Ann and I celebrated Mother’s Day by taking advantage of the rare opening of the Mt. Sharon garden to the public. Adrian Higgins’ article in the Post this week prompted us to be among the first in line to see this central Virginia estate on a day of sun, high clouds and just enough breeze to keep you going.
Signage directed us around the enormous, hundred-year-old boxwoods to the first garden room, a knot garden composed of boxwood and barberry (‘Crimson Pygmy’).I could no more maintain a garden like this than fly to the moon, but I can certainly admire it.
Beyond the knot garden was the spring garden, featuring gorgeous peoniesand white foxgloves.There must be a photographer’s trick to taking pictures of white flowers that don’t wash out. Here’s a closer look at them. Click through to see how beautiful the blossoms are.Continuing on we came to a sunny border that mixed lupines in with the foxgloves. How does she do it in the heat and humidity of Virginia?
Soon we came to one of the many vistas that reminded me of English gardens – or, I guess, any formal gardens you can name. The “borrowed landscape” here undoubtedly belongs to the owners of Mt. Sharon, and for formality and expansive views it rivals any vistas I’ve seen at English gardens like Hidcote. Sorry for the blur, but you can appreciate the fountain and the ranks of cypresses.
Besides the vistas, there are statues, which Higgins explains “play a vital role in setting the mood and defining spaces.” Eros, installed in honor of the owners’ 40th anniversary, is centered in the exedra, named “after gardens where the Ancients positioned statues of their worthies for contemplation and discussion.”Here are the shadows of the alliums against the column.More perfectly placed statuary includes this beauty in front of the New Dawn roses on the pergola,and Mercury tucked into the hedge.This urn draws the eye to yet another vista, but I liked this sideways glimpse at the nearby hillside and its architectural trees.I don’t know who this grape-eater might be, but he is charming,as is this little boy carrying a basket of flowers.
Speaking of flowers, I was pleased to see many that I grow myself – baptisia, foxgloves, catmint, perovskia, hydrangeas – yet somehow, they look very different in this setting. And the roses! Here is one in the perennial border,
After all this color and scent, a small shade garden came as a welcome contrast. This river of hostas not only shows off their gorgeous leaves but gives you a view of the dry stone wall construction that we saw in several places.And I haven’t even shown you the swimming pool beyond the wisteria pergola, or the hot tub nestled in the trees, or the many more garden rooms that make up the whole.
Searching for more about the garden, I discovered that their working plans are now housed at the Smithsonian, which makes me wonder if they might eventually leave the estate to a conservation trust one day. You can find out more about how they created the garden through this link to the Garden Week tour when the garden was last opened publicly (the writing is a bit amateurish but you can discover what they tore out and built in to create what we saw today).
And though the owner is quoted as saying that maintaining this garden is full-time with no days off, it’s clear that you can’t do it without staff. Well, if you have loads of lovely money, good taste, and a love of gardening, why not? Their generosity allowed us to enjoy a perfect garden day.
But, wait – it’s not over until the picnic and the arm! On the way home we stopped at Ellwood, where I remembered that Stonewall Jackson’s arm was buried (to my father’s amusement). Sure enough, we walked through the grounds to the little cemetery and there it was. It’s the only grave that’s marked.We enjoyed our chickpea salad, crackers and cheese, oranges and chocolate just outside the fence, while a light breeze made the late spring heat bearable. A delightful excursion!