June 2019
Issue 14
Greetings to you all!

This spring the Garden Club completed a successful 86th Historic Garden Week with seven days of wonderful weather to welcome guests across our commonwealth. Since the success of the tour impacts the funds that we have for our Restoration work, we are always delighted when the rains hold off and we can showcase the gardens, homes, and also our Restoration projects that are open for viewing. 

Our Annual Meeting in May began a year of celebrating our Centennial Anniversary. You will read more about how this will impact your properties later in this newsletter. We hope you have a time to pause and enjoy all the other articles as well, including updates on the projects we have underway, an article on our featured garden at Lee Hall, and a spotlight on our featured gardener, Liz Foley, at Grace Arents. Summer for us also means welcoming two graduate students as our research fellows, and an article gives you an update on what they will be documenting this summer. 

We were delighted that many of you could join us for our Maintenance Workshop at the Kent-Valentine House in January. Thanks to each of you for all that you do in maintaining the Restoration projects. We look forward to encouraging all our GCV members to come and visit your properties.

Happy Summer!

Anne Baldwin
Chairman, GCV Restoration Committee
The Garden Club of Alexandria
Featured Historic Property
Lee Hall Mansion
163 Yorktown Road
Newport News

As one of the wealthiest men in Warwick County, Richard Lee built this grand Italianate mansion during the 1850s. Set on a rise overlooking his growing farming enterprise, Lee Hall housed Mr. Lee, his wife, six children and various relatives. As with many large properties of the time, the Civil War had a great impact on the house and family. Confederate Major General John Bankhead Magruder occupied the house in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign. At this time, the Lee family re-located to other parts of Virginia. Upon return to Lee Hall after the war, Mr. Lee never recovered financially and had to sell his house and land in 1871. After a series of owners, in 1996 the City of Newport News purchased Lee Hall along with 15 acres and opened it to the public in 1998 as a historic house museum. 

In 2000 Lee Hall became a restoration project of the Garden Club of Virginia and, by 2003, GCV Architect Will Rieley had completed plans and installation of an impressive 2,506 feet of historically correct board fencing, along with 106 trees and 145 shrubs suitable to the period. Rieley’s restoration approach was appropriate for a large antebellum plantation and the post-war revitalization of agriculture in the Tidewater area. Most notable among the features of the plan are the 40 hackberries which line the long driveway up to the house.

Today, Lee Hall is an active museum with tours, special events and volunteer opportunities. The Great Easter Egg Hunt, the Summer Celebration Wine Festival and History Tours on diverse events and eras are but a few of the activities of this museum. Volunteers assist staff with completing large maintenance and landscaping tasks to enhance the historic grounds. Eagle Scouts, servicemen and women, and school children paint fences, spread mulch, rake leaves and perform other tasks. Just off I-64, Lee Hall is conveniently located near both Yorktown and Williamsburg and is well worth a visit. The hours of operation and a program calendar are listed on the museum’s website leehall.org.

Sue Perrin
The Garden Club of Gloucester

Photo credit:Laura Willoughby
Featured Gardener
Liz Fogel
Senior Horticulturist
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Liz Fogel really is the whole picture! As well as being the curator of the Grace Arents Garden (a restoration property of GCV) at Lewis Ginter, Liz is also the horticulturist for the Children’s Garden, the Conifer Collection, the Edible Garden, and most of the Cherry Tree Walk. Additionally, she coordinates all signage for education and way finding at the Garden. Liz’s knowledge and ability to envision the best horticultural practices and sustainable landscape initiatives are laudable. She has been instrumental in designing and implementing an area along Lake Sydnor at Lewis Ginter which is a working model of water-wise landscaping. These practices contribute significantly to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Liz is a graduate of UNC with a degree in biology and also has a master’s degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech. She is a Certified Virginia Horticulturist, a member of the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, on the board of the Central Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, a Level 1 Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional, a member of the American Public Gardens Association and the Ecological Landscape Alliance.

