Fancy margaritas, Blue Hawaiians and cosmos were on a serving tray in Susan Morten’s kitchen, but they wouldn’t have quenched your thirst.
They all were made of flowers, arranged by Stuart Webster, with help from May Hawfield, part of the Historic Garden Week tour on Wednesday.
Set neatly in cocktail glasses with colorful straws, the margaritas were created with Lenten roses, spirea, roses and goldenrod; the Blue Hawaiian’s ingredients were a white peony atop a tidy circle of yellow tulips, Lenten roses and scotch broom; and the cosmos was made with a blush peony atop a circle of pink lantana and bleeding hearts and red roses.
“Welcome to the Spencer and Susan Morten home,” Coates Clark said to women who arrived in the coral-and-white-striped foyer. “You can tell it is so cheery here.”
Like the other two houses on the tour, each room featured unique floral arrangements made by Martinsville Garden Club and Garden Study Club members.
Throughout the house, guides pointed out interesting anecdotes behind unique mementos. One such thing was a blue vase in the Spencer living room. Karen Jones recounted its story.
The vase had belonged to Susan Morten’s mother, who had a Lynchburg friend, Scaisbrooke Langhorne Abbot, who was a famous artist. One day while Abbpt was visiting, he asked if he could borrow the vase. When he returned, he also brought a painting he had made of that vase holding flowers and gave it to the family. The vase and the painting — and a book of his paintings, with a full-page photograph of that painting — are in the Morten living room.
“It’s a beautiful home, it really is,” said Nancy Love of Collinsville. She said she is particularly interested in the floors and kitchen island made of reclaimed old wood. “I like things that have been recycled” and used in construction." she said.
Homeowner Susan Morten said she planned to spend the day visiting the Historic Garden Week houses with her twin sister, Sarah Dicks, who was in from Richmond on a visit. Her sister joked about how relaxing it must feel to have all of the preparations of opening her home to the public behind her.
“It was kind of intense” getting ready for the event, Morten said.
She particularly had many experiences of “noticing things in the house and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to do something about this.’ You definitely find yourself working up until the last minute,” she said.
Marty Gardner, whose house was open for the 2012 HGW tour, said going through that experience really helps her appreciate the tour even more. It’s easy to like the way a garden looks without realizing the intense amount of work it takes to get it that way and maintain it, she said.
In the Edward and Kim Snyder house, Bonnie Greenwalt was a guide in the dining room. She pointed out a particular daffodil in an arrangement made by Lucy Wilson.
The daffodil was a hybrid by world-class daffodil specialist Bill “Daffybill” Pannill, who was president of Pannill Knitting Inc. from 1966 to 1988. A Martinsville resident, also Wilson’s uncle, he had registered about 210 varieties with the Royal Horticultural Society, but he died before he could name this particular daffodil, which has cream petals surrounding an orange cup. His family named it “Scuffle Hill,” after the Martinsville neighborhood where Pannill had spent his childhood.
In the home of Andrew and Anna Gehrken, the rustic family room, which is decorated with many touches of nature including prints of birds, features a simple yet dramatic arrangement by Susan Critz. A few sprigs of Mahonia leap dramatically out of two fans of dark-tipped brown feathers, with a swooping antler at one side.
In the adjoining kitchen, an antique jug collection is highlighted with a grouping of turkey feathers, white pine and fruit, made by Becky Farrar.
Those contrast with the lush, traditional arrangements in the formal areas of the home, such as the living room, dining room and foyer. In tall glass cylinder rise long sprigs of maple above vibrant fuscia peony, with Lenten rose and Virginia rose, designed by Debbie Lewis.
“It’s evident the inspiration that our arrangers get for the homes,” Tour co-chair Joanie Petty said.
The floral designs come to be “a clear interpretation of how they felt being inside that house.”
New this year were warning signs in each front yard: “Please avoid contact with all boxwood while on the property.”
That is in response to the boxwood blight epidemic sweeping the area. The disease has killed the foliage on boxwoods all across the region, especially along Mulberry Road and in Stanleytown.
Proceeds from the tour support Garden Club of Virginia historic garden restoration projects. One was the courtyard of the former Henry County courthouse in uptown Martinsville.
To see a gallery of images from Historic Garden Week, visit www.martinsvillebulletin.com.