What is it about Virginia?

What is it about Virginia? Just like the newspaper columnist and author Guy Friddell wrote in his witty book of that title, Virginia is timeless. Some things never change. Virginians look forward to visiting with each other around a groaning board featuring foods of the season. In the spring, it’s shad, in the summer, it’s Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, and in the fall, it’s oysters pulled from local waters.

When an invitation arrived for a Richmond oyster roast with family and friends, how could I resist a quick trip south? At the airport, I stepped onto Virginia soil under sunny skies and 70° weather to meet friends who volunteered transportation… but Virginia transportation is never from point A to point B.  Good Virginia hospitality always involves stopping for nourishment and a short driving tour and a friendly catch-up on news from high school to the present. The Art of Visiting is still a strong Virginia tradition.

A few strings of lights over the driveway, a couple of fire pits, scattered chairs, grills, Rappahannock River oysters and a groaning board full of sides and desserts and you have yourself a Virginia Gathering.

However, Virginians can’t live on oysters and sides alone. Oyster roasts need to be accompanied by a soup, traditionally clam chowder or our family favorite, Brunswick Stew, Edwards Ham biscuits, cornbread and then then the complement of appetizers, sides and desserts.

The trip to the Old Dominion gave me a moment to reconnect and reflect and unwind before jetting back to our newly adopted state, New Hampshire…. a state full of adventures and discoveries and an abundance of new friends to meet.

They Did it Their Way

Through the garden gate

From the street in this west side Richmond neighborhood, you would never know that behind the dense growth of winter jasmine, tall bayberries, plump boxwood and red-tip photinia is a garden gate that opens to a compact, well-designed landscape. Soothing greens with varied textures and shapes entice you to enter through the gate and explore.  I always enjoy an invitation to this charming garden. There’s something magic and restorative about the cool spaces in the dappled light of tall trees.

The couple who lives on this lovely property designed the garden layout themselves and every bed was developed and planted by them. The space has been embellished through the years to become a lush tapestry of foliage punctuated by colorful treasures of flowering trees and perennials. It’s obvious that this garden is their retreat, a place to enjoy the outdoors and fulfill their passion for gardening. It’s great fun to stroll through the grounds with them for he showers her with credit for aspects of the garden and she returns the praise.

The rear of the home opens onto a terrace that flows into a small grassy lawn. Steps away are several garden paths that beckon. Birdbaths, benches, sculpture, bridges and lighted pagodas are focal points along the woodland journey. A clear stream winds through the shade providing interest and a home for many small visitors. Native plants and new cultivar discoveries pepper the landscape.

Following the brick walk along a natural rise, a border of  boxwood, variegated hostas and liriope edging become the nucleus of this garden. A hand crafted martin house beneath a golden rain tree is a reminder of the birding paradise the couple has created.

Exiting through the garden gate, we are not disappointed by what we encounter. A colonial garden house, designed and built by the owner, greets us in this space.  I’ll say no more. A photograph of this structure is worth a thousand words.

The newest feature in the landscape, the Charleston Garden, bids a welcome to enter and rest on one of the benches. High stucco walls, beautifully designed brick walks, statuary, a pool with splashing water and colorful fish, and cool green groundcover, invite you to linger. With a daughter living in Charleston, the couple made numerous visits, falling in love with the courtyard garden designs.

I’m sure readers will agree that the owners have created an Eden…. but I might be a bit biased. On an earlier blog entry, I whisked you away to California to visit my sister’s whimsical garden in San Diego. This time you left your stresses at the gate and toured the garden retreat of my brother and his wife who live in Richmond.

For another view of his garden house, click HERE.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester