In this Issue
Restoration Maintenance Workshop
Featured Property: Kenmore
Special Article: 100-Year History of GCV Landscape Architects
New GCV Honorary Member, Peggy Cornett
GCV Joins Invasive Plant Species Workgroup
A Plant Worth Knowing: Smoke Tree
New GCV Video: "We Are The GCV"
Upcoming 2022 Events
Welcome to the winter edition of the GCV Restoration Newsletter. Our editor, Clarkie Eppes, has compiled an interesting array of articles for you to enjoy as your gardens enter their dormant state. Hopefully you will be free to use the coming weeks for planning and catching up on your reading.
The Garden Club of Virginia has had a very busy fall as we strive to re-enter a post-pandemic world. The presentation of the landscape restoration and carriage turnaround at Poplar Forest took place on Oct. 14. We look forward to three exciting events in the spring: the presentation of the Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum on April 5; the presentation of the restoration of the upper gardens at Stratford Hall on April 22 and the presentation of the Charles Gillette-inspired Reveley Garden at William & Mary on May 17. We hope that you will make plans to join us and to enjoy these wonderful gardens.
Elaine Burden, a member of the GCV Restoration Committee, has been hard at work planning an informative and interesting Maintenance Workshop for you on Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. at the Kent-Valentine House in Richmond. Information on our talented speakers and details of the event are included in her article in this issue. We are very excited to have the opportunity to welcome you to our headquarters and to thank you for all that you do to preserve Virginia’s heritage.
Happy holidays and I will look forward to greeting you on Jan. 13!
Chairman, Garden Club of Virginia Restoration Committee
The Lynchburg Garden Club
GCV Restoration Maintenance Workshop
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022
SNOW DATE Feb. 3, 2022
12 E Franklin St, Richmond
Please plan to attend the GCV Restoration Committee Maintenance Workshop at the Kent Valentine House in Richmond. We are excited to see you all once again and to offer a slate of speakers which will dazzle you with helpful information and inspiring slides to get you pumped for spring!
Bennett Saunders, of Saunders Brothers Nursery, will discuss the newest boxwood varieties and how to deal with the viruses and blight infecting several varieties of boxwood ... some of which might be on your site.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's Elizabeth Fogel will show you the Grace Arents garden full of perennials and beautiful roses and shrubs and discuss how she maintains this pristine space. It is lovely throughout the season.
Bartlett Tree Experts' Dr. Kelby Fite will talk about “Below Ground Care of Historic Landscapes.”
The workshop will be fun, informative and an opportunity to get together with colleagues. A complimentary box lunch will be served. For those of you unable to attend, a workshop summary will be included in the June 2022 Restoration Committee Newsletter.
Restoration Committee Member, Workshop Chairman
Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club
Photo courtesy of Jay Paul
Featured Historic Property
The Garden Club of Virginia’s First Restoration Project
A chance conversation, in 1924, among a group of influential Virginia women, sparked the restoration of Historic Kenmore’s gardens. While touring Kenmore, on George Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 22), then Garden Club of Virginia President Laura Wheelwright commented to fellow Garden Club members that Kenmore’s grounds would benefit from a little attention. Annie Fleming Smith, who, with her mother, Emily White Fleming, led the effort to rescue Kenmore from irreversible alteration, perhaps demolition, noting that “improving Kenmore’s grounds would be a splendid project to undertake.”
Subsequently, a plan was formulated, and Charles Gillette was commissioned by the GCV to develop a landscape design. Gillette, a prominent landscape architect, specialized in designing grounds to support Colonial revival architecture, and created a style now known as the Virginia Garden. Gradually, Gillette’s vision became reality. Eight years after that original conversation between our leading ladies, and again on Washington’s Birthday, the restored garden, including a newly designed garden wall, was completed. This joint venture was the first of many Garden Club of Virginia restoration projects funded by proceeds from what would become Historic Garden Week.
Kenmore, built by Fielding and Betty Washington Lewis (George Washington’s sister) and completed on the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, was conceived as, and intended to be, a showplace and home for this prominent Virginia couple. The house is a large, beautiful Georgian structure with an interior considered to be unparalleled in America.
