In This Issue
GCV Maintenance Workshop
Mary Washington House and Garden
Design Notes
Garden Maintenance
A Day with the GCV Fellows
Did You Know?
Washington and Lee Chapel: Before and After
Conferences of Interest

Related Links
Restoration NewsNumber 5 January 2015


The dreary, dark days of winter allow gardeners to dream of their landscapes as they wish them to be. To spark such musings, this issue of the Restoration News is filled with various topics dealing with design and maintenance of restored properties.

We urge you to join us on February 18 at the Garden Club of Virginia's Kent-Valentine House in Richmond, where we will be holding our biennial Maintenance Workshop. In addition to the featured speakers, this event provides a wonderful opportunity to brainstorm and to share experiences and concerns with fellow horticulturalists.

I look forward to thanking each of you there, in person, for your hands-on stewardship of Virginia's historic gardens.




 Kim Nash, President

Kim Nash
Chairman, GCV Restoration Committee

The Warrenton Garden Club 



2015 GCV Maintenance Workshop
February 18, 2015, 
9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Boxwood blight leaf lesions.
Photo by Sabrina Tirpak, Rutgers PDL

It is our pleasure to invite you to be our 
guests at Garden Club of Virginia's headquarters, Kent-Valentine House in Richmond, for a day of informative speakers, timely topics, networking and camaraderie. All gardeners, horticulturists and maintenance staff from GCV's Historic Sites are welcome.


The day will begin with a talk by Will Rieley, GCV Landscape Architect, on the importance of historic landscape preservation. Next, Robert Saunders of Saunders Brothers Nursery will be speaking about the pathogen Cylindrocladiu pseudonaviculatum, better known as boxwood blight. Boxwood blight was found in Carroll County in 2011. In the fall of 2013 it was seen in Chesterfield County, Fairfax County, and the City of Richmond. What are the symptoms of this disease? How does the fungus spread? What are the best methods for control and prevention? Chris Fields-Johnson of Bartlett Trees will lead a discussion of biochar. What is it? What are the environmental benefits of biochar? How is it used as a soil enhancer? And finally, you will see a brief presentation of GCV's restoration sites. Lunch will be included in the day's events.

An email invitation will be sent in early January. We encourage early registration, as space is limited to 80 participants.


Jean Gilpin

Winchester-Clarke Garden Club

Featured Historic Garden
Mary Washington House and Garden 


Mary Washington Garden
Photo by Roger Foley 

Wander down a quiet side street in Fredericksburg, Virginia and you will find the Mary Washington House and Garden. This simple cottage was purchased by George Washington for his aging mother in 1772.

Mary spent the majority of her adult life at Ferry Farm, located across the Rappahannock River. With a revolution brewing, it was time to move into town, closer to family. She lived here for the last 17 years of her life until 1789. The original house sat on two half-acre lots, allowing space for a garden and a few domestic animals. The APVA purchased the property in 1890 to prevent it from being removed to the Chicago Exposition. Only one half-acre lot and several additions to the house remained when The Mary Washington Branch of the APVA lovingly began its watch over Mary's house. Today, a non-profit organization, The Washington Heritage Museums, continues the careful maintenance of this property.

In 1968, the Garden Club of Virginia answered the appeal to restore the garden at the Mary Washington House. From local deed books and George Washington's diary, the ownership and significance of the property were verified. Ralph E. Griswold, the chosen landscape architect, designed a lovely colonial cottage garden. There is a section behind the original kitchen house where vegetables, herbs and fruit trees grow. A brick walk edged with very old boxwood divides the working area of the garden from a grassy square surrounded by newer boxwood and beds of 18th-century perennials. The beauty of the garden lies in its functionality and simplicity of design.

Today you can imagine Mary Washington stepping from her comfortable back porch to welcome guests for tea in the garden or to walk over to her daughter Betty Washington Lewis' home (now known as Kenmore) to visit the grandchildren and share a letter from George. The Mary Washington House and Garden remains a special place honoring a distinctive lady, the mother of our first president.

