Winter 2023 Issue 21
Jean E.R. Gilpin
Chairman, Restoration Committee
Garden Club of Virginia
Featured Historic Property
Virginia's Executive Mansion

In 1954, Charles Gillette, Virginia’s best-known landscape architect, designed several gardens at the Executive Mansion at the request of Governor and Mrs. Thomas B. Stanley. Gillette designed the East Garden (pictured) as a walled garden including a perimeter of plants and trees, a fountain, a central grass panel, and two boxwood squares with urns at the center of diagonal lines of boxwood inside them. The garden is graced with a statue of Daphne, which was carefully chosen for the site.

By 2000, the East Garden had very much changed and little remained of Gillette’s original design. Simultaneous with a major renovation project at the Mansion itself, First Lady Roxane Gilmore requested the help of the Garden Club of Virginia to restore the garden to its appearance in the 1950s. In January 2000, Mrs. Gilmore requested that the restoration be complete in just a few months to allow for opening for Historic Garden Week in late April. The GCV agreed to this ambitious project, and was able to complete it under the supervision of GCV's landscape architect at the time, Will Rieley. Thanks to the existence of complete plans, sketches and photographs of the original garden in intricate detail, the garden was restored to its original state.

In 2016, the GCV collaborated with First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and VCU faculty and students to provide a new interpretation of the Kitchen Garden adjacent to a building that had contained both a kitchen and living quarters for enslaved workers on the Mansion grounds. The garden commemorates the lives of members of the Valentine and Jackson families, who were enslaved workers brought to Richmond with Governor Campbell and his family in 1837. The walls of the Kitchen Garden display plaques with pertinent quotations from correspondence between the Valentines and Jacksons and their family members, from whom they were separated. The GCV provided a plan for the garden including shade-tolerant plants suitable to the growing conditions.

In recent years, the Mansion gardens have served as places for respite for governors and their families, their guests, and their pets in the heart of the city of Richmond. The Executive Mansion and gardens typically are open to the public during Historic Garden Week as well as for other scheduled tours.

Janet Rosser
GCV Restoration Committee Member
The Ashland Garden Club
The Kitchen Garden
Featured Gardener
Anthony “Tony” Griffin
Virginia's Executive Mansion

As Deputy Chief for Management and Operation of the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS), Tony Griffin oversees and maintains the gardens and grounds at Virginia's Executive Mansion, located in Richmond’s Capitol Square. Tony grew up and currently lives in Mechanicsville. He earned a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design from the University of Tennessee. During college and immediately after graduation, Tony worked with Watkins Nurseries. After an eight-year stint at Randolph-Macon College, he took a position with DGS and has remained there for 32 years.

Members of the Restoration Committee had the opportunity to meet Tony when the committee visited the Executive Mansion in September of 2022. Tony led the committee on a comprehensive tour of the Mansion grounds, including the Gillette Garden, the Kitchen Garden and the greenhouse.

Janet Rosser
GCV Restoration Committee Member
The Ashland Garden Club
Pictured are Janet Rosser and Tony Griffin.
Protecting Your Property's View

The owners of the nearly 50 historic properties statewide whose landscapes the GCV has helped to restore work diligently to maintain their gardens on a day-to-day basis for the enjoyment of visitors and for the perpetuity of the gardens themselves. However, sometimes maintenance is not enough to protect a property long-term from threats of encroachment or development. Fortunately, there are several tools that restoration properties can explore to better ensure the protection of the investment and hard work.

One of the easiest measures is for property owners to purchase adjoining land. This can protect them from undesirable development, protect scenic viewsheds and offer a property the means for expanding their programs. An example of this is Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (below), which purchased an additional 570 acres of the historic plantation surrounding the main house over a period of 24 years. This additional land provides a buffer from an adjacent residential neighborhood and has created broader research and interpretation opportunities and better access to the property. Similarly, Fincastle Presbyterian Church recently purchased a plot of land behind its churchyard which will adjoin a new walking trail and park installed by the town.

More formal and binding methods for protecting a property are conservation and preservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement with a nonprofit land trust or a government agency that allows an owner to limit the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private ownership of the land. Easements held by government agencies must meet the requirements outlined in the Open Space Lands Act, while those held by private organizations must meet the requirements of the Virginia Conservation Easement Act. Over the years, Monticello has placed about 1,400 of its 2,500 acres under easements protecting the property and maintaining scenic viewsheds. More information can be found on the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation website.

