Ahh, springtime in Virginia, when new growth unfurls and heralds hues of bright chartreuse and luscious greens. The Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) and its 3,400 members beckon thousands of residents and visitors to enjoy beautiful outdoor spaces and gracious homes during its annual Historic Garden Week.
“Gardening is, by its very nature, a green pursuit,” says Tricia Garner, chairman of Historic Garden Week. “Our guests will appreciate landscape designs focused on native plants and environmental stewardship,” Garner continues. In keeping with the GCV’s efforts to reduce plastic waste, tour visitors are encouraged to bring their own reusable drink containers. “Because our natural resources are challenged and stressed by climate change, carpooling is also encouraged,” Garner adds.
To enhance the private properties open to visitors, Garden Club of Virginia volunteers will design more than 2,000 spectacular floral arrangements. GCV members share the bounty of their own gardens for this statewide floral fest, incorporating native and seasonal plant materials in the arrangements.
Recently the GCV created a plant list, arranged by season, that shows gardeners and arrangers which ones are preferred by bees and butterflies and those to avoid planting. “Growing in your garden or on your balcony, beneficial plants will bring beauty and satisfaction, feed pollinators, and ultimately, strengthen and renew our entire planet,” Meredith Lauter, GCV’s artistic design committee chair says.
Members of the Garden Club of Virginia strive for a greener, more sustainable Virginia for all to enjoy. “Today, as momentum for conservation builds, that mission is more important than ever,” states Missy Buckingham, the statewide organization’s President. “Historic Garden Week is the perfect time for environmentally friendly tourists to visit our beautiful state,” she adds. Tour proceeds support the GCV’s restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic public gardens and a landscape architecture fellowship program.
With tours offered statewide, in communities both large and small, urban, and rural, there is something for everyone. During eight consecutive days showcasing 128 private homes and gardens, and dozens of historic sites and special activities at partner sites as well as GCV restorations, the biggest challenge is deciding where to go and when. For visitors that are seeking environmentally responsible travel options, here are Historic Garden Week 2022’s highlights.
To read all about Historic Garden Week 2022, Historic Garden Week 2022 Guidebook.
Date: Sunday, April 24
Photo Credit: Robin Bethke
Hidden in the Albemarle County foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Brown’s Cove, settled by the Brown family over 275 years ago. Three of the remaining original family homes and gardens will be open for Historic Garden Week for the first time in its 89 years, along with Turkey Ridge, the modern home of Innisfree Village’s founder. Innisfree is a residential community of adults with intellectual disabilities.
At the center of the Village are cooperative, therapeutic workstations, including a bakery, community kitchen, vegetable and herb gardens, a woodshop, and an art studio. The grounds of Turkey Ridge include life-size bronze wild animals and birds by sculptor Walter Matia. The house rests on a ridge with pond views and vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Date: Friday, April 29
Photo Credit: Sara Harris Photography, @saraharrisphotography
King & Queen County on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula was established in 1691. This tour is in the lower end of the county known as the Buena Vista District. Visitors will enjoy a forested landscape with open fields and winding roads. Featured homes are surrounded by towering shade trees. Three of the five showcased properties have sweeping river views of the York or Mattaponi rivers.
“We are especially excited to open a farmhouse built on land that was part of historic Bellevue. The current owners placed the property under conservancy and have been stabilizing the shoreline to prevent it from eroding,” explains Bette Albert, the chair of the Middle Peninsula tour. “Visitors are encouraged to drive to the river to see the conservation efforts,” she adds.
Dates: Sunday & Monday, April 24 & 25
photo Credit: Amanda Flowers, @mattandmandikindoflove
Visitors will enjoy a stroll along Cornwall and King Streets, in the heart of Leesburg’s Old & Historic District, on the Leesburg tour, taking place on both Sunday and Monday. Established in 1757 as the seat of Loudoun County, Leesburg is situated in Virginia’s premier horse and wine country. This walking tour features charming late-18th through 20th century properties and beautifully restored gardens, in proximity to popular downtown shops and restaurants.
A featured home was previously owned by Burr Powell Harrison, Jr., a champion of historic and environmental preservation and his wife, Agnes Harrison, founder of Keep Loudoun Beautiful. The current owners completed an extensive renovation in 2015, which included the conversion to a geothermal heating and cooling system and the addition of a basement, east-side porch, a flagstone patio and two fountains. Three large cisterns are buried beneath the rain garden in the southeast corner of the property, to collect stormwater for irrigation.
The half-acre lot features mature trees, Japanese holly, snowball viburnum and climbing roses. A row of 165-year-old boxwoods anchors the back of the property, while providing a four-season screen. The gardens were designed to appeal to pollinators. They feature lavender, phlox, liatris, cardinal flower, and aromatic asters.
Date: Wednesday, April 27
Perched on a hilltop with stunning 360-degree views of the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, one of the featured properties on this tour is a modern home sited on ten acres. The unique round design allows multiple solar arrays on the roof to generate electricity and to heat water for the radiant floor heating system.
