Kimberly Wright, chairwoman of the Warrenton Garden Club’s historic garden tour, likes to say that this year’s event on May 1 to 2 “has something for everyone” at each of the four featured local properties.
“There’s architectural interest, gardening interest, historical interest,” she said. “Each house really does have a unique offering.”
The Warrenton tour is one of many held around the state during Historic Garden Week, April 27 to May 4, organized by the Garden Club of Virginia. It’s the oldest and largest house and garden tour in the nation. Wright said more than 1,000 visitors are expected for this year’s Warrenton tour “and it’s not just locals. We have a number of out-of-state visitors, as well.”
Overall, there will be 31 tours around the state, organized and hosted by 47 member clubs. Approximately 200 private homes, gardens and historical places will be open throughout the commonwealth. The Warrenton Garden Club, founded in 1911, has more than 40 members, many of whom will be volunteering during the local tour.
The inspiration for the state-wide tour came early in the GCV’s history when a flower show organized by volunteers in 1927 raised $7,000 to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. The first tours, known as “pilgrimages,” took place two years later.
Tour proceeds—more than $17 million since it began—have funded the restoration and preservation of more than 40 of Virginia’s historic public gardens as well as a research fellowship program, and a GCV Centennial project with Virginia state parks.
The eight-day, statewide event provides visitors a unique opportunity to see unforgettable gardens at the peak of Virginia's springtime color, as well as beautiful houses sparkling with more than 2,300 flower arrangements created by GCV members.
“Historic Garden Week has raised millions of dollars to keep Virginia beautiful,” said Lynn McCashin, GCV’s executive director. “The grounds of our most cherished landmarks, including Mount Vernon and Stratford Hall, have been restored with tour proceeds.”
The Warrenton portion of the driving and shuttle tour highlights the benefits of protected lands and perpetual open easements, from the stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the natural beauty of the valley.
The Warrenton tour headquarters will be at the Piedmont Environmental Council office located in Old Town Warrenton. The PEC also has a lush native plant garden specifically designed for an urban setting.
The PEC office underwent a major renovation and expansion in 2014 that included the reuse of the existing structure. Great care was taken to maintain the integrity and appearance of the historic section of the house, which was initially constructed in 1784 and once owned by Civil War cavalry commander John Mosby.
The renovation also includes native flowers, shrubs and trees planted around the office. The garden features dogwood and oak trees, boxwood and a pollinator garden.
Folly Hill Farm is located in the Springs Valley, and its yellow frame farmhouse was originally built in 1833 and renovated to include all the luxuries of 21st-century living.
A screened porch was turned into a sunroom with triple-sash windows inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello; it overlooks a swimming and spa area surrounded by mountain views. The grounds include a sand-riding arena, a tenant house, vegetable gardens and a chicken coop, nicknamed “Cluckingham Palace,” complete with a chandelier and decorative iron hinges.
Wildcat Mountain Farm features protected native flora, both meadow and woodland, that line the winding ascent up this historic road, once home to a commercial orchard with more than 5,000 fruit trees. Diverse wildlife and pollinators thrive, seeking the native plants that supplement surrounding English style gardens, managed pastures and meadow landscapes on this farm located 1,330 feet above sea level.
Centered within a magnificent view of Fauquier County and steeped in the history of the rebellious Freestate, this 1906 fieldstone house is currently undergoing a third-generation restoration of a family estate. The extensive grounds include horse pastures long grazed by generations of retired event horses, steeplechasers and hunters.
At Valhalla, the 1912 home originally was built as a two-story fieldstone farmhouse with a wide sitting porch to oversee the apple orchard, for which Wildcat Mountain was named. Architectural renovations in the 1960s led to the thumbprint of what is now Valhalla and the fieldstone used in the additions was sourced mostly from Wildcat Mountain.
Peacocks wander the grounds, which include an apple orchard and a potage kitchen garden, complete with an espalier pear tree. Kwanzan cherry trees flank the side of the house, and numerous varieties of naturalized daffodils thrive in the rock outcroppings along the front of the house.
Merry Oak Farm features a home built from native fieldstone sourced from the farm property in the 1970s. Owned by the family of the late Fauquier Times publisher Arthur (Nick) Arundel, it overlooks a 20-acre mountain top lake, with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Surrounding the house, a machine shed, stable, chicken coop and flower gardens contribute to the creation of a self-sufficient homestead. The entire farm has been preserved in perpetual open space easement, ensuring that future generations will be able to experience the beauty of the landscape.
For ticket information, go to vagardenweek.org.
Reach Len Shapiro at email@example.com