Kitty Lee Wafle

The Rappahannock Valley Garden Club

Design Notes by William D. Rieley
Will Rieley

How do you restore a garden or landscape when there is no documentation?


This is a question posed on our questionnaire by one of the attendees at the last maintenance workshop. A key decision point regarding whether to undertake a building or landscape restoration is to determine whether sufficient information exists to justify the effort. This means exhausting all reasonable resources for finding documentation. Sometimes evidence is present in surprising places. For gardens or landscapes, parts of which survived into the age of photography, a thorough search of photographs can yield valuable information. A routine family snapshot may show remnants of a landscape that has since vanished. Recent techniques like computer-aided reverse-perspective analysis can also be a great aid in precisely locating elements that are recorded on old photographs. A thorough search of written materials that describe a landscape or garden should also be undertaken. Assembling fragments of information from various sources can give much greater validity to a restoration. 

If such research reveals little or nothing about a landscape, physical evidence can often tell a lot. Subtle changes in landform can sometimes identify the location of landscape features. Non-disruptive sub-surface investigations ranging from simple probing to sophisticated remote sensing techniques can reveal subsurface conditions that tell a great deal about the history of a site. Where the cost and possible rewards justify it, a full archaeological excavation can yield data that is not available in any other way.

General knowledge of the period both in terms of how a landscape of the era might have been laid out and what plants might have been used can add substantially to the fleshing-out of a restoration plan; however, a general knowledge of a period, including the literature of the era in question, are not generally a sufficient basis for a physical restoration. Where adequate information is not complete enough to justify a full-scale restoration, a conjectural "restoration" in the form of drawings, a physical model, or digital model, is often a good way to illustrate a conjectural layout.


Garden Maintenance
A Plant Worth Knowing
Cladrastis lutea (C. kentuckea) American Yellowwood

The American yellowwood is considered by many experts as the foremost American flowering tree. It is extremely uncommon with beautiful, cascading panicles, ranging from eight to fourteen inches. Following the June blooming, the white, fragrant panicles mature to flat, brown pods, reasonably inconspicuous, but they may linger into the winter.

The gray bark is smooth, and the initial silvery gray leaves mature to pea green, turning yellow to gold in the fall. The domed shaped tree matures 40 to 60 feet tall with a spread of 40 to 50 feet. When in leaf, the tree casts a dense shade.

Growing in zones 4 to 8, the yellowwood is very hardy and particularly enjoys soil with a slight acid to high pH. Although it can also grow in acidic soil, it does not like wet feet, but it can tolerate a period of drought. Even better, this native tree is not attractive to Gypsy moth or canker worms. 


The yellowwood is rarely used by gardeners and professionals despite its health and beauty. Recently, an American yellowwood has been planted in the upper terrace in the duPont garden at Montpelier by the Garden Club of Virginia.


Fleet Hurlbatt  

The Garden Club of the Eastern Shore

A Day with the GCV Fellows


On Monday, August 18, both GCV Fellows presented the results of their summer-long research at their assigned sites to a number of GCV members and other interested individuals.


The Rieley Fellow, James Carroll, is an MLA candidate at the City College of New York.  He was assigned the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria. Originally a home site, it became the location of Fort Ellsworth in 1861. A faint footprint of the timber and earthen fort can be discerned today. In the early 20th century the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge built a memorial to George Washington on the site. Washington, a Mason, served as Charter Master of the Lodge at the same time he served as President of the United States. The Olmsted Brothers firm was intimately involved in the master plan, designing a winding drive and an elaborate series of terraced walks, steps, and retaining walls.


Cheryl Miller, the Favretti Fellow, has earned a Certificate of Landscape Design from Harvard Architectural College as well as a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Chicago. She is currently enrolled in the Master's Program in Historic Preservation at The Boston Architectural College. Her research site was Belvoir Farms Estate in The Plains. Originally part of an 8000-acre grant to Reverend Alexander Scott, 343 acres were purchased in 1906 by Fairfax Harrison, a Southern Railway President and northern Virginia historian. The Harrisons added to the tenant house on the property, which was built by Richard Rixey as early as 1792. They renamed the estate Belvoir, after the home of Harrison's ancestor, William Fairfax.


