June 2020
Issue 16
Greetings to all of you!

The Garden Club of Virginia celebrates its Centennial this year but not in the way that any of us had imagined. As you are aware, Historic Garden Week, which provides the funding for the restoration projects of the GCV, was cancelled this year. Many of you were planning special events and openings during this time to help us celebrate this milestone and we are very grateful for your support and look forward to the time we can once again showcase your properties.

I am happy to announce that the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond will feature a special exhibition July 1-November 1, 2020 entitled “A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100.” Many plans and photographs of our historic restorations will be featured. In addition, the Banner Lecture Series at the Museum will feature Eric Proebsting of Poplar Forest and Matt Peterschmidt of Stratford Hall discussing their recent restorations and the impact that the Garden Club of Virginia has had on the research and implementation of the projects. The lecture will be held on September 16 at noon, is open to the public and I hope that you can join us. Details at virginiahistory.org.

Many thanks to each of you for all that you do to maintain the restoration projects. While we are not in a position to fund any new projects in 2020-2021, we will complete our exciting work at Poplar Forest and William & Mary. As the new chair of the Restoration Committee I speak for all our members in saying that we look forward to working with each of you in the coming year and to brighter days ahead!

Stay safe!

Betsy Worthington
Chairman, GCV Restoration Committee
The Lynchburg Garden Club
Featured Historic Property
Historic Christ Church, Weems

Historic Christ Church’s unknown designer, and its well-known benefactor, Robert “King” Carter, would be pleased to see the church standing pristine and proud almost three centuries after they conceived and created the magnificent structure. Completed in 1735, the brick edifice is early Georgian in style and cruciform in shape. It has been estimated that a half million bricks were used in the church. Archaeology undertaken in the first decade of this century confirmed that the bricks were fired in works immediately adjacent to the church.

Today, the church appears in every feature, inside and out, exactly as it did in 1735. After the Revolutionary War, it escaped confiscation and the recycling of its material for other public and private structures. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the church experienced cycles of use and disuse and the maintenance performed was termed “patch and mend.” By the mid-1950s, the building was structurally sound, but woefully in need of repair. In 1958, the Foundation for Historic Christ Church was formed to effect its preservation.

In 1968, the Garden Club of Virginia replanted what Robert “King” Carter wrote was a “row of goodly cedars” leading from his home, Corotoman, to the canonical entrance to the church. Brick paths were installed within the walls and a willow oak was planted to balance an existing one. Plantings of English ivy and native clematis finished the project.

In 2013, dogwoods around the property began to fail, and the GCV planted white redbuds which flourish today. The latest project has been the renovation of the auxiliary parking lot and the planting of crape myrtle to replace the sweet gums in the median.

Historic Christ Church holds worship services Memorial Day to Labor Day. It is open to visitors featuring a separate museum and gift shop with docents available to interpret the history of the church and the area. During the year, festivals, educational programs and family events draw many to this vital and important monument in the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Dianne Spence
The Williamsburg Garden Club
The Garden Club of Gloucester
Special Feature
Dean Norton Honored by The Garden Club of America

J. Dean Norton, Garden Club of Virginia Honorary Member, was recently recognized by the Garden Club of America at its 107th Annual Meeting with its Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal. This medal is awarded for exemplary service and creative vision in any field related to the GCA’s special interests.

For over 50 years, Dean has worked to re-create an authentic 18th century landscape at Mount Vernon. This award recognizes his drive for historical accuracy that has changed contemporary understanding of the horticulture, cultivation, and preservation of 18th-century American gardens. GCV members and those involved with our Restoration projects recognize his role as a communicator, advisor, and horticulturist. Dean’s deep understanding of history has brought the Mount Vernon landscape alive to the countless visitors who have visited during his tenure there, and helps reveal the horticultural genius of George Washington.

Dean has immersed himself in the 18th-century books on farming and landscape design that were read by George Washington and his contemporaries. Archaeological work continues on the estate and has supported Dean’s proposals and restorations. This includes the transformation of the Upper Garden into large squares with vegetables in the center and borders of flowers. He also has worked tirelessly to protect the historic trees on the property. These are mapped by GPS and on an annual inspection schedule. Samplings are grown from seeds to assure that trees with the original genetic lineage are available for planting. Maintaining the boxwoods and animal husbandry are also under Dean’s care.

Like our own GCV Annual Meeting, this year’s GCA Annual Meeting was a virtual one. Dean may have missed his black tie moment in Asheville, NC in front of the over 600 attendees, but the virtual awarding of this honor went out to all 18,000 members. The GCV is proud to add our cheers for this well-deserved recognition. Dean’s willingness to share his horticultural and historical knowledge have helped students, professionals, as well as supporters of historical properties and gardens across our country.

Anne Baldwin
The Garden Club of Alexandria
Garden Maintenance
A Plant Worth Knowing
Winter Savory

Winter Savory, Satureja montana, is a versatile herb that has many outstanding features for a Virginia garden. It was described by Linnaeus in his book, Species Plantarum, in 1753. Its more famous relative, Summer Savory, is planted as an annual. Winter Savory, however, is a perennial in Zone VII. This dark-green leafed plant is semi-evergreen. It can attain a height of about 1’ or more, but its woody growth can be cut back to maintain a shorter, fuller and greener plant that works well as a small hedge for garden areas. Take care not to cut the plant back too soon, though, as growth can come back from these dormant woody stems in the spring. Be patient! The herb prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Not a lover of wet feet, it can possibly die in winter from too much moisture and poor drainage. When new growth emerges in the spring, it can be a flavorful addition to meat, chicken, soups and bean dishes.