Among her many honors, Liz was the first recipient of the prestigious Frank L. Robinson Endowed Chair in Horticulture at Lewis Ginter. She has received numerous grants from other organizations and is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, an Honors Agriculture Society.

Liz’s background is as diverse as it was enriching. She served in the Peace Corps in Senegal from 1997-1999 working as an agroforestry extension agent, was an agricultural science research technician at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington from 1990-2001 and was a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture from 2001-2003. Additionally, Liz served as a Senior Residential Program Counselor for three years in Knoxville, Tennessee. There she managed daily treatment for teenaged girls in a residential behavioral health center.

Liz’s vision of beauty is notable. On a recent visit to the Grace Arents Garden, Lewis Ginter’s historical centerpiece, I was struck by Liz’s graceful selection of color and plants used to reflect the historic importance of this area of the garden. The Garden Club of Virginia’s restoration efforts in the Grace Arents Garden have been outstanding and are continually enhanced by Liz’s horticultural direction. We are all beneficiaries of Liz’s dedicated work ethic, her understanding of plants and her amazing ability to create loveliness. We on the Restoration Committee as well as all members of the Garden Club of Virginia thank Liz for her ongoing commitment.

Sue Thompson
The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton
Design Notes by William Rieley
Update on the Restoration Committee’s Newest Projects

The Committee has four unique projects recently completed, currently underway or soon to break ground. The last liriope plant just went in at Point of Honor in Lynchburg. We were asked to create a garden that enhanced the appearance of the back of the house and provided an event space.  A panel of grass is edged by brick walks that lead to a semi-circle of pavement with a curved bench. The walks and semi-circle are lined with beds of liriope and upright silhouette sweetgums. The garden, completed last month, has already knitted into its setting nicely and Point of Honor has hosted its first event – an Easter Egg hunt.

The terraced East Garden at Stratford Hall was originally designed to showcase boxwood. The paths were lined with the shrub and the spaces created included panels of grass and boxwood parterres. Since Stratford Hall’s mission is to showcase the history of the Lee family, the Garden Club was asked to transform the upper terrace into a garden that more nearly reflected that of Philip Ludwell Lee. A plan contemporary with the end of his tenure (ca 1750 to 1775) provided clues to the character of a garden of that period. Stratford Hall also commissioned archaeology to guide the design. The result is a garden with a wide central path lined by cleanly shaped yews in a bed of perennials. On each side of the path, yew hedges on three sides enclose vegetable gardens. At the end of these gardens are trellises which support antique pear varieties. Across from the trellises and along the existing brick walls that enclose the garden, perennial borders provide seasonal color.

Just underway at Poplar Forest is the restoration of Jefferson’s carriage circle at the front of the house. Archaeologists uncovered his original surface of quartz rocks pounded into clay. They documented the shape and elevation of each rock as well as the configuration of the circle’s edges. After the historic surface is carefully protected, new pavement that reflects Jefferson’s design will be put in place. Quartz rocks donated by a nearby sod farm are on site and mortar tinted the color of clay will bind them together. The result will be a paved circle that safely provides for today’s visitors while giving them a clear picture of what Jefferson saw when he opened his front door to greet arriving guests.

Just about to break ground is a project at the College of William and Mary. President Taylor Reveley and his wife, Helen, recently stepped down. The College wanted to create a garden in their honor and chose a spot adjacent to the Sunken Lawn that over time has become a utility corridor. The inspiration was a design for this area by Charles Gillette, a renowned Virginia landscape architect, that was never built. The Restoration Committee has worked with the College to recreate that design in a way that takes into account modern usage but also remains true to Gillette’s original intent.

The Garden Club of Virginia will soon celebrate its centennial. Their projects over the last century provide a unique perspective on the history of Virginia gardens. Each property plays an important role in this story. I encourage you to visit the other members of this significant group as you travel the state. All are to be congratulated for the role you play in sustaining this legacy.