Similarly, private properties or sites can donate an easement to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR). Under this Easement Program, the perpetual protection of an important historic resource is guaranteed without giving up ownership or use of the property. The landmark remains in private hands and on local tax rolls. Its existence and sympathetic treatment are secured for the benefit of future generations under the review of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. An added benefit is that property owners can often take advantage of significant financial benefits associated with an easement donation. Information and applications can be found on the VDHR website.

Using these various measures offers restoration property owners a means to better protect our important Virginia sites and landscapes for long-term preservation and for the future enjoyment of visitors across the commonwealth.

Deneen Brannock
GCV Restoration Committee Member
The Augusta Garden Club, Staunton
Photo Credit: Eric Proebsting
Historic Garden Week Celebrates its 90th Anniversary
April 15-22, 2023

In 1923 the Garden Club of Virginia was only three years old when it held its Board of Governors meeting at William & Mary at the invitation of Dr. Chandler, its 18th president. The GCV’s first volume of its history, Follow the Green Arrow, documents early plans to landscape the grounds at the College, which “marks the first effort … to cooperate with others in the work of restoration.” A seed was clearly planted in the minds of the early founders.

A year later, a representative of the GCV was quoted in a University of Virginia publication about the project at William & Mary, “No sooner was the wall completed and the planting begun than we were told to rest on our laurels and that further restoration would be done by experts and authorities in such matters; also, that amateurs could not play with such things. Soon after it was announced that the Rockefeller Foundation was in charge …”

Four years later, in 1927, a GCV flower show raised an impressive $7,000 with proceeds designated to save some of Thomas Jefferson’s trees on the lawn at Monticello. After this initial fundraising success, GCV was asked to help save Kenmore in Fredericksburg.
The ladies of the Kenmore Association had bought George Washington’s sister’s house in 1925 (pictured), but they needed help restoring the gardens and grounds. The year was 1928. Confident they could raise the funds to do so, the early members of the Garden Club of Virginia – an organization of only a few hundred members at the time – agreed to what has become known as the first official GCV restoration project. But the challenge remained. How were they going to raise the funds to pay for the undertaking?

Only a year earlier, the idea of opening gardens in support of charity had led to the founding of the National Garden Scheme in England in 1928; 609 gardens were opened. In only two years involvement had grown, with 900 gardens participating, including those of Winston Churchill and Vita Sackville-West. It is not hard to imagine that the ladies of the GCV knew about all this and were possibly inspired. According to Follow the Green Arrow, at the Board of Governors meeting at Kenmore in 1928, “It was proposed to have a visiting garden week throughout Virginia … This was a most ambitious enterprise.” Indeed, it continues to be.

In 1929 Garden Club of Virginia members wrote personal notes to their friends throughout the state and nation and invited them to visit Virginia at the end of April and through May 10 for what was referred to as a “pilgrimage” of historic houses and gardens. The featured properties were open for 12 days. A hardback guidebook was published, providing illustrations and information about the locations, and it sold for $2. This was the beginning of Historic Garden Week as we know it today.

Kenmore was the first beneficiary of HGW funds, but other noteworthy restorations soon followed, including projects at Stratford Hall from 1930-32, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library from 1932-34 and Washington & Lee in 1933. To date, more than 50 public gardens and landscapes throughout Virginia have benefited from an ongoing partnership funded by proceeds raised during Historic Garden Week, the nation’s only statewide house and garden tour.

Research Fellowships were added to the list of worthwhile projects made possible with funding from HGW in 1996. Through this program, the fellows research and provide comprehensive architectural landscape documentation for public and private properties in Virginia, and their publications have become a significant body of work in this field.

In celebration of GCV’s Centennial in 2020, funds from HGW were designated over five years for a cumulative gift to the state park system of $500,000 given in grants. This award-winning program continued the GCV’s tradition of championing state parks and protecting Virginia’s natural resources.

Historic Garden Week has been produced every year since 1929, with a brief interruption during World War II and a necessary pause during the worst of the recent pandemic. The statewide event attracts about 26,000 guests annually from across the United States, as well as numerous international visitors, with an impressive annual economic impact to the state of $12.5 million, and a cumulative economic impact, as estimated by Chmura Economics & Analytics, of $518 million since 1969.

Historic Garden Week would not be possible without the generosity of homeowners, sponsors and the efforts of GCV's 48 member clubs. The official guidebook for the tours promotes the GCV’s restoration sites.

Karen Ellsworth
Director of Historic Garden Week and Special Programs
Garden Club of Virginia
A Plant Worth Knowing
Sedge Education: What your mother never told you about ground covers

Now is a good time to consider replacing non-native and often invasive ground covers such as liriope, English ivy and vinca major with sedges (Carex). These grass-like plants -- many native to this region -- are a good alternative; they are remarkably sturdy and include varieties that tolerate shade and sun.