Mrs. Harrison was a major force in the early years of the Garden Club of Virginia as well as the Garden Club of America. While she was intimately involved in the design of her elaborate garden, she engaged the Philadelphia landscape architecture firm of Oglesby Paul early on. Oglesby (1876-1915) designed the Montpelier garden for the DuPonts as well as many other estate gardens.  Now 760 acres, Belvoir has been under the current owner's care since 1976. The present gardener, Robert Gaskins, has been employed on the property since 1962, and Cheryl found him to be a wealth of information. While most of the plants have been lost, the surviving walls, pergolas, teahouse, monopteros, steps, bed outlines and landform provide the historic context of the gardens. The current plantings are well maintained and offer a lovely glimpse into the earlier landscape.


Mary Ann Johnson

Roanoke Valley Garden Club

Members of the GCV board, Restoration and Fellowship Committees, and friends at the monopteros at Belvoir

King Street Aerial
Masonic Lodge 

Did You Know?
Care of the Hardscape 

Did you know that the GCV Garden Maintenance Manual has an entire section on the "Care of the Built Landscape"? In caring for historic gardens, one must not only pay close attention to the well-being of the plants, trees, and shrubs, but also to the many elements that make up the hardscape of a garden. This all-important section provides step-by-step solutions to such problems associated with repairing cracks in asphalt, patching potholes, weeds in the pavement, snow removal, as well as the care of metal and painted structures.

For example, metal structures should be washed with Murphy's Oil Solution every six months and for mortarless paving, dry fine sand needs to be swept into the joints of the brick or stone every year. As for treated surfaces, the entire structure should be treated at least twice a year (April and October) with penetrating oil. This section goes on to say, "saturate the wood with two full coats of oil as manufactured by Cabot, Thompson or Olympic for tropical hardwood, and Sikken's penetrating oil for pressure treated wood, cedar and redwood. Most importantly, never use varnish or polyurethane, and with the care of decking, never use salt in winter as a de-icer."

The "Care of the Built Landscape" section of the GCV Garden Maintenance Manual can be found on pages 51 to 59. It is a very comprehensive guide to the care and maintenance of walkways, bridges, structures, paving, and masonry walls, with easy to understand tips and solutions that are most helpful.

Whether it is caring for a historic landscape or a small backyard garden, the GCV Garden Maintenance Manual is an excellent resource and guide. Using the manual helps in the Restoration Committee's overriding goal, "...to keep the built elements in good repair, to keep the plants healthy and vigorous and to accommodate visitors without compromising authenticity." 

Suzanne Wright

The Petersburg Garden Club  

Washington and Lee Chapel:
Before and After


                                             Early 1970s                                                                                       2007                    
Conferences of Interest on Historic Landscapes


19th Annual Historic Landscape Institute

"Preserving Jefferson's Gardens and Landscapes"

June 14-19, 2015


This one-week course uses the gardens and landscapes of Monticello and the University of Virginia as an outdoor classroom for the study of historic landscape preservation. Lectures, workshops, fieldtrips, and practical working experiences will provide an introduction to the fields of landscape history, garden restoration, and historical horticulture. Fee charged; registration required. Call (434) 984-9816 or click here

Colonial Williamsburg Garden Conference

April 10-12, 2015

Speakers include Rick Darke, Doug Tallamy and Peggy Cornett.


Thank you to Roxanne Brouse of Rieley and Associates for providing images.


Newsletter Editors: Candy Crosby, Albemarle Garden Club and Ann Gordon Evans, The Huntington Garden Club

Copy Editor: Judy Perry, The Elizabeth River Garden Club

Technical Support: Nina Mustard, The Williamsburg Garden Club and Ann Heller, Garden Club of Virginia