Historic Garden Week: Behind the Scenes in Gloucester VA


APRIL 2011. It’s that time of year when Garden Club of Virginia members across our great Commonwealth are connected to one another with a common purpose: Historic Garden Week in Virginia. Forty-seven garden clubs and more than 3,000 members under the umbrella of the Garden Club of Virginia issue invitations to “America’s Largest Open House,” April 16-23, 2011. More than 250 gardens, homes and historic landmarks in Virginia will be open for tours, programs, and events.

Event chairs have been working around the clock for a year or two organizing their individual tours including floral arrangements for the homes, hostesses to greet visitors in each room, parking, transportation, photography, publicity, programs, lunches and much more. The work of advance planning and logistics of each tour is staggering. It takes the cooperation of all members of the clubs and their communities at a very high level. Most of all, it takes the generosity and philanthropy of the remarkable homeowners to make all the tours possible. For a year or two, homeowners have been preparing their homes and gardens to be able to invite visitors inside some of the most lovely homes and the most beautiful gardens at the pinnacle of springtime color.

The mission of the Garden Club of Virginia is to inspire a love of gardening, conserve our natural resources and to educate our own members and the general public. These missions are accomplished through the tour and other programs throughout the year. Another important mission of the GCV is to restore historic gardens and landscapes in Virginia. The proceeds from Historic Garden Week are used to fund these restoration projects. To date over $14.5 million has been raised to restore more than 50 historic garden properties across the state.  Over the years, funds from Garden Week have restored notable historic gardens at the Pavilion Gardens of the University of Virginia, Woodlawn, Bacon’s Castle, Monticello, the Executive Mansion Capitol Square, and other historic Virginia sites. Click here for complete information on GCV historic garden restorations.

View of Millford Haven on Gywnn’s Island

The following tour took place in 2011: In the Tidewater counties of Gloucester and Mathews, the Garden Club of Gloucester is planning a most interesting tour on Saturday, April 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Four unique and lovely waterfront homes on four different and distinct bodies of water will roll out the red carpet for a multitude of visitors to explore two historic counties with over 350 combined miles of shoreline and where most roads lead to water. The view from each home site is unmatched. From vistas over the tranquil Severn Creek with historic Warner Hall Plantation as a backdrop, majestic cliff-side panoramic views of the Piankatank River, historic and bucolic Pepper Creek where eagles and osprey soar and nest, and white sandy beaches along Milford Haven, named by early Welsh settlers, that opens directly into the majestic Chesapeake Bay. Visitors will take note of lovely salt-tolerant gardens filled with ornamental grasses and blooming woody shrubs and colorful bulbs.

Windowsill Garden at “Sweetgrass”

You will see original garden art, a butterfly garden, a woodland walk with native plants, raised bed gardens, a rose garden and more.  With Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester to mentor our club and communities, we’re fortunate that this part of the state is known for its daffodils.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in April

Fields of yellow punctuated with vibrant tulips growing amongst vivid azaleas and beneath flowering dogwood will greet visitors in both counties.  A box lunch will be in Gloucester at Short Lane Ice Cream with a grand finale desert of the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever tasted. A sit-down lunch will take place at the White Dog Inn in Mathews County, an experience to remember. Come to visit us at the beach on April 16!  You can find all the details about our Gloucester-Mathews tour and advance discount tickets here.

Have I got your attention?  I hope so and I hope you will be persuaded be our guest in Virginia the third full week in April, 2011 and travel from community to community to visit in some of Virginia’s best homes and gardens.  Supporting the tour will give you the satisfaction that you have helped preserve historic Virginia gardens, all open to the public. For detailed schedule information on Historic Garden Week 2011, click here.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for highlights on other HGW gardens across the state.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Historic Garden Week: Behind the scenes in Gloucester Gardens

Brent and Becky's hybridizing fields Brent and Becky’s Bulbs was named by The Wall Street Journal as the number one bulb company, but for the citizens of Gloucester, Brent and Becky have always been number one in many ways.  They are incredibly knowledgeable and their generosity is legend, both in Brent’s native Gloucester and far beyond Gloucester to cities and communities across the country.

The Garden Club of Gloucester relies on Brent and Becky for advice for Historic Garden Week bulb plantings.  With their recommendations, we turn our gardens into a sea of colorful daffodils. Gardeners and landscapers look to them for guidance and for the best bulbs available today.  It all makes sense when you know Brent and Becky consider themselves educators first, gardeners second and bulb-sellers third.

Ware Neck landscaper, Sue Perrin, has her own list of personal favorites from Brent and Becky’s Spring/Fall catalog.  For homeowners on the Historic Garden Tour or bulb lovers statewide, she has listed the bulb name, catalog page number and the reasons behind her choices.

