Historic Garden Week in Virginia: Must See Bonus Properties in Albemarle-Charlottesville
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When I left the house this morning, it was freezing cold, rainy, windy and raw. Typical Boston “spring”. When I touched down in Virginia, I could not have been happier. Blue skies, perfect temperatures and flowers in bloom everywhere I looked. The perfect day for Day One of Historic Garden Week in Virginia!
NOT MY TYPICAL “GARDEN WEEK” POSTS: TAKE TWO…
As I mentioned in my last post, I will be taking a different approach to my Historic Garden Week in Virginia (“HGW”) posts this year. Instead of focusing on the specific properties on the Garden Club of Virginia’s (“GCV”) tour, I’ll be offering my suggestions of must see “bonus properties” throughout the Commonwealth. If you have extra time in a particular area, don’t spin your wheels! There’s always something spectacular to see in Virginia. On tour and off! In fact, the HGW Tour Guidebook may be found online at www.vagardenweek.org. It contains everything you need to know about every featured property, and it also lists the major historic properties in and around the touring areas. It is your best friend during Garden Week. Trust me! (And I’m your second best friend!!)
BEYOND THE HOMES AND GARDENS
BONUS SITES FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 28TH, 2019
JAMES RIVER PLANTATIONS*
(*OPEN APRIL 28, 29 AND 30—NOT ADDRESSED IN THIS POST)
The Albemarle-Charlottesville tour is a shuttle bus tour, and it covers five properties in the picturesque town of Ivy, including one property that has grown from a cattle field (when it was purchased by the current owners) into a horticultural wonderland over the past two decades. Here is a great article about the property, the owners and how the owners’ vision for their former cattle field took shape and evolved into groves of trees, beds of flowers, meandering paths lined with native plants and peaceful garden rooms. It’s truly a living garden, and it continues to change and evolve with every season. I just hope I can make it to Charlottesville to see this beautiful sight for myself!!
Monticello was home to Thomas Jefferson, “…Author of the Declaration of American Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia”. (Why do I say so little? See Jefferson’s handwritten Epitaph below…)
There is so much to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site—and so much to learn—that you could easily spend days (weeks, months, years!) here. I’m not going to give you the history, because I could never do it justice, for one thing. But you’d also never make it to the Garden Tour. So, we’re sticking with the basics.
EVOLUTION OF HOUSE AND GARDENS
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was a total Renaissance Man. A scholar, author, inventor, architect, statesman and naturalist, among other things, he built Monticello (“Little Mountain”) over a period of about 40 years. He started the house around 1768 and then proceeded to build and rebuild parts of it based on architectural ideas he had read about or otherwise had the time to study while living and working abroad. Like his house, his gardens were also the subject of experimentation and implementation of “new” ideas and techniques for gardening. His property contained flower gardens, a fruit orchard and a vegetable garden, and while it is thought that he received many of his seeds for exotics from abroad, he actually received many of them from the Philadelphia based John Bartram, a botanist much closer to home than some of the others we tend to think about when we think about “famous early botanists” (like Miller and Linnaeus).
Jefferson designed his own gardens and created a terraced garden for his vegetables. This garden was planted on the side of a hill in terraced sections supported by long runs of stone wall. This planting method allowed for a protected environment for the plants and, as a result, a longer growing season. The garden was divided into several different groupings, with vegetables being planted together according to their respective harvest times. Below the vegetables are the vineyards, which can be seen in the photo below.
The flower beds at Monticello were also designed by Jefferson himself. He created a winding path that reflected his admiration for the English garden idea of “natural versus formal” and lined it with a border of several different species of flowers. In addition, he designed twenty oval flower beds, with each containing its own distinctive flowers, grown either from bulbs or seeds. The flower beds were planted so that there would always be something in bloom. And Jefferson did, in fact, import some of his flower specimens from abroad.
INSPIRED BY THE GARDENS OF MONTICELLO…AND THE ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS!