Garden views | Arts and culture | Weekly style
If some of us weren’t voyeurs before, we may have crossed that line once pandemic containment became the new norm.
Starting this weekend, home and garden voyeurs can get a personal, up-close fix at the Garden Club of Virginia’s annual Historic Garden Week, which runs April 23-30. This means more than 100 private homes and gardens across the state will welcome visitors. wander through the gardens and home interiors where more than 2,000 flower arrangements created by Garden Club members will be on display.
The tours, which began in 1929, are a fundraiser for the Garden Club with proceeds used for two good causes: the restoration and preservation of historic public gardens throughout the Commonwealth and a landscape architecture scholarship scheme which documents important Virginia gardens.
The only statewide home and garden tour nationwide, Historic Garden Week offers tours that are sure to please fans of history, art and architecture, views of the water and walking tours, with different areas of the state featured on different days of the week. Those looking for a road trip can head to Alexandria, Winchester, Lexington, Roanoke, and Staunton, among others. Closer to RVA, homes and gardens will be open in Charlottesville, Northern Neck, Petersburg, Williamsburg and Norfolk.
But by far the best value for your gardening week is here in Richmond. Local home and garden tours kick off with three James River spots: Berkeley, Shirley and Westover, all open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. For those looking for a change of scenery, Tuesday offers walking and driving tours of Petersburg’s historic Poplar Lawn neighborhood, historic Battersea Villa, and the Center Hill Museum, currently being restored by the Garden Club of Virginia. . Here in Richmond, Tuesday kicks off three days of tours in the Rothesay Circle area of Windsor Farms. Considering that famous landscape architect Charles F. Gillette lived here, it’s practically a must-see for garden enthusiasts.
When was the last time you had the chance to see an International Style Modernist home designed by a world renowned architect and located on an island in the James River?
“The Cottrell House provides such an opportunity,” says Missy Buckingham, president of the Garden Club of Virginia. “Built by the Ambassador and Mrs. Rice in 1963, renovations to this home by the current owners have resulted in a totally modern home and landscape that successfully fuses nature and man.” Maison Cottrell is open on April 26 and 28.
Wednesday sees the historic neighborhood of Carillon, near Byrd Park, take off, but only for one day, so don’t miss the opportunity to take a look at five private properties that have been built between 1889 and 2000. Guided bike tours with a box lunch of Sally Bell’s Kitchen is offered, with a percentage of proceeds going to Historic Garden Week. Another option on Wednesday is to drive an hour and a half up the Northern Neck for a shuttle tour of five properties in Northumberland County with stunning water views, natural forests and formal gardens in fall on the ground.
From classic 18th-century Georgian homes to Mediterranean-inspired villas, the neighborhood bordered by Olde Locke Lane and Westmoreland Place is where you’ll want to be on Thursday. This walking tour of three private residences combines grand-scale landscapes with majestic architecture for a visual treat that will satisfy garden and architecture lovers.
Since the Garden Club’s mission is to restore and preserve historic gardens, it’s probably worth checking out some of their hard work. The Kent-Valentine House on Franklin Street has been the home of the Garden Club since 1971, but is open to the public this Friday only. Anyone who’s ever passed by has probably wondered what the 1845 pre-war house looks like on the inside, and this is your chance to find out. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited the Poe Museum – a 2013 Garden Club restoration project – be sure to visit the Enchanted Garden to see their work.
If five days of garden tours don’t satisfy your appetite for home and garden, head to Ashland on Saturday for a self-guided tour that includes an 18th century church and grounds, three 19th century houses and, for something completely different, a contemporary home with colonial flair.
Unsurprisingly, the past two years of pandemic life have left their mark on everything, including Historic Garden Week. This year’s tours emphasize outdoor spaces and physical distancing. Face masks will be required for interior tours and visitors are asked not to wear shoes that could damage an owner’s floors. Considering the uneven garden surfaces and the nature of historic buildings, flat walking shoes are the best choice. Tours continue rain or shine, but tickets must be purchased online in advance as there will be no ticket sales day. Each tour has a seat which is printed on your ticket.
“Many people are looking to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives, which includes the opportunity to participate in age-old traditions like Historic Garden Week,” Buckingham says. “By opening the doors and gates of spectacular homes and gardens, visitors can be inspired by horticulture, landscape, and architecture while experiencing spring in Virginia.”
Historic Garden Week runs April 23-30 at various locations. Vagardenweek.org