Court St. Built by the city to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976, this park is surrounded by a brick walkway. Benches and mature shade trees offer a spot to sit and read, or meet a friend. Local garden club members will create flower installations throughout the park for Historic Garden Week. “Transportation Fun” on Court Street will include antique cars and other vintage vehicles decorated with floral designs.
  • The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The newly expanded and updated museums include whimsical folk art made by amateur artisans in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. Established in 1957, it is the world’s oldest continually operating institution dedicated solely to collecting, exhibiting and preserving American folk art. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, opened in 1985, showcases British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670 to 1840.
  • Guided walking tour, Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. Gardens have always played a major role in portraying life in the 18th century in Virginia. The featured gardens — Taliafero-Cole, Bryan, Durfey, Blair herb garden, and the Bruton Parish Church herb garden — are part of a guided walking tour starting each hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours will start in front of the Blair herb garden at 331 W. Duke of Gloucester St.
  • Custis Square Archaeology Project, 301 S. Nassau St. Learn about the multiyear archaeological exploration of the 4-acre home and early 18th-century gardens of John Custis IV (1678-1746). Custis, Martha Washington’s first father-in-law, was known to be a colorful character. See the techniques archaeologists use to understand historic gardens.
  • National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Ave. The center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 and will open its “secret arboretum” to visitors. Small tours of 20 each, 10 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.

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April 27, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tickets are $35. Tour headquarters, Yorktown Freight Shed, 331 Water St.

Tour includes the Yorktown, Hampton and Newport News garden clubs and features river views, village gardens, and Colonial and Revolutionary War history, landscapes and historic structures. Visit the room where the terms were negotiated for Gen. Cornwallis’ surrender to Gens. Washington and Rochambeau and Adm. Comte de Grasse, and tour the old Custom House and Colonial herb garden. Stops include:

  • The Village House, 208 Bacon St. Constructed on an empty lot in the Historic District, the white-planked home features deep double Charleston-style porches with a view of historic battlefields and the Yorktown Victory Monument. A “retirement garden” meant to showcase casual and easy to maintain horticultural design and techniques is a work in progress and open to visitors.
  • 114 Church St. Completely renovated in 2013, the home was originally built in the late 1890s. Current owners used a 1903 photograph of the house to guide them as they salvaged the stairwell and interior doors, restored windows, and stabilized the foundation and walls. Garden “rooms” range from a formal boxwood garden to raised vegetable beds.
  • The Yorktown Custom House, 410 Main St. Built around 1720 by Richard Ambler, customs collector for the York River district, which includes the York, Poquoson and Piankatank rivers, Mobjack Bay and other harbors. The Ambler family operated as customs agents until the Revolutionary War, when British troops were barracked there. In the Civil War, it served as headquarters for Gen. J.B. Magruder. In 1882, Dr. Daniel McNorton, an African American physician, bought the home and had his office on the first floor and a school for African American children on the second. In 1924, the Comte de Grasse Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the house and renovated it. The property includes a Colonial herb garden planted with boxwoods grown from cuttings from Monticello, Mount Vernon and other historic Virginia properties.
  • Stolon Rock (garden only), 102 Cornwallis Road. Extensive gardens surround a 1924 Craftsman bungalow that has been renovated over 30 years by current owners and maintains much of the original architecture. Incorporating a large collection of stone, it features more than 30 species of ferns and five species of hydrangeas with perennials and a vegetable garden integrated into the ornamental landscape. A highlight is a registered Newton apple tree, which was given to the owner for his help in propagating the trees at William & Mary.
  • Windward on the York, 1109 Moore House Road. Perched on a 60-foot cliff, the home has commanding views of the York River. The cathedral ceiling and large Palladian windows bring the view into the living room, featuring a floor to ceiling fireplace. There is a large covered paved patio and a pool with a stairway to the dock below. Japanese-inspired walkways lead through gardens of boxwood, Chindo viburnum, magnolia, camellias and gardenias.

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April 27, 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; tickets are $40. Tour headquarters, Princess Anne Country Club, 3800 Pacific Ave.