The GCV and Kenmore partnered again, in 1991, adding the “Wilderness Walk” to Kenmore’s garden landscape. Designed by Rudy Favretti, the Walk evokes a natural setting. It is lined almost entirely with native plants from the southeastern United States—all found in Virginia. Benches are dispersed throughout this scenic walk, as the earthen path meanders nearly hidden along one boundary of Kenmore’s landscape.
In 2022, The George Washington Foundation celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Foundation began its mission of historic preservation and education in 1922 as the Kenmore Association. During the past century, the organization saved Kenmore from destruction and George Washington’s Ferry Farm from commercial development, completed restoration of Kenmore, and rebuilt the Washington house over its protected original foundation at Ferry Farm.
The George Washington Foundation invites you to visit Fredericksburg as part of the 2022 Historic Garden Week in Virginia, as it celebrates nearly a century of partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia.
The George Washington Foundation
Photo credit: Lisa Vawter. The Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula
100-Year History of GCV Landscape Architects
In 2020, the Garden Club of Virginia celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. The review of the history from the past 100 years renewed interest in the Restoration Committee’s use of landscape architects in restoring historic gardens around the state. In regard to the thoroughness of these efforts, renowned landscape architect Ralph E. Griswold writes in the foreword of the 1975 Historic Virginia Gardens, “There has always been an abhorrence of an amateur attitude toward gardening by the members of the Restoration Committees and their professional advisors. They have made every effort to discover historical evidence by documentary research, archaeological excavation and study of contemporary precedent.”
We are well aware that Kenmore, in Fredericksburg, was the garden club’s first full-blown historic landscape restoration. The seriousness with which the Restoration Committee shouldered the responsibility set the standards for the following 100 years. In 1924, the Restoration Committee searched for the best advisor on historic landscapes and found him in James L. Greenleaf, President and Founder (with Beatrix Farrand, Warren H. Manning, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and seven others) of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Based mostly in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, he designed fine estate gardens for the Vanderbilt, Schiff and Pratt families as well as landscapes in the D.C. area, the Lincoln Memorial Bridge of note.
The ladies also called on Charles F. Gillette, landscape architect in Richmond, whose designs for the University of Richmond, the Nelson House in Yorktown and designs in Virginia gardens supporting the Colonial Revival concept, brought him to the forefront of Virginia landscape design. These two architects and the Restoration Committee agreed that Gillette would create the garden design for Kenmore with Greenleaf serving in a consulting role.
Although the original design was completed by 1925, Kenmore’s landscape footprint was growing as the Kenmore Foundation continued to purchase adjacent lots, tear down housing and create a more appropriate framework for the home’s historical context. As the land size increased, the landscape design was changed to accommodate a more robust design. It wasn’t until 1940 that the garden was completed. This was a lesson in patience and flexibility. The GCV ladies’ confidence in their landscape architects allowed them to keep the faith that it would be accomplished, and also give them more time to raise funds for the project.
Lest it be thought that the rigorous process subdued the garden club’s resolve to bring back Virginia’s historic gardens, the timetable of restoration work reveals earnest measures to plan and execute landscape designs during the same time span of the work at Kenmore (1924-40). Gillette was again called into service in 1932 on the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library landscape and in 1933 the Washington & Lee, Lee Chapel plantings. Landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was employed in overlapping time with the 1930 Stratford Hall work, 1936 Smith’s Fort Plantation, 1939 Bruton Parish Church and Wilton. Shurcliff was an expert in town planning and began his practice in the office of Frederick L. Olmsted. He was brought to Virginia in 1928 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to become the first chief landscape architect for Colonial Williamsburg, a position held until 1941. This was a fortunate turn of events for the GCV. Shurcliff was assisted by landscape architect Morley Williams on the Stratford Hall restoration. Williams, a Harvard graduate, was particularly astute in the use of archaeological evidence with documentary resources to uncover the historical underlay of the Stratford Hall East Garden. Read More.
New GCV Honorary Member, Peggy Cornett
Peggy Cornett, Curator of Plants at Monticello, has become an Honorary Member of the Garden Club of Virginia.
Peggy is a well-known and respected plantswoman, author, lecturer and educator who has demonstrated exemplary service to the field of historic plants throughout her career. She has been a long-time supporter of the Garden Club of Virginia, lending expertise to our historic landscape and garden restoration projects.
