May 16th and 17th will mark the 13th annual Just Gardens tour to benefit The Haven Shelter & Services, Inc. This tour has become a favorite spring event for thousands of garden lovers from across Virginia and beyond. As of the end of last year, the Just Gardens Committee had donated $142,848 to The Haven.
We are excited to have our tour in a new area this year. The 2014 tour will be held in Essex County and will feature 5 wonderful gardens in and around Tappahannock.
The 2014 featured gardens are:
Kendale, the home of Sue and Harrison Wellford, is a working farm and homestead that has been in the Wellford family since 1880. While the original house has been modernized, renovated and expanded, the land retains the timeless quality of rural Virginia: the only surprise is to find this wonderful example of ‘the new American garden’, as invented by the world renowned firm of landscape architects William Oehme and James Van Sweden.
As the house was undergoing a transformation in 1999-2001, so the gardens were evolving from a carefully crafted design to the reality of large beds filled with mass plantings of sun-loving ornamental grasses and colorful swathes of perennials and shrubs. Paths lead the eye from one feature to the next, the surrounding farmland providing a broad frame for the finely drawn details of discrete architectural features – the pond garden, the rose pergola, an enclosed cottage garden, the richly productive fruit and vegetable garden. At the perimeter of the garden, more formal elements blend with the larger spaces of a tall meadow, vineyard, orchard, and tennis court. At any season, ever changing color and texture make a walk through the garden an exploration of unfolding surprises. By late spring, the main flowering elements will be roses and baptisia, peonies, irises and foxgloves, with the cottage garden being at its peak.
When the Wellfords decided to renovate the house, Sue knew their plans would include a garden, but she had no clear idea or precise vision. She attended a seminar presented by Jim Van Sweden and Noel Kingsbury that explored the concept of the naturalistic garden, and came away knowing she had found the style she wanted. The landscape would be a large scale work of art, to be experienced by moving through a constantly changing series of motifs and patterns, from one vista to the next. It would be a garden for all seasons, inviting the viewer to keep on exploring its ever-changing combinations.
The Terraces, home of Roy Fontane, is sited high on the banks of the Rappahannock River and enjoys a wide view of the river where it winds its path north.
Helped by Jeff Willett of Willett Landscape Design in Tappahannock, the vision for a new riverside garden became clear after Hurricane Isabelle destroyed a wooden stairway and undermined Roy’s embankment. Using segmental retaining wall block, heavy plastic screening and ninety dump trucks of gravel, Jeff Willett and his crew were able to clear debris and use a switchback temporary road to get heavy equipment down to the water’s edge to begin the restorative work. The result is four terraced levels of plantings and entertainment areas. The water level allows access to docks and a shared walkway between four houses. Level two is a seating and lounge chair area. Level three is quite wide and holds a lovely large dining table and hot tub spa. Level four at the top of the twenty-five foot hill includes the main house and another dining and seating area.
Plants in the terraces include numerous varieties of miscanthus and pennisetum. Gaura, sedum, crape myrtle and juniper share space with lantana and other colorful annuals. The entrance to The Terraces, off Rappahannock Beach Road, showcases a shade garden where seven large southern pines stand sentinel and offer a cool canopy on a hot summer day. A path to the river side is edged with a twelve foot high bank of ‘Knockout’ roses and a wall covered in ivy and wisteria. The Terraces offers something for every gardener.
Little Egypt, is the home of David Henderson and Wes Pippenger. Seven years ago, spawned by years of visiting friends in the area, the search for retirement property in Tappahannock drew David and Wes to Faulconer Circle and an historic Dutch Colonial home. We took one look at this property and “that is all she wrote”, according to David. The property included a 1750 house, a dilapidated kitchen house and a barn, all of which underwent major renovation.
The garden, a combination of meadow and borders, was expanded in 2012 when David and Wes purchased a lot next door. The garden now covers 2-1/2 park-like acres scattered with cottage-style gardens. David remarked that he does amend the soil with a combination of chopped leaf mulch and composted horse manure, but notes that “the soil is naturally very rich here, as it is in the Nile delta, thus the name “Little Egypt”.
Little Egypt’s overall theme is informal cottage style. David points out that “the various gardens around the property have formal definition but soft clusters and mass plantings give them all a messy informal feel.” Leafy plants with various shades of green and different textures create a theme of sorts. It all has a very calming effect and is pleasing to the eye. Formal touches can be seen in the potager and at the street side main entrance, where 200 year old cedars stand sentinel. The potager, a vegetable and herb garden, is surrounded by a cypress rail fence with a wrought iron arch designed by local blacksmith John Latell. Wes says “there is something special about going into the garden to determine what you will have for dinner that night.”
There are areas for visitors to sit and take in the view, many of which are shaded and some enjoy a breeze coming up from the wetlands. Just one and a half blocks from downtown Tappahannock, Little Egypt is a restful respite.