Featured tour properties are located between the Atlantic Ocean and Linkhorn Bay in the Bay Colony neighborhood and include diverse architectural styles. Visitors will enjoy antiques gathered from all corners of the world. Other properties highlight contemporary and Nantucket styles, as well as gardens and water views. Stops include:

  • 4200 Oceanfront Ave. The white clapboard cottage, built in 1939, was once the summer home of Gen. George S. Patton and his family. The current owner, a former equestrian and needlepoint embroiderer, has collected bronze statues and artwork of horses, which decorate the living room and dens. Two large Asian screens from the original Historic Cavalier hotel flank the living room window and may be recognized by residents. Large, oversized windows in the back of the home provide an abundance of natural light and views of the ocean.
  • 4810 Holly Road. This Palladian-style home, constructed just four years ago, was inspired by Venetian architecture from the early 1500s. Large windows and doors allow natural light to flood the interior. Visitors will enter through an oversized front door into an expansive living room filled with Italian antiques and Persian rugs. The first-floor bedroom suite features an antique tapestry wall hanging.
  • 1125 Ivy Drive. A circular driveway leads to this Nantucket-meets-English-cottage-inspired home. It overlooks the Princess Anne Country Club golf course. The homeowners’ collection of blue and white china and unique birdhouses are on display. A rose-covered arbor is a focal point amid a manicured lawn and scalloped flower beds of native and coastal shrubs. The forested area beyond the white fence adds to the ambiance.
  • 1253 N. Bay Shore Drive. This bayside home, renovated in 2018, includes a weeping willow and spacious gardens in the front. Persian rugs and antique artwork provide color and texture above acid-washed wood floors. A spacious rectangular pool, flanked by two magnolia trees, offers a view of Linkhorn Bay.
  • 1417 N. Bay Shore Drive. This bayside home, built in 1953, is surrounded by a lush landscape of mature trees and flowering shrubs, boxwoods, hydrangeas, azaleas, camellias and more. A slate path leads to a “Secret Garden” perched on a circular arrangement of moss-covered bricks. Benches are dotted throughout the garden. Oaks line the waterfront.

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April 28, 10 a.m.; tickets are $50. Tour headquarters, College Place Triangle Park, 225 College Cross.

The tour celebrates the 200th birthday of Frederick Olmsted, the “father” of architectural landscape and urban public parks. Visitors are invited to stroll through the historic West Freemason neighborhood downtown. Bound by the Elizabeth River to the west and south, the area was almost destroyed by the British in the Revolutionary War. West Freemason showcases many of Norfolk’s surviving pre-Civil War structures, where cobblestone streets lead to homes and gardens. Stops include:

  • 300 Dunmore St. Once unique in West Freemason, this traditional, spacious six-bedroom, three-story brick townhouse was built in 1991 by an architect who lived in the area and wanted to revitalize the area. The neighboring row houses sport white pillars and American flags that have become a popular backdrop for graduation, engagement and wedding photos.
  • The Old Public Library, 345 W. Freemason St. The Beaux Arts structure, built in 1904, began as the city’s first free public library but is now a private residence. Funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and built on land donated by the children of William Selden, the stone edifice pays homage to its literary beginnings.
  • 352 W. Freemason St. Constructed in the 1890s, this brick home has had many callings. Now a private residence, it was once an apartment and housed a shop in the full English basement.
  • The Inn at Four Eleven York, 411 York St. Formerly a privately owned Queen Anne Victorian row house, it has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Architecture fans will appreciate the tall windows and vintage fireplace mantels. Outdoor diners are surrounded by potted plants, native trees and climbing vines on the patio.
  • 257 W. Bute St. The home is full of Old World charm and Italianate style. It includes a professionally landscaped carriage garden with a hand-painted mural, lush greenery and limestone lion’s head fountain.
  • Hunter House, 240 W. Freemason St. Built in 1894, this two-story Victorian home and garden is an example of Victorian decorative arts, furniture and architecture. Usually open to the public for a fee, the Hunter House Victorian Museum is included in the tour and will be decorated with floral arrangements.
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden, 6700 Azalea Garden Road. The 175-acre garden is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and run by a private nonprofit. Home to more than 60 gardens that can be viewed by tram, boat or foot, it has 15 miles of paths. Spaces include the largest rose garden on the East Coast, a butterfly garden and house, a Japanese garden and a Colonial garden.
  • Virginia Zoological Park, 3500 Granby St. Encompassing 53 acres of Southern magnolias, live oaks and other specimens, the park is four miles from this year’s main tour area and is the site of many formal and abstract gardens. The zoo dates to 1901, and horticulture has played a significant role in showcasing animal habitats with native, ornamental and exotic plants. It includes fruit orchards, shade gardens, rain gardens, an African vegetable garden and handicap-accessible gardens. The horticultural center includes a formal garden of roses, annuals and perennials.
  • Gardens at 304, 306 and 308 Botetourt and 403 and 407 Bute streets will also be open.

