If you are getting married (even if you are not!) I encourage you to head out to Virginia Garden Week. There are so many floral ideas using local flowers, and you just may get some ideas for decor and flowers for your own wedding. Imagine using all locally sourced blooms… fantastic! You may even come away from the day with ideas for decorating your own home and garden.
BEFORE THE TOUR – BEHIND THE SCENES OF GARDEN DAY
Spring is upon us! Foliage is done with its winter hiatus, and bulbs are sprouting all around. Virginia is having life breathed back into its surface, which encourages us to get out of the house, explore, and tackle those long dormant garden projects. If you are looking for inspiration – whether it is in your home or yard – making Virginia Garden Week part of your spring plans is a must. During the week of April 18th-25th houses and gardens all over the state of Virginia will be opened up for visitors. This tradition began in 1927 with the Garden Club of Virginia’s efforts to raise funds to preserve and restore the state’s historic gardens. The day itself stimulates the economy of each area as guests from all over travel to tour, eat and stay in the region.
The funds raised from ticket sales go to the Garden Club of Virginia and then right back into maintaining historic gardens in the Commonwealth. Participating in the tour is a way to help the community while being able to tour little seen abodes. “These are private homes. You will enjoy seeing them, but you may never see that particular home again. If you have been driving by for years and years wanting to see the inside… on Garden Day, you can,” offered Clarkie Eppes, Chairman for Lynchburg Garden Day 2015.
Local garden club members take the time to place flower arrangements both in and outside of the dwellings, and creativity flows among the group of ladies that belong to their respective clubs. “It’s so much fun. Seeing the arrangements people come up with is so fascinating,” said Roanoke Historic Garden Week’s Chairman, Joanne Callis. In fact, a flurry of activity goes on in order to orchestrate Garden Day. What goes on behind the scenes is just as beautiful as the floral pieces that are displayed the day of the tours.
Lynchburg and Roanoke are each home to two garden clubs, which rotate the responsibility of being in charge of Garden Day each year. This year those duties fall on the Hillside Garden Club in Lynchburg and the Roanoke Valley Garden Club in Roanoke. Although one club heads these duties up, the second one assists and shadows the other.
“The clubs work close together. In the transition, you need to have people who know what is going on from year to year. It is a hands on effort by both clubs,” Eppes described. She has been a member of the Lynchburg Garden Club for 40 years, and although this is her first time being Chairman, she has experience serving in many capacities. “I joined in 1975. I was 25 years old… I love it! It is near and dear to my heart. It is fun, and I need something that is a challenge,” Eppes added.
Becoming a member of a club is by invitation only, and the members (mostly ladies) recommend friends, family members and others who
are interested in conservation, horticulture and gardening to be a part of the club. “Our members are multi-talented. They have different interests. A lot of our members work, have small children or are older. It really is a team effort of all ages and stages of life,” offered Eppes.
She added, “People have to have a passion for the garden club in order to step up and take responsibilities. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is very rewarding. I know. I have seen where the money comes back to. You see some of the things that historical groups cold not afford to do on their own.” Garden Day efforts are rewarded with the satisfaction that hundreds of thousands of dollars are put back into preserving the landscapes and hardscapes of the community’s historical properties.
Deciding on the gardens that will be featured happens well in advance – over a year ahead of time, in fact. The Chairman for the year decides on the houses, yet she works with a Procurement Committee to help recommend places. “There are many beautiful homes in Lynchburg, but it’s not always the right time for someone to open their home for 2000 visitors. It’s a labor of love for the homeowner,” Eppes noted.
“We secure houses in one general area so that people do not have to travel from one area to the other,” stated Callis. In fact, Roanoke offers a trolley to transport guests from one home to the other as necessary. Most homeowners prepare the insides of their dwelling for touring, and a healthy amount of time is needed to curate the surrounding gardens. “Homeowners take the opportunity to do things that they have been putting off,” Callis revealed. Although there is no compensation given to the owners, it is an honor to be featured on the tour.
Participants are sure to see a variety of spaces. Eppes offered, “There are older homes downtown, but we also will enjoy showing some more modern homes.” She also stressed that the standards are pretty high for which residences and yards are featured each year. Well before Garden Day begins, a committee walks through each property to decide where arrangements should be placed and also to be aware of any safety or traffic flow issues.
Club members sign up to either gather flowers two days before the event, which involves cutting, watering and conditioning the foliage for the displays, or to do the arranging the day before the tour. As far as the actual plants and blooms used for the event, besides a few minor exceptions (such as tulips), they are picked from local yards and gardens.
On the day of the tour, hostesses at each home help check-in and direct guests and point out items of interest. The ladies who host are a combination of members from the local garden clubs and other volunteers. “The hostesses are docents in each area of the homes and gardens. [In Roanoke] Master Gardeners will be hostesses for the two gardens that are open so that they can answer any questions. Garden Day visitors are people that really enjoy gardening and seeing what other people are doing in their gardens,” offered Callis.
Great care is taken to be respectful of the homeowners throughout the process. Once the tour concludes, the hostesses follow instructions on cleaning up and locking doors, and the owners are left with lovely displays to enjoy throughout their house. Even though the work of the actual day is done, members of the clubs will come pick up fading arrangements, ensuring an overall positive experience from start to finish for those that choose to open their residences.
Eppes concluded, “Visitors of Garden Day are so kind, so respectful of the homeowners and so glad to be on the tour. It’s a win-win for everybody.” Whether your passion is gaining great interior ideas, appreciating cultivated gardens or having a day out with friends, head out to Garden Day for a positive experience with a lasting impact on the community. For more information head to www.vagardenweek.org. Also look for our post later this week about the Garden Days in both Roanoke and Lynchburg.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of the ladies (all over Virginia, and not just in my area) who donate their time and energy to provide a day for so many to enjoy all over the state… a day that does so much good in and for the community as you will read below. Special thanks also goes out to the garden clubs in Lynchburg, who allowed us to document their behind-the-scenes of the 2014 tour. Also, many thanks to Joanne Callis, Chairman of the Roanoke Historic Garden Week 2015 (happening Saturday April 25th), and Clarkie Epps, Chairman for Lynchburg Garden Day 2015 (happening Tuesday, April 21st), for their wonderful interviews, and take a look at the full feature of our behind the scenes images below.