January 2019
Issue 13
Greetings to you all,

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season, and are excited as the Restoration Committee is about the beginning of this New Year. First of all, we hope that you received our invitation and are planning to join us at the Kent-Valentine House in Richmond at the Restoration Committee Workshop for Properties on Thursday, January 10. In case of snow, we have January 31 on our calendars as an alternative date. We are grateful to our member, Elaine Burden, and Will Rieley and his staff for planning this biennial event for us. It is always interesting to hear informative speakers, and also share experiences with other restoration properties from around the state.

The Garden Club of Virginia is approaching a milestone birthday in May 2020. We will kick off a year of celebrating our 100th year at our Annual Meeting in May. This will be a special opportunity for us to encourage our own members to visit the different restoration properties, and experience the amazing legacy of the GCV in restoring historic gardens. 

I look forward to seeing you at the Kent-Valentine House. We are appreciative of all that you do, and also the opportunity to work with you in maintaining these historic gardens.

Happy New Year!

Anne Baldwin
Chairman, GCV Restoration Committee
The Garden Club of Alexandria
Featured Historic Property

George Carter, great grandson of Robert “King” Carter, designed and built Oatlands House and gardens in 1804. The Carter family managed the plantation through the Civil War years and up until 1897. The gardens were set close to the house with a series of sweeping terraces. Mr. Carter planted trees, shrubs, vegetables and fruits in the formal English style. Steep stone staircases were bordered by American boxwood while English boxwood was used to define areas on the terraces. The garden walls and buildings were made of brick fired on the plantation. The greenhouse, c 1810, is the second oldest existing structure of its kind in Virginia. 

Oatlands was sold in 1897 to Stilson Hitchins, a co-founder of the Washington Post. He never lived there and in 1903, it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis. The Eustises restored and improved the garden by adding flowers, a rose garden, reflecting pool and statuary. In 1965 the property was given to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1982 the garden was restored to the original 1930s beauty. This was led by Mr. Alfredo Siani. Mr. Siani was retired from the airline industry and his love of design and horticulture led him to a second career in caring for the Oatlands garden. Knowledgeable and charming, he helped find financial support from local residents who wanted to make Oatlands Plantation and gardens a showcase.

The Garden Club of Virginia restored the North Forcing Wall c 1810 in 1991. The original mortared stone base was in remarkably good condition, but the brick topped section was in a tumbled heap. Rudy J. Favretti, GCV landscape architect, found hand-forged nails and wood fragments in the rubble which indicated the walls were wood with a thatched cap. The restoration of the forcing wall is an important element in the garden reminding one of this very old technique still seen in England and Canada today. The restoration of the Eustis boxwood parterres began in 1995 and continues to the present by replacing dying boxwood in parterres with the Justin Brouwers’s cultivar. Recently, in 2016, GCV restored the pathway to the teahouse.

The garden is thriving and so beautiful under the direction of Head Gardener Mark Schroeter, pictured here. Make plans to come see it in May in its springtime glory or anytime.

Elaine Burden 
Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club
Featured Gardener
J. Dean Norton, Mount Vernon
Where do you find a place for employment while still a student, decide to return there after college, meet your future wife, find the ideal place to propose to her, have your lovely daughters work there in the summer, and enjoy almost fifty years of work? Dean Norton has found all of that at Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. Dean began as a paper picker, but after graduating from Clemson University with a degree in horticulture, he returned to work here as the boxwood gardener. He now serves as the horticulturist for the estate, a position he has held since 1980. 

In his position as Director of Horticulture, Dean has worked with the Garden Club of Virginia in maintaining our 2001 restoration of the perimeter plantings of George Washington’s bowling green in front of the mansion. His good sense of humor and wealth of information have made him a popular speaker. He has led tours for many of our GCV members at various regular garden club meetings, as well as for our Board of Governors and Annual Meetings. He has been known to meet the tour groups with his bugle in hand, or wearing a cap with George Washington’s style hair coming down the back. This fall, Dean and Will Rieley led a tour during the Board of Governors Meeting. This tour gave our members a chance to walk through the Lower Garden, which Dean considers worthy of keeping as an outstanding example of a Colonial revival garden, although it is not authentic to what would have been there when George returned to Mount Vernon after serving as President. Even though it was not just like what George would have had planted, it was just the perfect place for Dean to propose to his wife. The Upper Garden has been restored, and is where boxwood can be found. Washington’s gardeners planted English boxwood here in 1798, and the tradition of keeping the plants neatly trimmed along the edge or in ornamental shapes is still maintained. Dean laughingly said that the boxwoods were becoming almost like an annual at one point, as they continually died due to one disease or another and new varieties were tried. He has found success with “Green Beauty,” and these continue to be trimmed to a small size for edging. Fortunately, the blight that has taken many of our Virginia boxwood has not arrived at Mount Vernon. 

Dean’s activities at Mount Vernon were noticed by The Washington Post this summer, and a large color photo of him standing in a patch of cannabis appeared on the front of the Metro section of the paper. George Washington grew it, and this summer Dean helped with its return to Mount Vernon. This plant was an important crop in Virginia in colonial time, as it was used for making rope and other products. It is a teaching opportunity for the many visitors to the estate. 