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April 29, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tickets are $35. Tour headquarters, Poroporone Baptist Church, 30071 The Trail, Shacklefords.

King and Queen County, on the Middle Peninsula, was established in 1691. This tour is in the Buena Vista district. Three of the five featured houses have river views of the York or Mattaponi rivers. One home is the site of a ferry that ran between the county and West Point starting in the 17th century and continuing for 200 years. Tour stops include:

  • Aspen Grove, 1393 Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway, Shacklefords. It was built around 1780 and enlarged in the early 19th century by Absalom Bland, the current owner’s third great-grandfather. Hunter and Stacy Richardson, who purchased the property in 2008, have completed significant renovations while retaining historic elements.
  • Garrett Anderson House, 432 Bellevue Lane, Shacklefords. The house, on a knoll above the York River, has an open back porch that offers a sweeping view of the water. Owners Elizabeth and Hopkins Guy placed the property under conservancy and have been stabilizing the shoreline to prevent it from eroding. Visitors may also drive to the river to see the conservation efforts.
  • The Parsonage, 3834 Buena Vista Road, Saluda. An American foursquare built in 1926 as the parsonage for Shackelfords Chapel, which is across the road. Renovations have been ongoing since owners Helen and Jim Sutton purchased the property in 2008. A huge pecan tree shades the brick patio and a pool overlooks the surrounding fields.
  • Brookshire, 380 Dudley Ferry Road, Mattaponi. This is the site of Dudley’s Ferry, which began in the 17th century and ran for 200 years. The house was built before 1782 by the Dudleys, who operated the ferry for some of that time. Surrounded by huge shade trees, the large two-story house features beaded weatherboarding, a five-window Dutch roof and connected-end chimneys.
  • The Wing, 469 Dudley Ferry Road, Mattaponi. This was built onto the back of the main house to accommodate a growing family that included 10 daughters. In the 1950s, it was moved to its current spot closer to the Mattaponi River for use as a summer home. A 1989 expansion of the kitchen includes a Florida room with views of the river.

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April 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; tickets are $40. Self-driving tour. The tour features gardens and homes in the southern to middle section of the Eastern Shore. Eyre Hall, a perennial tour centerpiece and National Historic Landmark, is an ancestral property with some of the country’s oldest continuously maintained gardens.

  • Tower Hill, 3018 Bowden Landing, Cape Charles. Located on a scenic bluff overlooking King’s Creek, Tower Hill was built around 1746. The Georgian home’s four stories have an array of balconies and porches. Tower Hill has served various functions for the lower Eastern Shore, most recently as a B&B and restaurant in the early 2000s. The current residential owners have restored and redesigned the home and grounds but have kept original touches, including a tapestry that dates to the late 1700s. The home includes an exposed-brick dining “wine room” and pub in the cellar, an outdoor living scene with a reflecting pool and fountains, framed by a boxwood-lined parterre.
  • Eyre Hall, 3215 Eyre Hall Drive, Cheriton. The historic property, completed in 1758, offers a rare picture of Colonial plantation living. Eyre Hall’s preservation lies in its descent through eight generations of the same family. The past also lives in the garden, where crape myrtles tower above parterres enclosed by boxwood and set off by colorful mixed borders. Beyond the house and garden are broad stretches of open fields and long views over Cherrystone Creek.
  • The Jeffrey at Shooting Point, 5243 Tickitank Way, Machipongo. The Jeffrey is a new, Coastal Tidewater style home completed in 2018. The interior features heart pine floors, vaulted ceilings and an eclectic collection art. including various Eastern Shore artists. The outdoor living area includes a creek-facing pool and a patio with a pergola, fireplace and gardens with a variety of grasses, palmettos, mixed native plantings, roses, boxwoods, hydrangeas and ferns. The landscape includes live oaks, magnolias, crape myrtles and palm trees.
  • Windingdale, 35344 Windingdale Drive, Belle Haven. Set on a bluff overlooking Occohannock Creek, Windingdale has long been considered one of the Eastern Shore’s most distinguished early properties. The original section of the house dates to 1780. Major architectural renovations in recent decades have transformed some of the home’s early rooms into a waterside glassed porch, a modern kitchen and a master bedroom with sweeping water vistas. The property includes a barn, stables, a smokehouse converted to a guest house, a boathouse and pickleball courts. A terrace with a fire pit faces the waterfront.

Reach Yana Ginburg at yana.ginburg@gmail.com



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