Historic Garden Week

America’s largest open house all began with Monticello’s trees.

By the mid-1920s, the trees at Monticello—including more than a dozen planted by Jefferson himself—were in decline, suffering from age and disease. As concern grew, the members of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation wondered: could the Garden Club of Virginia be of help?

Answering the call, the ladies of the club staged a 1927 flower show that raised an astounding $7,000 (over $100,000 in today’s dollars) to rehab and replace Monticello’s trees. Prescient and determined, they then considered their logical next step: Why not restore more historic properties? And to fund the work, let’s open homes and gardens around the state for tours. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sandy Geiger

Since its launch in 1929, Historic Garden Week has become a prized springtime tradition which, over nine decades, has enabled the Garden Club of Virginia to restore scores of treasured state properties—from Monticello and Mount Vernon to Montpelier, Kenmore, Oatlands, Poplar Forest and Point of Honor—to name a few.

Known as “America’s largest open house,” this year nearly 200 properties will open their doors and coax their gardens into peak bloom for one week, April 23-30. And, oh, the flowers: “Garden Club of Virginia volunteers will design more than 2,000 spectacular floral arrangements to decorate spaces open to the public,” explains Tricia Garner, chairman of Historic Garden Week. “Most will come from their own gardens.”

Since 1929, this one-week event has generated a half-billion dollars for restoration projects statewide, according to a 2019 study. Now in its 89th year, each of the 28 tours on this year’s Historic Garden Week lineup is produced by the members of GCV’s 48 garden clubs throughout the state. VaGardenWeek.org, GCVirginia.org


This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue.

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