Monday, March 11, 2013

Visit Virginia Gardens for Great Ideas

Mock Orange Bloom at Old Lynchburg Cemetery

Do you need new design ideas to add some pizzazz to your garden?  Maybe some different plant combinations?  Would you like to see what plants thrive in this area and what conditions are best for them?  Well, a fun way to learn about gardening is to visit gardens!

 Virginia is a gardening paradise. It has an abundance of public gardens to visit. And many of the finest private gardens are open to the public during Historic Garden Week each April. Let’s talk about a few of these gardens.

Dovecote at Old Lynchburg Cemetery
Some of the earliest gardens in America were in cemeteries. An example is Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum in Lynchburg.  It is a 26-acre rehabilitated public cemetery established in 1806. Here you can see hundreds of historical plantings including rare trees, a lotus pond, a butterfly garden, a shrub garden and a superb collection of antique roses. 

Another must-see Lynchburg garden is the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum.   “This small garden is half my world…” the famed Harlem Renaissance poet wrote about her charming, colorful garden.  Her garden cottage, set among the flowers, served as her writing retreat.

Also in Lynchburg is Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, his magnificent octagonal villa retreat with its surrounding ornamental gardens.  Agricultural fields, orchards, and vegetable gardens were part of the original 4,000 acre plantation.  Ongoing archaeological work and restoration add to the historical experience of a visit.

Other gardens of interest in the Lynchburg area include: the Bliss Botanical Garden at Randolph College with many rare plants, the Miller-Clayton House Garden designed by famed Virginia landscape architect Charles Gillette, the Awareness Garden, honoring those whose lives have been touched by cancer, and the Appalachian Power Arboretum’s display of 60 botanically labeled trees suitable for planting beneath utility lines. All are hardy, beautiful, and available in the marketplace
Lady Jean's Garden House at Prestwould Plantation
The passionate green thumb of Lady Jean Skipwith lives on in the gardens of Prestwould Plantation in Clarksville.  You can stroll pathways that crisscross the garden beds laid out on a grid, and visit the octagonal summer house where Lady Jean spent hours recording in her garden journals during the late 1700’s. 

In Chase City the MacCallumMore Museum and Gardens features a fountain copied from one at the Alhambra, as well as, other items and ideas brought back from European travels by an aide to President Truman.  There are also a rose garden, an herb garden, a pink garden and a white garden. 
Orchids in Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond features an 11,000 square foot domed conservatory with orchids and tropical plants.  Also, a sunken garden, perennial garden, healing garden, conifer garden, and a rose garden.  There is a children’s garden with a tree house and a Japanese Garden.  The garden provides a learning experience in garden design and plant identification from well-labeled plants of many varieties.

Other public gardens in Richmond: Maymont Garden, an elegant, Gilded Age 100 acre estate with garden influences from all over the world; and Agecroft Hall, a late 15th century house moved from England and rebuilt on the banks of the James River.  It features a Tudor garden and a knot garden. And, of course not to forget, the Virginia House Gardens of the Virginia Historical Society combine 16th century Italian and English styles of gardening and are open by appointment.

Monticello Seen from the Flower Walk
Virginia’s love affair with gardening goes back to its earliest roots.  The Jamestown Settlement recreates how the first settlers and Virginia Indians grew their food.  Soon gardening became an aesthetic pastime. The James River Plantations and presidential homes, such as Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, and Gunston Hall, as well as  Colonial Williamsburg all have wonderful gardens to visit for time tested ideas on gardening. George Washington took great interest in the layout and management of his estate at Mount Vernon.  His design made use of axial lines inspired by baroque ideas.  But since he owned a copy of Langley’s New Principles of Gardening, he was influenced by Augustan Style as well.  As you can see, even our first president got inspiration from other gardeners. 

Thomas Jefferson designed his gardens at Monticello using ideas from well-known designers in England during the late 18th century.  Jefferson had been a keen horticulturist since his teen years and continually experimented with new plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamentals.  There is much to see and learn at Monticello.

April 20 – 27, 2013 is the 80th Historic Garden Week in Virginia.  It is the oldest and largest statewide event of its kind in the nation.  From the Atlantic to the Blue Ridge, 191 private home and garden owners offer their hospitality.  Public and historic gardens will also be included.  The proceeds from the 8 days of America’s largest open house will be used to restore and preserve historic landmarks in Virginia.

So much to see; so much gardening information to learn; and such a fun way to learn.  Visit some of the beautiful gardens in Virginia!