William D. Rieley
GCV Landscape Architect

Point of Honor
Stratford Hall
Garden Maintenance
A Plant Worth Knowing

The family Cornaceae is comprised of numerous, primarily deciduous, flowering trees and shrubs. Probably the best known and most beloved of these many plants is our native Cornus florida or flowering dogwood, the state tree of Virginia. The word Cornus is derived from the Latin word, cornu or horn. Dogwood is characterized by its extremely hard wood that is used to make mountain dulcimers, inlay, walking canes and arrows. The old English “dag wood” refers to daggers or skewers made from the wood. Occasionally even golf club “woods” are made from dogwood!

In Virginia’s April landscape, dogwood stands supreme growing from 15-30 feet tall, its habit is pyramidal and slightly flat-topped. The exquisite large white “bloom,” which appears before new foliage, consists of overlapping bracts or modified leaves with the actual flower being small, button-like clusters in the center of the bracts. In the later summer, dogwood’s red drupes provide further interest until persistent leaves transform to glorious rich red tones in the fall. Numerous cultivars have been grown for many decades throughout the country.

While beautiful, dogwood has its problems including significant powdery mildew and borers. In addition, in the 1970s dogwood anthracnose raised its ugly head and threatened the existence of the tree in some areas along the east coast species.

Planting of C. kousa or the Asian dogwood to replace threatened Cornus florida significantly increased after anthracnose appeared. Kousa dogwood blooms after leaves have emerged and is less picky about its drainage and sun exposure. It has been planted extensively in the northeast where cooler summer temperatures had allowed intense anthracnose spread. Its mottled gray and tan bark is lovely in the winter landscape.

Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University began a 25-year study in the 1970s and spearheaded the development of the Stellar series of dogwood, crosses between C. florida and C. kousa . These plants are characterized by better resistance to borer, powdery mildew and anthracnose. than the straight C. florida . In addition, while blooms don’t emerge before foliage, they tend to persist for up to six weeks as opposed to the Cornus florida ’s two-week show. These cultivars are also later-blooming than C. florida adding to the extended beauty of dogwood’s show in Virginia.

Recently Venus Dogwood was planted at St. John’s Mews. It, too, is a Rutgers’ introduction and is a cross between C.kousa x C. nuttalli . The bloom is spectacularly beautiful, and the tree appears to be a strong cross that will grace future landscapes.

Not to be overlooked are more of the native Cornus species including C. alternifolia . This lovely, 15-25 foot semi-shade tree has alternate rather than opposite leaves (hence the name) and is noted for its striking pagoda-like form. Cornelian Cherry or Cornus mas is another great native plant blooming with small, pale yellow flowers in late winter. Yet another Cornus shrub is the red-twigged dogwood or Cornus sericea . This native is characterized by outstanding red color on its shrubby branches and its love of damp sites.

Variety, then, is a major characteristic of the Cornus family! The commitment of breeders, especially to the native C. florida , will, with continued research, insure the continued presence of dogwood in our landscapes.

Sue Thompson
The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton
Did You Know?
Thatch - Friend or Foe

Thatch is the brownish layer composed of dead grass that forms between the blades and roots. Up to a half-inch of this layer can benefit by insulating, retaining moisture and preventing weed growth. If it is thicker than a half-inch, it can encourage pests, inhibit soil microbes from breaking the dead matter down and reduce the flow of air and water to the roots.

What causes thatch build-up?
Overuse of chemical fertilizers, too much or not enough watering, soil compaction and low pH levels.