Cherry Walk, the home of Beverley and Walter Rowland, was purchased in 1982 and their first priority was to restore the 1780 home and out-buildings. There was no established garden, formal or vegetable, remaining in 1982, although there were interesting shrubs and trees and an alley from the house to the privy. Then, out of respect for the property’s history, Beverley began researching period gardens and designed the formal garden to scale in a flat field behind the house. An entrance arbor covered with ‘New Dawn’ roses leads to a central walk and cross-walk which divide the area into four symmetrical gardens, each with a designated purpose: a swimming pool and seating area with surrounding perennial beds; a vegetable garden; an area for espaliered and other fruit trees, grapes, strawberries, asparagus, gooseberries and raspberries; and finally what began as an herb garden in four matching parterres, the formal bones of which are accentuated with juniper topiaries, has become very informal and filled with natives beloved by butterflies, bees and other insects.
The Rowlands’ love for the native ecology has resulted over time in the addition of native plants: self-seeding annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees — and subsequently butterflies, insects, and birds. The plants hum with activity!! Other favorite plants: hydrangeas are wonderful, all season, large shrubs, which make a statement in the garden; roses, although not native, are beautiful around Memorial Day and asters are stunning massed in the borders in the fall. Salvias are lovely delicate fillers and zinnias in all colors add interest and feed the insects from mid-June until frost.
In addition to the formal gardens, the property offers a wonderful collection of outstanding specimen shrubs and trees, some over a century old. There is a large, spreading oakleaf hydrangea that’s at least 100 years old, pearlbush, quince, abelia, large English box, a concord grape, all here long before 1982 when the property was purchased. For lovers of native plants, history, and beauty, Cherry Walk is a treat to visit.
Shelba, the home of Cynthia & Richard Carter, was purchased in 2002 and is situated on a 60-acre working farm and woodlands. While the house had been fully restored, the grounds were untouched. The one-acre perimeter around the house was covered in grape vines, wild honeysuckle, and poison ivy with only a few seasonal reminders of the property’s long history — an abundance of daffodils that bloom in profusion each spring and borders of orange daylilies that bloom each summer. A magnificent tilted cedar provides a focal point from the main walkway at the back of the house.
The design of the main garden surrounding the house is consistent with the period of an eighteenth-century planter’s house: symmetry and straight lines. This garden was established in three stages, over the last three years, based on Mrs.
Carter’s design with the assistance of Willett Landscape Design LLC, Tappahannock. The main walkway within the main garden and surrounding the house is brick herringbone pattern of hand cast brick; less formal paths are crushed stone and a small gravel garden on the west side of the house or “Mediterranean Garden” evokes a relaxed informality. The plant selection was inspired by an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch focused on Shakespeare Gardens. The resources mentioned in that article inspired Mrs. Carter to research the many plants and herbs referenced in Shakespeare’s plays. She also studied the range of garden interpretations that exist throughout the world. The plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays are well known and used today, but would have also been available in the eighteenth century when the house was built. The herb garden in the back of the house includes strawberries, blueberries, sages, basils, rue, and thymes, with rosemary and box borders. The English Roses chosen for the garden include “William Shakespeare,” “Falstaff,” and other references from the Bard’s plays. A holly hedge borders the main garden to add a sense of enclosure.
Other smaller and informal gardens are located around the property, including a teak garden, a well garden, and heritage garden. These smaller areas are not of an eighteenth-century design and focus rather on different plant textures, styles, or themes.
This year’s event will be yet another magnificent tour. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the days of the tour. Advance purchase by mail is possible until May 6. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope (#10 business size) and a check, payable to The Haven, to: Just Gardens, P.O. Box 429, Irvington, VA 22480. Brochures and advance ticket sales will also be available in March at the following locations: TBonz and Tuna, 429 Dock Street Tappahannock, VA; Essex Bank, 1325 Tappahannock Blvd, Tappahannock, VA; Essex Bank Branch, 654 Northumberland Hwy, Callao, VA; Shoppe for Haven’s Sake Thrift Store, 5726 Richmond Road, Warsaw, VA; The Dandelion, Irvington Road, Irvington, VA; Wildest Dreams, Rte. 200, Burgess, VA; The Pedestal, 18 South Main St., Kilmarnock, VA;. On the days of tour tickets can be purchased at all the gardens. Tickets are non-refundable and event is held rain or shine.
The Haven is a non-profit organization, which provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in the rural area of the Northern Neck of Virginia. The mission of The Haven is to prevent and eliminate all types of domestic violence and sexual assault and stalking.
If you are interested in having your garden included in future tours or would like to join the committee that organizes this tour each year, please call The Haven. You may contact Sandy Longest, Community Relations Coordinator, at The Haven Shelter & Services, Inc., 804-333-1099, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also follow us on Facebook or visit our website at