Steal These Garden Design Ideas
Virginia's annual Historic Garden Week is a spectacle of endless inspiration to spark your own garden creativity.
I was lucky enough to tour some of the most beautiful gardens in Virginia last week as part of the statewide Historic Garden Week (if you want to plan a trip for next year, the event will happen from April 22-29, 2017).
Named one of the Top 10 Great Flower Shows and Garden Events by USA Today, Historic Garden Week is an 83-year-old event that bills itself as "America's largest open house" and crisscrosses the state, from the tony, equestrian enclaves ringing Washington DC to the Chesapeake Bay.
I am a big fan of garden tours. This weekend's Atlanta Botanical Garden's Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour May 7 and 8 is one of my favorites. But what makes Historic Garden Week unique is the opportunity it offers to also tour home interiors. So if you are as much of a voyeur as I am, thrilled to peek at genius kitchen and mudroom (if only I had one!) ideas—as well as inspirational garden design you can import to your own space—then put this tour on your bucket list. You won't be disappointed.
From cozy Culpeper family homesteads with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to grand Middleburg horse farms sporting lawns draped with museum-worthy sculpture, my time in Middleburg, Winchester, Millwood, Culpeper and Fredericksburg, Virginia was a festival of riches and loads of inspiration, especially when thinking about my own container garden design back home.
What makes for great container design varies. Sometimes it's a balance between a simple, rustic container and a knockout, colorful flower. In the case of many containers, it was all about placement. Two identical planted-out containers flanking a fence or pergola or entryway made all the difference in lending an air of symmetry and elegance to many of the outdoor spaces I toured.
I also saw some clever upcycling of unexpected items into plant and flower vessels: a bicycle's basket; a rustic wooden bowl on a kitchen island planted-out with herbs or a vintage cart turned into a lovely garden moment when heaped with geraniums.
Virginia garden club members in each Historic Garden Week town fill the tour homes with fresh flowers, many from their own gardens, lending the arrangements a locavore angle. I saw many clever uses of plants, edibles, vines and tree branches I wouldn't normally associate with cut-flower arrangements, including dogwood branches, ivy, kumquats, artichokes, asparagus and euphorbia.
Many of the garden club members who created the arrangements for Historic Garden Week used branches and blooms from their own gardens to ornament tour homes. Search in your own yard and garden for items to use in flower arrangements. And remember to work with the unique character of the room where the arrangement will appear: this simple arrangement doesn't compete with the toile wallpaper behind it.
One of the biggest lessons learned was how wonderful a taller container can look when placed in a garden bed: a few well-positioned containers add verticality and a design feature or pop of color.
Who doesn't love a wreath? This beautiful wreath ornamented with fresh, local flowers was created by the Rappahannock Valley Garden Club to ornament the exquisite, meticulously preserved ca. 1786-1792 private home Federal Hill, one of the home tour highlights during Historic Garden Week in Fredericksburg.
A special shout out to Tori Brock and Karen Cauthen Ellsworth who were my escorts during my Historic Garden Week visit. Thanks too, to the charming Ole Miss alum and Rappahannock Valley Garden Club president Tricia Garner who parted the sea of people at every home on my Fredericksburg garden tour so effectively I felt like Elvis sashaying into the Las Vegas Hilton ("she's with HGTV, she's allowed to take pictures," was Tricia's battle cry), as only a woman carrying a basket of flowers and wearing a Colonial bustle and gown can.
Not every garden property can boast an orangerie, but the exquisite Millwood, Virginia home of Elizabeth Locke features not only an orangerie for her citrus plants and indoor pool, but an ice house, conservancy, parterre gardens, a chicken coop, edible gardens and a black walnut tree that is one of the largest in the Commonwealth.