Native sedges are host plants for moths and butterflies as well as insects that provide protein for fledglings. They can be cut back in the winter for appearance, but consider leaving them to provide winter cover and food for birds and bugs.

The name “sedge” derives from Middle English for “cutting edge” describing the rough texture of the leaf margins. Or as the saying goes, “Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have nodes all the way to the ground.”

Some sedges are clump-forming, adding interest and pattern in the garden. Creek sedge, C. amphibola, is gray/green with a fine leaf and grows 1’ high. It prefers moist soil, sun/shade. Others have a spreading habit such as fine-leafed C. pensylvanica which grows 6-12” high and, in time, creates a carpet of green under trees. It prefers moist soil and is at its best in cool weather, turning a sandy color in the fall. It can be left uncut or cut two to three times a season to 2” high.

Deer Resistance:
While it seems that nothing green is completely safe from hungry deer and many a bed of liriope has fallen prey, there is hope. Over the last three to four years, Sweet Briar College in Amherst County has replaced variegated liriope with a Japanese sedge, C. morrowii “Ice Dancer,” finding that while deer will browse on a planting, they find it unpalatable and seldom return. (Paul Munn, former Senior Horticulturist, SBC)

Some selected natives Sedges:
  • C. appalachica takes full sun, spreading form, growing 1-2 ft high.
  • C. plantaginea, a lime green plantain sedge 'Seersucker Sedge,' is semi evergreen, with three prominent veins and a puckered surface. It is a host plant for butterflies and food source for birds.
  • C. cherokeensis, native 'Cherokee Sedge,' runs 18” high with green fine leafed high in nutrient soil

Some non-natives:
  • Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo,' is an evergreen Carex with very bright gold to chartreuse foliage. Its color holds up well in deep to partial shade.
  • Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden,’ 'Bowles Golden Sedge,' European, yellow foliage, partial shade, mounding form. It thrives in a moist location. 12-18” high.

Widget Williams
GCV Restoration Committee Member
Harborfront Garden Club, Norfolk

  • Les Parks, Director of Horticulture, Norfolk Botanical Garden
  • Paul Munn, former Senior Horticulturist, Sweet Briar College
  • Piedmont Master Gardeners Sedge article 6/19
  • Master Gardeners of Northern VA
'Creek Sedge'
'Ice Dancer'
On the Road With the Restoration Committee
Throughout the year, the GCV Restoration Committee has an opportunity to visit some of our historic restoration sites and meet with lead operations managers and horticulturists. This past September 2022, members of the committee visited Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg, the Executive Mansion and Maymont in Richmond.
Centre Hill Mansion, Petersburg
Restoration Committee Chairman Jean Gilpin, First Lady Suzanne Youngkin and GCV President Debbie Lewis
Virginia's Executive Mansion
Maymont's Manager of Horticulture and Grounds Sean Proietti
Maymont, Richmond
Upcoming Property Events
Green Spring Gardens
603 Green Spring Road
Alexandria, Virginia 22312
Phone: (703) 642-5173
TTY: (703) 803-3354

Saturday, Feb. 4
Washington Gardener Seed Exchange
12:30-4:30 p.m. (Adults) Washington Gardener Magazine is co-hosting the annual seed exchange at Green Spring Gardens with lectures and a face-to-face seed swap. $15 for verified Friends of Green Spring members and Washington Gardener subscribers (use code C1E.0IPQ); $20 for guests (use code C1E.8Z4K). Register online or call Green Spring Gardens at 703-642-5173.

Saturday, Feb. 11
Garden Terrarium Workshop
1-2:30 p.m. (16-Adult) $40 per person (register for both the class and the $30 supply fee). Register online or call Green Spring Gardens at 703-642-5173. Code 9C2.K3LC.

Saturday, Feb. 18
Starting from Scratch with Seeds
10:30 a.m.-noon (16-Adult) Grow flowers, vegetables and herbs from seed and expand your garden. $23 per person. Register online or call Green Spring Gardens at 703-642-5173. Code J1V.T698.

Saturday, Feb. 25
Intro to Tree and Shrub Pruning
$19 per person. Register online or call Green Spring Gardens at 703-642-5173. Code 7CT.WGJH.

This is just a sampling of Green Spring’s winter events. For a complete list, please check the Green Spring website.

Other historic properties offering winter events:

Editor’s Note:
If you would like to have your property’s seasonal programs posted in the Restoration Committee Newsletter, please contact Clarkie Eppes at
Newsletter Editor: Clarkie Eppes, Hillside Garden Club

President of the Garden Club of Virginia: Debbie Lewis, The Garden Study Club