How to correct the problem?
  • Grass clippings are not the problem and are essential for a healthy lawn.
  • Cut only 1/3 height of grass at one time, leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. If grass is over-tall, remove clippings to a compost pile
  • Raise the soil’s pH level, adding lime to raise it to a 6.5-7 which is in the neutral range.
  • Core aeration to reduce compaction should be done every 5 years, or more in high traffic areas.
  • Top dressing with fine compost after aeration, improves soil structure and introduces microbes.
  • Avoid using pesticides.
  • Water lawn deeply, less frequently to encourage deep root growth.
  • Light dressing of organic fertilizer, fine compost is a good example, in the spring and fall is acceptable.
  • De-thatching with a rake or other mechanical equipment stresses the grass, so should be done on alternate years from a core aeration cycle.
  • Cool season grasses like tall fescue and perennial rye have fewer problems with excess hatch.

Widget Williams
The Harborfront Garden Club
Before and After
Green Spring
After - The arc of retaining wall that Farrand sketched was repaired. It forms the rear boundary of the garden behind the boxwood.  
After - New edging for the perennial border was installed and perennials planted that reflected Farrand's typical color schemes.  
Special Articles
Maintenance Workshop
Every other year, the Restoration Committee invites representatives from our GCV Restoration properties to join us for our Maintenance Workshop. On January 10, about 80 maintenance workers, gardeners, and heads of the properties came to the Kent-Valentine House for a day of learning.

This year’s workshop was organized by Restoration Committee member Elaine Burden, GCV Landscape Architect, Will Rieley (pictured here), and his staff. After an opening welcome, Will gave a very helpful review of our committee policies. The GCV restores historic gardens which the properties agree to maintain. Through an ongoing relationship, the GCV offers guidelines for successful maintenance which are included in our Garden Maintenance Manual given to each of the properties and also with these workshops.

Our first speaker was Peggy Cornett, Curator of Plants at Monticello, whose topic was Historic Plants. Peggy started at Monticello in 1983, and from 1992-2009 served as the director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. She gave a wonderful presentation including photos of Jefferson’s garden journal, a calendar documenting when his flowers bloomed, as well as beautiful photos of many of his favorite plants. She also shared information about the Monticello Garden Explorer, an exciting resource allowing gardeners to access their database and view plants.

A lively presentation about pruning shrubs and trees was given by Peter Deahl, a co-founder of the Pruning School and owner of FinePruning. Peter is an ISA-certified arborist, and has spent over twenty years pruning primarily boxwood, Japanese maples, and azaleas. Peter stressed beginning with the right plant in the right place. He suggests that it is always best to prune with two people, one to cut and one to watch. His slides showed how he prunes from the bottom and allows light to get inside. 

Dan Gregg, who founded Grelen Nursery in 1990, was the final speaker. Grelen Nursery is the source of many of the plants for our restoration projects. His talk focused on first year plant care and began with successful planting techniques, emphasizing the importance of watering. Dan shared tips for handling the boxwood blight and suggested using only your own equipment that is not shared. 

Another benefit for the attendees is meeting each other and sharing information. The Restoration Committee is grateful for these men and women who help to expertly maintain our gardens.

Anne Baldwin 
Garden Club of Alexandria
GCV Research Fellowships
Announced on April 1, 2019, the two selected graduate student fellows are Dania Khlaifat as the Rudy J. Favretti Fellow and Hayden Hammons as the William D. Rieley Fellow. During their three months in Virginia, they will visit, research and document their respective historic site with emphasis on the landscape. This work requires full attention as they work independently and with supervision by the GCV Landscape Architect, Will Rieley.

Dania will research Farmington, the late 1700’s plantation of George Divers, good friend of Thomas Jefferson. Farming and horticulture cemented this friendship and in 1803-04 Divers added two Jefferson designed additions. Significant gardens and farm acreage on this Charlottesville property have been hailed as an important part of the area’s heritage. Dania, a Fulbright scholar from Amman, Jordan, graduated in May with a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts with a focus on Cultural Landscape Management. She earned her BA in Architecture in 2014 at Al Ahliyya Amman University. Dania’s thesis topic is on the cultural landscape of As-Salt, Jordan, a potential World Heritage Site. She was granted a scholarship to research and complete the thesis proposal which will be presented in the request as a World Heritage Site. 

