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The Seasons of a Garden


Working in the Virginia House gardens is a lesson in change and tradition simultaneously. Working here as the Site Program Assistant for almost two years has taught me so many lessons about interacting with the public, be they tour guests, guests at a private event, or Girl Scouts of all ages; about archival research and management; about good museum practices; and it has shown me how a historic site is constantly pulled between two equal and opposite forces: preserving the past and incorporating the present. Nowhere is this more evident than in the almost seven acres of gardens and grounds that we maintain and cultivate.

View of gardens from Mr. Weddell's bedroom

View of gardens from Mr. Weddell’s bedroom

When Mr. and Mrs. Weddell bought the Warwick Priory in England in 1925 and began construction on their private home here in Richmond that same year, they were planning for the future. They were thinking not only of their future together as Ambassador to Argentina and Spain but also of their eventual retirement in this new home and of the eventual donation of Virginia House to the Virginia Historical Society. The Weddells took the best from the past and the best the present had to give them. This continued in their plans for the gardens.

Looking out onto the grounds from the back terrace, you admire the vast, sprawling area that is the gardens.

Landscape architect Charles Gillette’s plan for the gardens included a sunken garden with a round and square pool connected by a rill, a pergola, a bowling green, a tea garden, a baptismal font, and a sundial. All these structures remain, though the flora which surrounds them has undergone numerous transformations over the last ninety years.

The round pool:

The square pool:

The tea garden:

The bowling green with sundial:

The baptismal font:

As the seasons change throughout the year, so does Virginia House and so do its plants and flowers. What took pride of place last year at our annual Garden Party for VHS members may give way to another favorite this year. Though the flowers may change, their color and beauty never does.

Now: VHS's annual Garden Party

VHS’s annual Garden Party

The gardens have served, and continue to serve, numerous purposes. Garden Party is our unofficial start to spring, but we – and often eager young Girl Scouts – are planting, weeding, and mulching long before and long after April 25th.

Girl Scouts working in the garden

Girl Scouts working in the garden

Girl Scouts learn about sustainability in our Victory Garden and about invasive and noninvasive plants and animals whenever we see deer, chipmunks, gophers, hawks, and even (occasionally) snakes.

V is for Victory (and vegetables) in our garden

V is for Victory (and vegetables) in our garden

We celebrate the milestones and anniversaries of many organizations.

And, my personal favorite, we help create the perfect backdrop for when two people make their love for one another official through beautiful, intimate wedding ceremonies.

Virginia House is the backdrop for small and intimate weddings

Virginia House is the backdrop for small and intimate weddings

Each Garden Party, each program, each wedding is different, but they are all enhanced by the beauty found in nature and by the careful planning started by the Weddells and Gillette, and furthered by all who work and volunteer their time here at Virginia House.

square 2013.4.19_VAHouse_038e_fountain

View of the fountain in the square pool looking out onto Gillette’s sunken garden

Elizabeth Darling is the Site Program Assistant at Virginia House.

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