Sue:  “The following are my favorites. They have multiplied and remained strong performers in my garden. I tend to like the miniature and mid-sized bulbs for flower beds. I like to see the large sized ones grouped in the landscape away from the house, at the edge of the woods where the maturing foliage gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day and some dappled light after that. In such an area you can let weeds/grass grow along with maturing foliage and not be bothered with the ‘mess.’ Too often I have seen daffodils planted in too much shade and they decline with time even though they are fertilized. Apply fertilizer in October after the first year. I use “Potato Fertilizer” from Southern States Cooperative. It is their own 3-9-18 and has quintupled in price in the past 2 years. It comes in 40 lb. bags, so you would not be able to use it until you had a large bed but it is still quite a bit cheaper than BulbTone. For just a few daffodils, use BulbTone or whatever Brent and Becky have in their shop. They are making their own brand and it will be excellent.”

* Will bloom for Garden Tour the last week in April.  Brent suggests planting them in late Nov. or early Dec. to make them bloom late.

Miniature and mid-sized Daffodils:

Baby Moon*   p. 29, qty: 20, late bloomer, adorable.

Hawera    p. 31, qty: 20, mid-late, multiplies like crazy.

Jonquilla var. henriquesii   p. 31  20, Golden gold, showy, likes to bake in the summer sun by a walk of rock.

Golden Bells  p.31, qty: 20, teeny tiny but showy.

Minnow p. 32, qty: 20, 5 or more tiny yellow and white flowers per stem, delightful.

Sun Disc* p. 33, qty: 50, reliable, late.

Sweetness p.25, qty: 20, So fragrant, a must.

Golden Echo (!!!) p. 24, qty: 20, Brent and Becky’s own hybrid, great substance, mid-sized, long-blooming, top of my list.

Jetfire p. 22, qty: 20, early (Feb.), reliable.

Ice Wings p. 21, qty: 10, nodding, white, 3 per stem.

Large favorites:

Bravoure  p. 10, Greatest substance, gorgeous.

Pink Silk  p. 11,  I won best-in-show, plus it multiplies like a rabbit.

Lorikeet  p. 11, Unusual color combination, stunning.

Audubon  p. 12, Great substance, reliable.

Ceylon p. 13, One of Brent’s favorites.

Pink Charm  p. 15, Reliable pink and white, lovely.

Stainless* p. 16, Pure white, late.

Other favorite bulbs for here and there:

Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’*  p. 71,  qty: 100, voles like these so protection, old-fashioned, can seed around in time, likes the woodland setting.

Ipheion uniflorum ‘Rolf Fiedler’  p. 74, qty: 50, Grows in the grass, sweet.

Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’* p. 76,  qttL 50, underrated, white, long blooming.

Muscari armeniacum p. 78, qty: 100 (a must !), electric blue complements all other bulbs, esp. daffodils.

Galanthus elwesii  p. 8,  qty: 20 (plant now!), snowdrops are earliest, can take some shade, like a moist but not boggy area. Almost all bulbs require good drainage.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Historic Garden Week: Behind the scenes in Gloucester VA gardens.

Some of Virginia’s best gardeners are busy right now preparing their private gardens for the Annual Historic Garden Week tour in April.  Visitors are invited to explore not only the interior of elegant homes across the state, they will be able to leisurely stroll through resplendent outdoor spaces at each site.

A major fund-raiser for the Garden Club of Virginia, Historic Garden Week began in 1929 and has raised over $15 million to restore historic Virginia landscapes and gardens that are regularly open to the public.  If you wonder what gardens have been restored, just think of the historic properties of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Henry, Mason, Lee and Wilson, to name a few.  Many Virginians and visitors from afar have paid visits to these and many other of the 40-plus GCV-restored historic gardens in Virginia.

For the gardens on tour, you might think that homeowners simply need to tidy up their gardens in March or April, weed a bit and make sure grass is mowed and borders are edged when the garden gate opens for visitors.  But this is far from reality.  Now is a time of garden preparation, of upgrades, adding and transplanting, pruning, extending gardens walled kitchen garden - 2010 tourand lots of planting.  A flurry of activity will go on until the first visitor arrives.  Each homeowners wants visitors to feast their eyes on picture a perfect garden setting, one that educates as well as provides magic to inspire the over 30,000 visitors across the state.

Gardens are a big part of the tour in Gloucester. Plans are being fine-tuned by both homeowners and tour chairmen. Wonderful individual landscapes will be open, both educational and distinct in design.River terrace -2010 tour

I know gardens across the state will be enjoyed by many.  Make sure the gardens in Gloucester are on your list.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester