Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Historic Garden Week
in Middlesex County

Urbanna, Saluda, Hartfield and points between will roll out the green carpet for visitors to the Garden Club of Virginia's Historic Garden Week, held annually in Virginia each April, when Middlesex County helps host America's biggest open house on Friday, April 25th from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

The tour, Times and Tides: An Architectural Timeline of Middlesex County, will feature houses and gardens dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, according to Mrs. Roger Hopper, tour chairman for the Middle Peninsula Garden Club. "Our county was founded in 1669 by Englishmen who settled where the Rappahannock and Piankatank Rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay, so we chose this area for our tour, " she said.

Garden Club ladies from four member counties (Essex, King William, King and Queen, Middlesex) not only will display their best finery as they serve as hostesses on tour day, but also they will showcase artistic flower arrangements in each house, with styles ranging from Early Colonial to 21st Century  Contemporary. The flowers used, with few exceptions, are grown by the members themselves, who take pride in digging in the dirt to create their own gardens.

Club members work all year to put on the house and flower festivals that take place each April as a fund-raising project.  The tour rotates through the region with a different member county being featured each year. Proceeds from the state-wide Historic Garden Week in Virginia enable The Garden Club of Virginia to continue its mission of restoring and maintaining the state's historic gardens and homes.  In 1942, for example, the brick wall around Christ Church was donated by GCV. Other notable restorations include the gardens at Stratford Hall, Montpelier, Mount Vernon, Maymont, Monticello, and the University of Virginia's Pavilion Gardens.

Approximately 20,000 visitors over the past nine years in this area have helped make the tours successful. The Garden Club ladies, a stalwart group, hold open house no matter the weather, and if it rains, they have umbrellas for sale. Proceeds from the umbrellas are used for local projects in landscaping, conservation, education, and beautification -- all efforts that are dear to their hearts.

Houses to be featured this year include Wilton, c.1762, on the Piankatank River, a manor house of Flemish-bond brick. Known as the "Crown Jewel" of Middlesex, it seldom has been open to the public. Woodwork and paneling are original; the floors have never been sanded; and paneling retains the original paint. The property was first settled in 1674 with an earlier house that was destroyed by fire. Owned by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, it is open for the first time for Garden Week.

Leafwood, c.1781, in the village of Saluda, originally was a simple overseer's house, but each succeeding owner enlarged and modernized it until it attained its impressive appearance today.  The boxwood gardens here are especially noteworthy.

Atherston Hall, c.1880, in Urbanna, is typical of Tidewater farmhouses of the period. Charles Palmer, a local carpenter, constructed the house and many other houses in town during this period, including the distinctive Urbanna Baptist Church. It is now maintained as a Bed and Breakfast by the current owners.

Laurel View, built in 1993, has a panoramic view of Urbanna Creek. Furnished in traditional manner with a palette of bright colors, the house showcases family furniture and a collection of needlepoint art created by the owner.

1938 Wilton Creek Road, recently constructed in 2006, was designed by the owners with Williamsburg architect Roger Guernsey. The brick house, which maximizes open spaces and a scenic view of Wilton Creek, features a state-of-the-art water treatment system and an eco-friendly geothermal heating and cooling system. Rose gardens have been created to practice erosion control.

The Garden at the Tavern, adjacent to Atherson Hall, features statuary, a fish pond, bird houses, bird baths as well as azaleas, spring bulbs, peonies and flowering shrubs. Here, Patrick Henry is said to have made a speech under the old walnut tree behind the c.1742 Tavern.

Christ Church, c.1714, on tour day will be flowered to honor St.
Mark. Garden club members will fill the sanctuary with greens and flowers, following an English tradition. Outside in the churchyard there are a number of colonial tombs with elaborate sculpture. Among those buried in the graveyard is native son and war hero Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, the most decorated marine in the history of the Marine Corps.

Lower United Methodist Church, c.1717.  Laid entirely in English-bond brick work, it is one of four surviving colonial churches in Virginia with this type of masonry. 

Box lunches will be available on the day of the tour at Lower United Methodist Church for those who have made an advance reservation. Please call Jill Davis at 804-776-6134 before April 18.

Tickets for the full tour are $30 and may be purchased at any of the locations on the day of the tour. Those wishing to order tickets in advance may take advantage of the reduced rate of $25 by sending a business-sized, self-addressed envelope and a check made out to GCMP before April 17. Please send orders to Carolyn Wake at 1300 Providence Rd., Deltaville, VA 23043, or call 804-776-9541. Single house tickets are $10.

WILTON, from Rt. 33 east at Hartfield, follow Rt. 3 for 2.2 mi. This superb example of a 17th c. planter's house retains its original historic character. Owned by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo courtesy of APVA

LEAFWOOD, located in the heart of Saluda on Rt. 17 business. The boxwoods here were grown from cuttings at Boxwood Alley at Gunston Hall and from Berkeley Plantation.
Photo Susan Walter

ATHERSTON HALL, 250 Prince George Street in Urbanna. The owner, a landscape architect, has created two period gardens where perennials and roses meet.
Photo Susan Walter

LAUREL VIEW, from stoplight in Saluda, take Rt. 618 for 1.4 mi.  The property includes shrubs and trees indigenous to the area, a boat house and dock.
Photo Helen Hopper

1938 WILTON CREEK ROAD from Rt. 3, turn right on Rt. 33 east; proceed 1.9 mi. to Wilton Creek Road and follow signs to end of road. The owners chose this property for their retirement years so that they could continue sailing.
Photo Susan Walter