GCV President Missy Buckingham and Peggy Cornett
GCV Joins Invasive Plant Species Workgroup
During the 2021 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Session, HJR 527 was put forward by Delegate David Bulova calling for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to establish and coordinate a workgroup to study and make recommendations regarding the sale of invasive plant material in the commonwealth. GCV has joined the HJR 527 Workgroup, adding its voice to those of conservation non-profits, nursery and landscape professionals and associations and state agencies including the Departments of Forestry, Transportation and Wildlife Resources.
Measures such as signage, promotion of native plants, public education and funding for remediation of damage to native landscapes caused by invasive species like kudzu, Japanese stilt grass and autumn olive will be considered. Conservationists hope to work with landscape and nursery professionals to limit commonly used invasive landscape plants such as Japanese barberry and Bradford pear.
Chris Ludwig, wildlife biologist and former director of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program and the Flora of Virginia Project, believes that Virginia’s biodiversity is threatened by three major factors: habitat loss and fragmentation due to development, climate change and the proliferation of invasive species. He cited invasive species as being especially problematic as they spread rapidly, are fast growing and have no natural predators. The Workgroup discussed the importance of educational measures such as forums, webinars and professional training programs in raising awareness, singling out the success of the “Plant Virginia Natives” initiative as a model. The Workgroup agreed to recommend that the state encourage expansion of the program and consider investing in the development of native seed farms and native plant nurseries to meet the rapidly growing consumer demand within the industry.
GCV Conservation & Beautification Committee
Dolly Madison Garden Club
A Plant Worth Knowing
American Smoke Tree
One of the great native small trees to be seen in southern landscapes is the American smoke tree, Cotinus obovatus. Cotinus, the tree’s genus, comes from the Greek word referring to wild olive while obovatus, the species epithet, refers to the egg-shaped 4” long leaf. It received its name from a non-native naturalist, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a citizen of Constantinople, who explored America’s countryside and then lived in Kentucky.
Growing 20-30’ tall and wide with a rounded habit, smoke tree can be single or multi-stemmed. Resistant to deer damage and free of most pests, its seed is a favorite food of finches. Smoke tree, hardy from Zones 4-8 and extremely adaptable, thrives in neutral to alkaline soils but can tolerate more acidic soil, needs consistent water but resents being planted in overly wet sites, and can live in full sun or partial shade. Its wood was used to make tool handles and fence posts. The deep yellow heart-wood was used to make orange and yellow dyes especially during the Civil War. Cotinus obovatus was introduced into cultivation in America by 1880.
In summer, the tree’s large, blue-green leaves contribute a “cooling” effect to offset Virginia’s hot summer sun. The common name, smoke tree, comes not from the plant’s small and relatively insignificant greenish spring bloom but rather from the spent blooms that appear during the summer. The aged flowers take on a pinkish-purple tinge that, because of their delicate “hairy” appearance, look more like elongated smoky puff-balls. This added colorful texture lingers throughout the summer.
What makes this understory such an outstanding contributor to the landscape, though, is its brilliant fall color. It rivals almost any native tree or shrub in the garden! The large oval leaves can range in color from bright yellow to orange to red. It is a true show stopper and worthy of a spot in almost any Virginia garden.
Restoration Committee Member
The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton
INTRODUCING: We Are the Garden Club of Virginia - a compelling five-minute video that shares GCV’s long history and legacy of accomplishments.
Restoration Committee Workshop, Kent Valentine House, Richmond
Jan. 13, 2022 (Snow Date: Feb. 3, 2022)
10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Presentation of the Enchanted Garden, Poe Museum, Richmond
April 5, 2022
Presentation of the restoration of the Upper Garden at Stratford Hall, Stratford, Va.
April 22, 2022
Presentation of the Charles Gillette-inspired Reveley Garden, William & Mary, Williamsburg
May 17, 2022
EDITOR’S NOTE: Is your property planning special events this summer? Please let us know so that we can consider them for inclusion in our June 2022 Restoration Newsletter. Please send event information to Clarkie Eppes at email@example.com.
Newsletter Editor: Clarkie Eppes, Hillside Garden Club
President of the Garden Club of Virginia: Missy Buckingham, The Boxwood Garden Club