Hayden will research Mount Airy in Warsaw, a property that has been held by the same family since the mid 1600’s. The historic house was built in the mid 1700’s by John Tayloe II and was the center of plantation and political life of the era. The house is surrounded by 1400 acres and remnants of the original terraced gardens still remain. Hayden will earn his Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Louisiana State University in 2020. He earned his BA in History at LSU in 2012 and took courses toward a MA in History at Mississippi College. Hayden has actively participated in the restoration of a 75 acre native prairie site threatened by invasive species. He most currently worked on a streetscape design for a 4.3 mile urban corridor in Baton Rouge for an impending Bus Rapid Transit program.

You will find more information about the GCV Research Fellowships by visiting gcvfellowship.org 

Judy Perry
Dania Khlaifat, the Rudy J. Favretti Fellow
Hayden Hammons, the William D. Rieley Fellow
The Garden Club of Virginia Centennial Celebration
The countdown has begun for the 47 clubs and over 3,300 members of the Garden Club of Virginia as we look forward to our 100th birthday on May 13, 2020. Instead of waiting to celebrate next May, we have planned a full year of Centennial activities which will include a spotlight on the restoration work that we began in 1929. 

Those of you who have attended our Maintenance Workshop have seen the Restoration Committee power point presentation that includes photos and information on each of our projects beginning with Kenmore in 1929. We continue to promote this as a regular meeting program for each of our clubs. This enables our committee members to visit the clubs to report updates on the properties. Of course, our goal is for club members across the state to come, bring their families and friends and visit these projects themselves. 

For our Centennial celebration, we have added two exciting opportunities for our members. The Photography Committee has planned a photo exhibit that will include a photo from each of our Restoration projects. Our members will sign up and then head out with camera or phone in hand to each of your historic sites. The end result will be an exhibit at our Kent-Valentine House beginning on our birthday May 2020. Also, a special gift is being offered to the member of each of our 47 clubs who visits the most Restoration projects in this Centennial year. Many of our members visited the Historic Portsmouth Courthouse during the recent GCV Annual Meeting, so they have visited one to give them a head start in visiting many, many more. 

Thank you for welcoming our members to your properties. The Restoration Committee looks forward to exploring additional opportunities that we can offer our membership to encourage visits to your historic sites.  Learn More!

Anne Baldwin
The Garden Club of Alexandria
Special Events at Historic Properties
See what other Restoration Properties are doing to entice visitors and raise funds.

Grace Arents’ Garden/Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Art in the Garden: March 28 – June 19. Garden inspired art for sale with 15% proceeds to support education at the gardens.

Themed Walk Hydrangeas: June 6, 6 – 7:30 pm. Garden Guide and Hydrangea enthusiast Rich Waiton leads tours through the Gardens’ Hydrangea collections.

National Pollinator Week Events: June 17 – June 23. Celebration of important pollinators.

Mt. Vernon
Martha Washington’s Birthday Celebration: June 1, 9 am – 5 pm. 288th Birthday Celebration includes two naturalization ceremonies honoring new citizens and a special tour.

Family Thyme for Herbs: June 9, 10 am – 12 pm, 2 pm – 4 pm. Go behind the scenes to the greenhouse with horticulture staff and plant your own mixed herb container.

Camp Washington: July 8 – 26. Summer Day Camp for Rising 4th & 6th Graders to get a taste of Colonial life.

Poplar Forest
Family Days: June 15, 11 – 3 pm. Exploring Plantation Trades. Hands-on activities, scavenger hunts and demonstrations.

1776 Concert Musical: June 27 – 29, 7:30 pm each evening. The annual presentation of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy. Bring picnic dinner & enjoy theatre under the stars.

Family Days: July 13, 11 – 3 pm. Archaeology Adventures. Hands-on activities, scavenger hunts and demonstrations.