There are grapevines, a large fruit orchard, a vegetable garden and lots of open space to enjoy the outdoors. A nearly full wrap-around deck gives choices for enjoying the sun, the breeze, the birds, and the stars year around.
Date: Tuesday, April 26
Photo Credit: Donna Moulton
Discover over two centuries of history on the Historic Garden Week in Fairfax tour. One countryside home has a restored log cabin on its landscaped grounds, adding storybook charm to the modern amenities of this estate. Certified as an Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, another property attracts an abundance of birds with its verdant gardens and English boxwood.
Located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in the city of Fairfax, a Southern Colonial home on the tour sits on 2.4 pristine acres. A brick pathway leads from the street through the front garden to a two-story covered porch with views of a small fruit orchard, expansive gardens, and a fountain.
Date: Tuesday, April 26
Photo Credit: Emelyn Gwynn, @lynchburgva
From a Tudor on historic Langhorne Road to a modern Scandinavian farmhouse, Historic Garden Week visitors will experience a range of styles, in garden, architecture and décor on Lynchburg’s tour this spring. Gracious pools and patios, meandering woodland paths, and gardens rich with numerous native species, are exterior highlights. “Lynchburg’s tour ticket also includes a special floral exhibit at Randolph College’s Maier Museum where talented local floral designers will interpret works of art,” shares Mary Stuart Battle, one of the tour’s co-chairs.
Situated on 120 acres, the Moomaw farmhouse was built to accommodate a busy family of eight. “In 2016, the homeowner, a founding member of Blue Ridge Conservation, converted the entry cottage garden into a low maintenance meadow filled with native grasses and perennials, creating an extensive ecosystem for pollinators,” Battle continues. Blue Ride Conservation educates the public on the role of pollinators and the importance of using native plants. The backyard, viewed from one of several porches and patios, is a lush woodland filled with dogwood, bluebells, phlox, and hellebores.
“In addition, we are thrilled that Jennifer Wills from The Central Virginia Land Conservancy will be at the Moomaw home from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for informal education during our tour,” Battle explains. “As a former lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, she’s a great advocate for conservation in the region.” One of the goals of the non-profit is to spread awareness about what a conservation easement is, how one is established, and the environmental benefits of conserving land in perpetuity.
Date: Saturday, April 23
Photo credit: Carla Passarello
There is one garden-only tour offered this spring during Historic Garden Week. Diehard gardeners will enjoy four sites including an estate inspired by 16th century gardens located in Chianti, Italy. Another featured garden is 18th century French designed but later English and then American inspired. There is a mid-21st century Asian garden, included for the first time in Historic Garden Week’s 89 years, as well as a colonial farm garden and contemporary flower arrangers’ garden. Horticultural enthusiasts will be immersed in the design, evolution, and history of these private outdoor spaces.
Dates: Tuesday, April 26 or Thursday, April 28
This landmark home was built by Walter and Inger Rice in 1963 and designed by world-renowned architect Richard Neutra. A mid-century masterpiece, it is located on the highest hill on Lock Island in the James River. Designed with minimal visual barriers of the river views and to bring nature inside, the current homeowners extensively renovated the property in 2016.
Several of the interior spaces were opened to provide more natural light and additional views of the river. The renovations have resulted in a totally modernized home for today’s lifestyle as well as a home and landscape that successfully merge nature and man.
Dates: April 26-28
Photo Credit: Big Orange Frame
“Richmond is centrally located in Virginia and offers so much in addition to hosting three distinct tours in different neighborhoods,” shares Tricia Garner, the State Chairman of the only statewide house and garden tour in the nation. “Richmond is home to seven GCV restoration sites, including the recently dedicated gardens at the Poe Museum. These public gardens have been restored or preserved with funding from Historic Garden Week tours,” she explains.
Richmond offers tours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and all are available by bicycle through BASKET & BIKE, an environmentally minded small business owned by GCV member Anne Poarch. “Bike tours are a great way to get outside and have an eco-friendly experience with friends or family,” Poarch says. “Recognizing our role as stewards, we donate a portion of each ride to our conservation partners, Capital Trees, the James River Association and this month, the Garden Club of Virginia.”
In addition, there is a special activity at the Low Line gardens, developed along a portion of the Virginia Capital Trail, east of downtown. “With public use and a sustainable ecosystem in mind, The Low Line has as much to admire above ground as it does below,” Lisa Trapp, the non-profit’s Program and Outreach Manager, shares. These intentionally landscaped areas are hard at work reducing stormwater runoff through environmentally focused rain gardens and biofiltration systems.
The Low Line is a project of Capital Trees, a collaboration of the four GCV clubs in the Richmond area that was initially funded with a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia. Though Historic Garden Week visitors are welcomed any time of day and any day of the year, volunteers will be on site along the 5.5-acre linear garden starting at 10:30 a.m. and be available until noon on Tuesday, April 26 to answer questions and talk about the project.