Celebrating Gardens

Celebrating Gardens
Celebrating Gardens

THE GARDENS featured on this month’s Historic Garden Week tour in Lexington include those at 30 Edmondson Ave. (above) and the Jacob Ruff House (at left). The owners of the garden at 30 Edmondson Ave. have planted numerous trees of unusual varieties on an open space next to the original garden. The small garden surrounding the 1829 Jacob Ruff House includes a wide range of perennials and shrubs.

Celebrating Gardens
Celebrating Gardens
Celebrating Gardens

THE GROUNDS of Thorn Hill (center photo) include not only the 1792 house, but outbuildings from the 18 th and 19 th centuries that have been renovated and reimagined. Thorn Hill is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark. The Gables (at left) in Lexington features one of the area’s most cherished gardens. The gardens, designed in the 1930s, feature nearly 100 herbaceous and tree peonies, some unusual trees, a small vegetable garden, a grove of magnolias and a fenced rose garden. The garden at 30 Edmundson Ave. (above) offers vibrant colors throughout the year.

Garden Week Tour’s Back For 2021 And It’s All Outside

Blue Ridge Garden Club members are looking forward to welcoming visitors to their all-garden tour for the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week.

“Through Garden Gates Old and New” will be held on Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a morning and an afternoon tour and, in order to provide space for social distancing, tickets are limited and must be purchased online. Masks are required for all participants.

Three gardens in downtown Lexington will be featured, as well as the grounds at historic Thorn Hill just south of town. Each garden is distinctive, ranging from a compact, soothing space tucked away off Main Street, to an expansive estate with panoramic views.

Before starting the tour, those with tickets must check in at headquarters, the Lexington Visitor Center, at 106 E. Washington St. Ticket holders will be given a wristband and tour information. Gardens may be visited in any order.

Parking is available on site at Thorn Hill. On-street parking, as well as in lots and the courthouse parking garage, is available for the other gardens.

The following gardens are featured on this year’s tour. Thorn Hill

1196 Thornhill Road

From its vantage point high on a knoll overlooking Lexington, Thorn Hill, c. 1792, is a 17-acre estate that has undergone an amazing transformation in the past two decades, according to event organizers.

This fully restored, brick Georgian with its expansive grounds and gardens is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark. Outbuildings from the 18th and 19th century have been renovated and reimagined, with two guest cottages recently opening as a bed and breakfast, the Thorn Hill Inn.

An 1800s hay barn houses the inn’s office, a yoga studio and a gym. The stables and barnyard are home to a pair of donkeys, sheep and a flock of heritage chickens. A courtyard with an 18th-century limestone fountain imported from France connects the buildings.

In the front yard, where a 300-year-old white oak once resided, a fire pit made out of an antique well is now enjoyed by family and guests. Linden, “Little Gem” magnolia and white oak trees complement the entertaining area. The fallen oak has been fashioned by a local artisan into a 14-foot-long table that is the focal point of the barn porch.

Massive, old boxwoods and lilacs grace the property, along with hydrangeas, peonies and hundreds of bulbs. Vegetable and flower beds provide organic produce and beauty from spring until fall.

Jacob Ruff House

21 N. Main St.

A refined example of a Federal townhouse, the Jacob Ruff House, c. 1829, was at one time a hat maker’s showroom and home, a barber shop and a real estate office. It is once again a private residence.

The small but delightful garden is neatly contained behind a white picket fence and stone wall. Springtime brings “Thalia” daffodils, white “Angelique” tulips, white bud trees (Cercis canadencis “Alba”) and viburnum, encircled by boxwood and underscored by pachysandra. Peonies, Chardonnay Pearls deutzia and “Jack Frost” brunnera line the walkway from the front gate to the porch. Limelight hydrangeas, azaleas and camellias provide blossoms summer through early winter in the north-facing side garden.

The spacious lawn permits outdoor parties to spread beyond the porches and terrace to the rear of the house, connecting the garden to a cottage that will soon be transformed into an outdoor kitchen and gathering spot for casual entertaining.

The Gables

303 S. Jefferson St.

One of the area’s most cherished gardens is at the Gothic cottagedesign house, c.1850, called The Gables.

In 1962, Col. and Mrs. Thomas Gentry purchased the property from the estate of William and Frances Morton, long-time friends of and mentors to the Gentrys; currently the garden is maintained and loved by the Gentrys’ daughter, Louise Brennan, and her husband, Bruce.

The overall plan, a series of garden “rooms,” was designed by Dr. Morton in the 1930s, but it is through the planting collections of the Gentrys and the Brennans that the garden has become so notable.

At the heart of the garden is an array of nearly 100 herbaceous and tree peonies, along with almost 75 lilacs. In addition, there are some unusual trees including huge Cunninghamia firs, heptacodium and bananas, along with a towering sweet gum and copper beach and four varieties of horse chestnut.

The Brennans have added a collection of native plants including bellwort, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, yellow violet, wood poppy, sweetspire and spicebush. There is a small vegetable garden, a grove of magnolias, and a fenced rose garden, along with seasonal plantings and a 100-year-old boxwood. A former kitchen has been converted to a guest cottage.

30 Edmondson Ave.

The trees get top billing in this gardener’s garden at the corner of Edmondson and Jackson Avenue.

Visitors can wander along paths shaded by eastern hemlock, an enormous river birch, paperbark maple, zelkova, Canaan fir, dwarf-magnolia, weeping cherry and many other species, including eight different varieties of Japanese maple.

There is no seasonal lull in this landscape. Bright red hawthorn winter berries transform into white spring blossoms. The flowers of witch hazel, cherry and magnolia yield in their turn to the fall colors of maple, sweet gum, euonymus and a lovely katsura.

The garden was designed nearly 40 years ago by the previous owner, Sandra Stuart. Many of the trees date from her time, as does the system of pathways that winds through the property. The garden design complements the property’s Victorian home, notable for its wide, curved porch.

The current owners have worked to open up the view of the garden from the street, showcasing a stone wall and adding crepe myrtles and “Knock Out” roses. The sunnier areas of the garden feature herb and succulent beds, as well as a perennial bed of peonies, daylilies, honeysuckle, primrose and Siberian iris. The shadier areas are filled with a collection of shade-tolerant perennials, including arum, various ferns, bleeding heart, Virginia bluebell, astilbe, heuchera and azalea.


Tickets, at $20 each, are available online at Va-GardenWeek.org.

Proceeds benefit the restoration of historic gardens throughout Virginia, as well as fund fellowships for graduate students in landscape architecture.

Tours will take place rain or shine. Ticket price includes other places of interest and special activities.

Other Places of Interest:

Stonewall Jackson House Kitchen Garden, 8 E. Washington St. Enter through the gift shop.

Valley of Virginia Herb Guild Garden, corner of Varner Lane and East Washington Street across from Lexington Visitor Center

Campbell House Garden, 101 E. Washington Street.

Boxerwood Nature Center, 963 Ross Road. Washington and Lee University, Lee Chapel Memorial Garden (1933) and Terrace (1977) were restorations of the Garden Club Virginia funded by Historic Garden Week.

Special Activities:

Local, plein air artists will be painting the gardens, weather permitting.

The News-Gazette

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P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

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