As he was concluding his part of the tour this fall, Dean spoke fondly of his many years at Mount Vernon. He is very optimistic about the future there and what will be added. Archaeology is critical to the work on the estate and that comes first. It continues in many key areas, and was in progress as our group toured. Dean is hopeful that Washington’s favorite grove of trees might be added close to the mansion. There were also wilderness walks on the sides of the bowling greens, and those too would be interesting additions to the horticulture on tour. George Washington liked symmetry, and as a former surveyor, had a real interest in the plantings on his beloved estate. Will Rieley has been doing research at Mount Vernon, and it would be exciting if his research confirms new planting areas that Dean could add.

Whatever the future holds, it is clear that Dean Norton continues to lovingly care for the horticulture that makes Mount Vernon such a special place to visit. 

Anne Baldwin, The Garden Club of Alexandria
Vicky Alexander, The Hunting Creek Garden Club
Garden Maintenance
A Plant Worth Knowing
Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, received its name from Linnaeus in 1753. He watched the flowers, leaves and fruit from the prior year appear on the plant at the same time. He thus used hama (at the same time) and melon (apple or fruit) to create the name meaning “together with fruit.”

This native species is hardy from Zones 3-8 and has its flowering in the fall at the same time as the leaves turn a glorious golden yellow as opposed to Hamamelis vernalis, another species native to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and Arkansas, which blooms in the spring. The word “witch” refers to the bendable characteristic of the hazel stem although its use as a divining rod may possibly have influenced the use of that word as well.

Introduced to England from the colonies by Peter Collinson, witch hazel grows to be a large shrub or small, multi-stemmed tree reaching a height of between 15-25 feet. It grows in moist areas along stream banks and produces bright yellow flowers with narrow ribbon-like petals that have an “intoxicating,” sweet fragrance. The fruit is retained on the plant for approximately 8 months and then literally explodes, catapulting its seed 20’ and giving it another common name, “Snapping Hazel.”  

Hamamelis virginiana’s medicinal properties were recognized in colonial times. The leaves and bark produce an astringent decoction that serves as a cooling agent that was used to treat anything from ingrown toenails and insect bites to poison ivy and hemorrhoids. Today, the product is still found in pharmacies and has similar uses including inclusion in some after shave lotions.

These two native species are seen less commonly in the nursery trade than Hamamelis x intermedia the cross between Hamamelis mollis and Hamamelis japonica, the Chinese and Japanese natives. Cultivars such as ‘Arnold’s Promise’ bloom in the late winter, early spring before foliage appears and have a dramatic presence in the late winter landscape.

Sue Thompson
The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton
Photo: USDA Forest Service
Did You Know?
Soil Compation

Healthy soil provides pore space for air and water to circulate around mineral particles, allowing for root growth and helping healthy organisms to thrive. When the soil is compacted, water absorption diminishes, roots can't grow, and the soil becomes unhealthy. Vehicular and foot traffic, rain on bare soils, heavy clay soils, and excessive tillage can be causes for root compaction. Standing water, physically dense soil that is hard to dig, plants with stunted growth, discolored leaves and drought stress are all indicators of compacted soil.

To combat soil compaction:
  • Foot and vehicular traffic should be restricted to hard surfaces as much as possible. Avoid walking in planting beds. Where traffic is unavoidable, lay a protective pathway with wooden planks or permeable fabric covered with gravel or a 6" plus layer of mulch.
  • Avoid working soils when they are moist.
  • Use the smallest, lightest construction equipment possible on the smallest area possible.
  • Severe compaction over tree roots can be treated by an arborist with an air spade.
  • Cover soils with mulch or groundcovers.
  • Amend the soil with compost 
  • Core aeration can alleviate compaction in turf grass and prevent accumulation of thatch.

Candy Crosby
Albemarle Garden Club
Have a Question?
How do I know when a plant needs water?

The factors of sunlight, soil conditions and humidity levels are all important factors in determining the water needs of plants. Sunlight causes plants to dry more quickly, while shade will prevent faster dehydration. A clay soil will hold the water whereas a porous sandy soil will more easily drain. Humidity holds the moisture in the air that surrounds the plants and assists in keeping the leaves from drying out.  

Knowing each plants’ water requirements, their location in the garden and how the above factors may affect them, will make it easier to quickly assess their status. OBSERVE each day. LOOK for the signs of drooping stems and leaves, early blossom drop, change in plant color, abnormal spots of color on leaves, soil around plant cracked or dry. These are the clues of a thirsty plant.

Testing the soil for moisture is an additional check. Stick your finger into the soil around the plant up to second knuckle. Pull it out and check to see if moist soil is remaining on finger, if none exists, water immediately. Avoid spraying water on the foliage when possible, just water the soil. For grass, place a spade into the soil 6 – 12” deep, pull back to see if soil is clinging to the spade or if it is dry. Water accordingly.

