Historic Garden Week in Virginia: The University of Virginia Pavilions and Gardens
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I am so thrilled that the day designated for Historic Garden Week in Virginia’s (“HGW”) Albemarle-Charlottesville tour was SO spectacular!! There is nothing like that area of Virginia when it’s gorgeous outside. Nothing.
NOT MY TYPICAL “GARDEN WEEK” POSTS: THREE’S A CHARM…
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 MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2019
THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
JAMES RIVER PLANTATIONS*
(*OPEN APRIL 28, 29 AND 30—NOT ADDRESSED IN THIS POST)
In addition to the James River Plantations (which I’m not covering in this post), Leesburg and the University of Virginia Pavilions and Gardens are slated to be on tour today. The Leesburg tour will feature four properties and five gardens in the Virginia Piedmont region. Tour Headquarters will be set up at Oatlands (inside the Carriage House), which just happens to be one of my must-see properties for today! The other must-see properties are back in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia. I won’t be in either place, as I will be helping the wonderful women of the Williamsburg Garden Club prepare for Tuesday’s tour! (OH! The trip between C’ville and Leesburg is about two hours, give or take…)
Located in Loudon County, Oatlands was the estate built upon 3,400 acres of land land that a young descendant of the Carter family of Virginia, George Carter, inherited from his father in the late 1790s. Like Thomas Jefferson, George Carter worked on his house in fits and starts. He started construction following one set of plans he’d drafted himself, but then, once the War of 1812 began, he was sidelined. So he put the building of his house aside. When he was ready to build again, his idea of what he was looking for in a structure had changed. So he altered his plans, changing what had already been built to mirror those plans, and he eventually ended up with a Greek Revival mansion—one that included an octagonal room just like Mr. Jefferson’s Monticello contained. The estate was purchased in 1903 by Mr. and Mrs William Eustis of Washington, DC for use on weekends. They donated it to the National Trust in 1965 upon Mrs. Eustis’ death. You are seeing the mansion and grounds at a perfect time, as they are open for only a limited season (April through December).
It’s been more than two decades since I was last at Oatlands, so I relied very, very heavily on the website materials for this post. I would suggest your looking at the site, too, as it is very well done, containing detailed maps of the gardens; lists of all of the trees planted by Carter and the owners after him (the Eustis family of Washington, DC); and lists of all plants covering the Carter and Eustis eras, as well. In addition, there is a page detailing all of the preservation work on the structures that has been undertaken since 2012 (through 2016). Here is a link to the site!
George Carter grew wheat and other grains in his fields; raised sheep for their wool; and even built a mill that he based at a nearby creek. In addition, he created magnificent gardens that are still in evidence—changed and enhanced in some ways by the following owner, Mrs. Eustis, but very much “Carter” even today. His grounds contained mature trees, several different types of gardens AND (what is now) the oldest greenhouse in the United States.
The inspiration for Carter’s garden plan seems to have been a combination of other gardens located in the Tidewater region of Virginia and the very same English gardens that provided such solid models for so many other early American gardeners.
Like the terraced design that Jefferson employed at Monticello, Oatlands also utilized the terracing technique, which allowed for the successful growing of trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Each level of the terrace was connected to the next by a network of stone steps and paths. In addition to the terracing, which Thomas Jefferson championed for its ability to shelter plants and allow for a longer growing season, Carter also built a garden wall and garden outbuildings. These structures served to define the garden space and help keep the plants further sheltered from the elements.
In 1903, about 100 years after George Carter started his work constructing Oatlands and designing and installing his gardens there, the Eustis family of Washington, DC purchased the home. Mrs. Eustis was immediately drawn to Mr. Carter’s long ago gardens and took it upon herself to restore his garden terraces with a formal planting of boxwood-lined parterres, each of which contained within it an array of beautiful flowers, as well as garden structures and statuary. She was of the same generation of Theodate Pope Riddle, who was herself building what is now considered one of the finest examples of Colonial Revival homes in America (and who had consulted with Beatrix Farrand about her garden at the Hill-Stead). Like Theodate, Edith Eustis embraced the Colonial Revival style. She cared for the old while adding some “new” to create something a bit different from the original but just as beautiful. In addition to her restoratioin of Carter’s original terraces, Mrs. Eustis also planted a bowling green that took the place of Carter’s vegetable garden (which I am assuming was likely beyond all restoration!), a rose garden, a reflecting pool and a memorial garden installed in memory of one of Mrs. Eustis’ daughters.
As far as the house is concerned, it is very much as Carter left it. The Eustis family did not do much structurally to it at all. The website has a wonderful explanation of the few changes that were made, as well as a list of important items found inside the house and the dependency buildings. Definitely worth a look!
The Oatlands website is really a terrific resource. It offers detailed lists of trees from the Carter era and also from the Eustis era. The same is true for plants. It’s truly amazing how harmonious everything is, despite its having been planted by two different people with slightly different aesthetics. The map and guide to the gardens found on the website is excellent, and it will delineate the Carter era gardens versus the Eustis era gardens, even where they overlap. For example, Carter tree plantings include European Larch and English Oak (there is one in the center of the garden, and there is also a grove of them further out on the property….it’s where “Oatlands” came from!!). Mrs. Eustis added ornamental trees to the mix, in the form of Magnolia and Japanese Maple, for example.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
PAVILIONS AND PAVILION GARDENS
If you follow my blog or know me at all, you know that the University of Virginia holds a very special place in my heart. And that I have written at great length about it. Fortunately for you, I will not add much to what I’ve already written….though you know I certainly could!!! I will tell you that the Pavilions and Gardens are open for Historic Garden Week on MONDAY, APRIL 29 from 10am-5pm.
Home to the Unsworths, a history of the Pavilion—including inspiration and description—may be found with this UVA link.
Home to Professor Larry Sabato, whose classes I was never able to get into but who now teaches my daughter (!!), Pavilion IV’s layout and history may be found at this Library of Congress link.
Stroll through every single garden! And take lots of pictures. You’ll be glad you did!
Please check out the links provided. You’ll learn so much! And it’s so very interesting. There is a reason that UVA is the only University to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site! As well as its having all of the other landmark designations….