As with any herbs, Winter Savory has a long and varied medicinal history and was mentioned by Romans over 2,000 years ago. It is reputed to help with digestion and has been used as an expectorant. It has been used for gastroenteritis, cystitis, nausea, bronchial congestion, sore throats….and many other symptoms.

Winter Savory is often harvested and dried in the summer when the flowers (pink to pale lavender to white) are in bloom. Ointments are made from the plant for arthritis, scalp issues and even incipient baldness!

Try planting this versatile and attractive herb in your own gardens as an accent plant or a hedge.

Sue Thompson
The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton
GCV Centennial Gift from Bartlett Tree Experts
Through the years the Garden Club of Virginia and Bartlett Tree Experts have enjoyed an ongoing partnership to promote missions common to both organizations. In addition to serving as the statewide sponsor of Historic Garden Week and assisting GCV in studying that event’s economic impact in Virginia, Bartlett Trees has provided educational resources to GCV’s Conservation Forum and to many of its member clubs throughout the commonwealth. This year Bartlett Tree Experts offered a very special gift to honor GCV’s 2020 Centennial—to provide crews of tree specialists and equipment for workdays at up to ten of GCV’s restoration sites. Each “Day of Service” would include assessment of the restoration property’s needs, pruning and debris removal, and a three-year plan for onsite trees and shrubs.

Thrilled by this wonderful gift, the GCV Restoration Committee swiftly implemented a schedule for the Days of Service at selected restoration properties. The work began in the fall of 2019 at Kenmore and has continued since January 2020 at Belle Grove, Christ Church-Lancaster County, Fincastle Presbyterian Church, Historic Portsmouth Courthouse, Hollins University, Smith’s Fort, Sweet Briar College and Wilton. GCV member clubs in the vicinity of the restoration properties were invited to watch the tree work as it progressed on the appointed workdays and to interact with the tree specialists. The gift was very well received at each of the properties with an outpouring of thanks and gratitude to Bartlett Tree Experts for their time and expertise. Their generosity has been especially meaningful in light of the volatile financial climate and Covid-19 pandemic.
Special Report
A Sense of Place: A GCV Photographic Retrospective

With the approach of the Garden Club of Virginia’s Centennial, I began to think about the different ways we could recognize the work of GCV using photography. Why not celebrate GCV’s numerous Restoration Projects using photography to showcase these wonderful and historical beauties of the commonwealth?

A small group of photographers and I set about planning a photographic retrospective to include all of GCV’s Restoration Projects. We wrote guidelines, created a timeline, and sent an announcement with the schedule to all GCV members. The response was overwhelming, with GCV members from across the state selecting restoration sites to photograph. Never in my life have I been more proud of each and every GCV member who registered to participate in the photographic retrospective. They grabbed their cameras, smart phones, and, in one case, a drone camera, and got to work to create photographic images of an assigned restoration site. Some were new to photography and others not, but each and every photo is a gem and uncovers a unique and fresh perspective of a restoration project. Certainly, each image captures the great spirit of the garden or landscape and highlights the determination of GCV to preserve these special places.

My heartfelt thanks go out to former GCV President Jean Gilpin who loved this project from the start and took on two restoration properties to photograph herself. The genuine commitment of the members of the Restoration Committee was so inspiring – not only did they enthusiastically endorse this project, but they also participated in it.

The resulting photographic retrospective, a virtual tour of the great endeavors of the GCV, can be enjoyed through the GCV’s website. The exhibition of photographs demonstrates the vast scope of GCV’s commitment to the garden and landscape treasures of the Commonwealth. I salute the photographers who traveled the state in the hot and cold weather, rain or shine, and captured these beautiful images for the benefit of future generations.

Claire Mellinger
Albemarle Garden Club
Belmont - the Estate and Museum of Gary and Corinne Melchers
Photo by Dana Parker, The Virginia Beach Garden Club
GCV Research Fellowships
2020 Landscape Research Fellowship Program Suspended

With the March 20th application deadline just around the corner, the Fellowship Committee made the decision to suspend our research program for summer 2020 because of early uncertainties over Covid-19. With libraries and museums closing, hands-on research would be difficult if not impossible. Would the fellows be able to travel to and around Virginia? Managing their progress would be difficult. Did we want to be responsible for the health and safety of these young adults? With hindsight we made the obvious decision, but in the early days there was still hope that all might be back to normal quickly.

As disappointed as we were, we were thrilled to have received a number of strong applicants. We encouraged them to reapply next year, as the three home owners of the four properties indicated their interest in being included in the program in 2021.

Surry County, directly across from Jamestown Island, is the site of the two fellowships. The Favretti Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to research and analyze terraced landforms along the shores of the James River. This comparative study focuses on three sites with historic “falling gardens”: Four Mile Tree, Pleasant Point and Cedar Fields Farm. The Rieley Fellowship gives a fellow the chance to study Mount Pleasant, first settled in 1620 as a plantation called Pace’s Paines. Extensive archival research shows a rich architectural history that can be further explored.

The Fellowship Committee is always looking for properties that need to be researched and documented. If you have any suggestions for sites that are either privately owned or open to the public, please let us know.

Jody Branch
The Boxwood Garden Club
Fellowship Committee Chairman
804 307-8954
See What Other Restoration Properties are doing to Engage Visitors During Pandemic
“Unlocking Montpelier” For a $10 donation, one square foot of the home is “unlocked” on the website, revealing videos, images and other special content about the property. Montpelier also offers virtual tours at montpelier.org/events.

Gari Melchers’ Belmont offers online puzzles of the artist’s works, and scenes of the home and surrounding gardens, as well as lesson plans to inspire young artists. Visit garimelchers.org/education/learn.

Stratford Hall
On #TourTuesday, a new virtual tour stop is added each Tuesday featuring the Great House and the grounds, led by the property’s manager of interpretation. Visit stratfordhall.org/education-resources.