Best practices for keeping plants moist and healthy:
  • Mulch to retain moisture
  • Water deeply and less frequently
  • Learn requirements of each plant under your care

Remember over watering can be just as harmful. Beware of sprinkler systems, particularly on timers. It is best to water with a movable hose and sprinkler attachment for areas that need it, avoiding those that do not.

Judy Perry
Elizabeth River Garden Club
Before and After
Ker Place
Special Articles
Restoration Committee Maintenance Workshop for Historic Site Gardeners and Staff
Jan. 10, 2019
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Kent-Valentine House
12 E Franklin Street, Richmond VA 

All GCV historic site gardeners and garden staff are invited to be our guests at the Garden Club of Virginia's headquarters for a day of informative speakers, timely historic landscape topics, networking, and camaraderie. All gardeners, horticulturists, and maintenance staff from GCV's Historic Sites are welcome.

Our presentations:
"Pruning Shrubs and Small Trees"
Peter Deahl, FinePruning and The Pruning School

"First Year Plant Care"
Dan Gregg, Grelen Nursery

"Historic Plants"
Peggy Cornett, Monticello

Plus GCV Landscape Architect Will Rieley and GCV Restoration Committee Chairman Anne Baldwin 

A complimentary lunch will be served. Space is limited to the first 80 registrants.

Restoration Fellowship 2019
The Rudy J. Favretti Fellowship
The William D. Rieley Fellowship
Mount Airy
Mr. John & Catherine Tayloe Emery, Sr., owners
The 2019 Fellows will be selected in March 2019 and announced on April 1.
Their research during the summer, May through August, will result in a
comprehensive publication of each site. Go to www.gcvfellowship.org to read
about the Fellowship sites. 
The Historic Landscape Institute at Monticello and UVA
Since 1996, the “Historic Landscape Institute—Preserving Jefferson’s Gardens and Landscapes” has served as the setting for a unique educational experience in the theory and practice of historic landscape preservation, bringing to life the natural setting in which Thomas Jefferson lived. The program offers students an introduction to the fields of landscape history, garden restoration, and historical horticulture by using as case studies and outdoor classrooms the landscapes designed by Jefferson at Monticello, the only American home, and the University of Virginia, the only educational institution, on the elite UNESCO World Heritage List.

Combining lectures, walking tours, workshops, “hands on” experience in the gardens, and a field trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, the Historic Landscape Institute provides a unique educational experience in the theory and practice of historic landscape preservation. This one-week program – coordinated by Monticello’s Curator of Plants, Peggy Cornett, and UVA Landscape Architect Mary Hughes – is designed to fit a variety of interests and educational backgrounds ranging from amateur to professional in the fields of horticulture, history, and landscape architecture. The Institute features lectures by eminent scholars including Peter Hatch, author and Director Emeritus of Monticello’s Gardens and Grounds, Charles Pepper, Deputy Director Emeritus at the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation; and Brian Hogg, Senior Historic Preservation Planner at the University of Virginia.
Students have the exclusive opportunity to stay on the Historic Lawn at the University in the same rooms designed by Thomas Jefferson. Evaluations of past Landscape Institutes are universally enthusiastic. One participant said, “This is the best conference I have ever attended: a thorough look at all of the issues with insights from real experts!” Another wrote, “The Institute was the academic highlight of my association with the University of Virginia.” Still another student remarked, “It was a lifetime experience to work and learn on the mountain.” Thanks to a generous grant from the Harrison Foundation, successful graduating students are named Harrison Fellows of the Historic Landscape Institute.
This year’s program will be held June 23-28, 2019. Applications are due April 1. For more information, visit www.monticello.org/hli or contact Peggy Cornett at pcornett@monticello.org

Owned and operated by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello’s dual mission of preservation and education has been expressed in the garden world of Thomas Jefferson. Today the University of Virginia landscape represents many layers of history, retaining much of the integrity of the Founder’s design while adapting to the changing demands of each new generation of scholars.
Special Events at Historic Properties
See what other Restoration Properties are doing to entice visitors and raise funds.

Green Springs, Fairfax
Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series
Feb 3, 2019 1:30 pm – Botanist and plant breeder John Boggan shares his experience in growing tropicals in the D.C. area. $10 fee.

Feb 9, 2019 1:00 pm - Interactive tasting seminar with certified Tea Specialist Laurie Bell of Great Falls Tea Garden. $35 fee

Maymont, Richmond
Feb 12, 5 – 6 pm - For the Love of Gardens Walk
A winter walk through Maymont’s gardens and grounds.  $10 donation

Homeschool Happenings
Feb 20, 11 am – 12 pm – One House, Two Worlds. Explore 1890 perspectives of employer and employee. $9 fee, free to members.

Feb 27, 11 am – 12 pm – Victorian High tech & STEM lab @ Maymont Mansion & Stone Barn.
Explore the latest up-to-date comforts of an 1890’s home. $12 fee, free to members.

Stratford Hall
Writers Retreat – Invites applications from academic and independent writers both for winter & spring sessions of 4 – 7 day retreats during January and March. Fees apply. Visit www.stratfordhall.org for more information.