Virginia Historic Garden Week began in 1927 when the Garden Club of Virginia organized a flower show to save the trees Thomas Jefferson had planted on his Monticello lawn. This year, continuing the tradition of fundraising for restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic public gardens, the Virginia Garden Tour Week ran from April 27 to May 4.
The Garden Week Guidebook is available online. This year there were 31 tours hosted by 47 Garden Club of Virginia member clubs. The guidebook describes with pictures each of the 156 properties on tour this year. Over 3,000 volunteers work to make this oldest of garden tours a success.
For one blogger’s take on the Virginia garden tours read Kristin’s post on the topic in her her Countdown to Friday blog. She took the Richmond tour in 2018.
The garden club women of Virginia sure know how to arrange flowers. We were not allowed to photograph their arrangements but here is a peek at some posted on their site.
So three of us got in the car and journeyed down to the Virginia tip of the Eastern Shore on the last day of garden week. Our rewards were glorious spring sunshine, spectacular views of fields and bay, delightful creeks, historic houses and beautiful flowers. The docents, with their soft Virginia accents, were gracious and informative at every site.
Scenes at Eyre Hall
Our first stop was 30 miles south of Onancock: Eyre Hall plantation in Cheriton. It’s a National Historic Landmark that has been lovingly maintained by 8 generations of descendants of Littleton Eyre who inherited the King’s land grant and built the manor in 1758. Tall, ancient boxwoods surround flower bed parterres. A peony garden overlooking fields and Cherrystone Creek was in full bloom. Crepe myrtles tower over mixed borders. The family graciously keeps the garden open to the public yearlong for free and without reservations.
We motored back to Onancock where the rest of the Eastern Shore gardens were on view. Ker Place on Market Street served as the tour headquarters. It’s an elegant Federal style mansion that is now the home of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society. We enjoyed the pleasant grounds while we ate our bag lunches.
Then it was on to other houses, all walking distance in Onancock.
Scott Hall is the oldest house in town, built in 1769. In the back yard
Scott Hall Cemetery
a gated iron fence encloses the family burial plot where the headstone of Commodore Zedechiah Whaley rests. Whaley died in the last naval battle of the Revolutionary War while chasing the British Royal Navy down the bay to Onancock. The British had been continuously harassing the farmers on the Maryland and Virginia creeks. That was the Battle of the Barges and took place on the day Great Britain and the United States signed a Treaty of Peace.
The Benjamin Fosque House was next. It’s a Victorian built in 1883 and has a serene garden of white-only flowers surrounding a swimming pool.
The Grace Ames House is a relatively new vintage craftsman home. It’s a Montgomery Ward kit house built in 1927. All three homes have restful views of Onancock Creek.
In Virginia we learned from the best. They know how to present a garden tour worth traveling to.