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Hundreds tour homes, gardens
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Visitors tour the Remembrance Garden at Kings Grant on Wednesday in Henry County. Four area homes were featured on the Historic Garden Week tour. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Historic Garden Week festivities were in full bloom Wednesday, attracting about 514 people to a tour of homes featuring spectacular spring floral arrangements.

Four houses were on this year’s local tour, and each was decorated with floral arrangements created by garden club members using locally grown flowers. The Remembrance Garden at King’s Grant also was open for the tour.

Historic Garden Week is sponsored across the state by Garden Club of Virginia. It is held locally by two member clubs, Garden Study Club and Martinsville Garden Club.

Karen Gustin, the Garden Club of Virginia’s (GCV) director of development, is spending the week at some of the about 30 Historic Garden Week tours across the state. On Tuesday, she was at King’s Mill in Williamsburg, she said. She spent Wednesday in Martinsville.

“This event will return half a million dollars” to restored gardens in the state, Gustin said. “Every single dollar of the net revenue will go to rehabilitate” significant historic garden sites.

One of those sites is at the former Henry County courthouse in uptown Martinsville. That project began last year. The newest project will be the mountaintop landscaping at Monticello. The GCV will reinstitute Thomas Jefferson’s original design of concentric rings going down the mountain from the plantation house.

Gustin’s first stop on the Martinsville tour was the home of Mike and Joy Haley at Hunt Country Farms. A large wreath made of burlap ribbon paid tribute to the Marines, which Joy Haley’s son, Nick Stone, joined last year. A towering floral arrangement by Lucy Wilson atop the piano dominated the music room.

The tour “is absolutely fabulous,” said Judy Roach of Fieldale. “The homes are beautiful, and the flower arrangements are wonderful.”

She and her friend, Loretta Joyce of Fieldale, were on the tour for their first time this year. “It is a very unique experience,” Roach said.

“It’s fabulous, I’ll tell you,” said Jean Draper of Ridgeway. She was touring the Haley house with her sister, Ruth Dandridge, also of Ridgeway.

Erica Howell, a member of Martinsville Garden Club, was a hostess in the home of Scott and Tami Sapp in Hunt Country Farms. “It’s been going very well,” she said. “We’ve been very busy today.”

She has been helping with the annual tours for at least five years. The event always is “extremely well run,” she said, and the volunteers are “very dedicated” to the details that ensure smooth operation.

Wanda Slaughter of Martinsville and her friend Loretta Whitlow of Axton were touring the Sapp home together.

“We love to go to these” yearly tours, Slaughter said.

Seeing other people is as much fun as seeing the houses for the pair. “It’s wonderful to see friends that I haven’t seen” in a long time, Whitlow said. One of the hostesses she was greeted by in the Sapp home was Jessica Burton Sturm, who graduated from Carlisle School with Whitlow’s son in 1994, she said.

She has not seen Sturm since graduation and enjoyed running into her. She added it was good that Sturm has joined a local garden club, just like her mother. She is one of many younger women in the clubs, “following in the footsteps of their mothers,” Whitlow added.

While touring the home of Dot and Milford Weaver in King’s Grant, Jo Grayson talked about the flower arrangements.

“The arrangements were phenomenal,” she said. “There are some tulips that are variegated and lacy. I’ve never seen anything like them.”

She also said she appreciated the opportunity to see inside some of the houses. “We didn’t realized the houses were as spacious as they were” from just seeing them from the outside, she said.

Jim and Doris Collins, whose home was on the tour, spent the day visiting the other homes open for the event.

Jim Collins said having the tour date finally arrive was “like Christmas.” The couple and the garden club members had worked hard for a long time to get everything ready, so the day of the event brought a sense of relief.

On the dining room table of the Collins home was an arrangement of light blue and pink tulips, Dutch irises, tree peonies and azaleas. It was made by Garden Study Club members Virginia Hodnett, who is 99 years old, and Kitty Sparrow, 97.

Hostess Martha Ferrell said Hodnett and Sparrow were exacting as they created the arrangement.

“They required these colors,” she said. The pair carefully guarded their buckets of flowers and did not let anyone else take any until they had used all the flowers they needed, she said.

“I just like listening to them because I learn from them. I’m just in awe” of their abilities. “They were very specific. They knew just what they wanted,” Ferrell said.

She said that for almost three hours, the women put the flowers “in and out, in and out, in and out” of the container until they were satisfied with the results.

“They’re masters,” she added.


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