Garden Week in Virginia runs through Saturday, featuring tours of homes and gardens in 35 localities across the Commonwealth.
It is the only statewide home and garden tour in the nation, and 2022 marks the 89th year the Garden Club of Virginia has held the event. In that time, it has only been cancelled twice — once during World War II and again in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roanoke’s leg of the tour is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, in and about Fincastle. The Mill Mountain Garden Club and the Roanoke Valley Garden Club organized this 74th local tour. It picks up where the canceled 2020 tour left off, with an ambitious roster of mostly 18th and 19th century homes and gardens in historic Fincastle, rather than its usual South Roanoke location.
Beth Sayers chairs this year’s event. When she began her planning, Sayers called in 2020 tour chair Pam Moskal, who had everything ready to go when it was called off.
“I thought it was a very good idea to revisit Fincastle,” Sayers said. “It was so disappointing that her year got cancelled. We’re very excited that it’s finally happening.”
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Moskal said she and Sayers were able to get all but one of the five homeowners from that lineup to participate again. In the end, they only had to find one more.
“They were very disappointed that they didn’t get to showcase their homes,” Moskal said of the 2020 homeowners.
The original tour was supposed to coincide with two landmark dates — the Garden Club of Virginia’s centennial and Botetourt County’s 250th anniversary, Moskal said. But because Fincastle was designated as the county seat 250 years ago this year, an historic tie-in remains.
Moskal said until she began researching properties for the tour, she didn’t realize how important Botetourt County’s history was to the formation of Roanoke County, which was carved out of it in 1839. Botetourt County once stretched all the way to the Mississippi River, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were frequent visitors to Fincastle at the height of their careers as explorers. On their way west, they often traveled through areas that are now part of Roanoke County. Revolutionary War General Andrew Lewis, for whom many Roanoke County landmarks are named, once lived near Fincastle, too.
This year’s tour headquarters is the Fincastle Presbyterian Church, at 108 Back St. Vendors will be at the adjacent Big Spring Park, at East Back and North Jefferson streets. Food options include a pre-ordered box lunch from Fincastle Café, though Moskal said orders may be closed a week before the event. She encouraged those who want a meal to call or e-mail the restaurant to check availability.
Two food trucks — Blessed Day Treats at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and pastries, and Ferguson Family Provisions at 11 a.m. with lunch items — will be at the park.
Vendors will hawk items including succulents, tree saplings, honey, cut flowers, beeswax products, stationary, arts and gifts.
Gardening demonstrations are scheduled at the park. Two plein air painters will work at Prospect Hill, with a post-tour raffle for one of the paintings.
Last year’s tour was outdoors-only, with 500 tickets sold to maintain social distance, Sayers said. To make things worse, “it was very miserable weather,” Sayers said, but the tour was nearly sold out anyway.
“People just wanted to get out,” Moskal agreed. “They were ready.”
There are no such restrictions on this year’s tour, and indoor mask-wearing is optional. Sayers said the garden clubs hope to sell something closer to their usual average of 780 tickets.
One result of last year’s complications was that they sold tickets online only, something that a mostly older demographic learned with ease. That continues, with no in-person sales this year, except at tour headquarters on the day of the event.
Proceeds go toward restoring historic gardens throughout the state, and to conservation and landscaping improvements at Virginia’s state parks. Despite last year’s low turnout, the local sponsoring clubs were able to send $24,257 to the Garden Club of Virginia for those projects, Moskal said.
There are four other properties on the tour in addition to Prospect Hill. Excerpted descriptions come from the tour brochure:
Wind Flower Farm is an example of the Prairie-style architecture associated with Frank Lloyd Wright. Lissy and Dan Runyon Merenda own the 2003 home, which sits on a 25-acre mountain plateau just south of Fincastle. The home’s design brings the outdoors inside with an open-concept floor plan, tall ceilings and large windows, which offer a 280-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Prairie-style touches include stained glass fixtures and an overhang roof. The furnishings include an 18-century breakfront, an antique pie safe, cedar captain’s chests, and an apple-picking ladder, which is used to display a collection of quilts. The bedrooms feature antique cherry, mahogany and tiger maple furniture, as well as a Victorian curly maple desk. The artwork includes needlepoint, soapstone carvings and folk pieces from Alaska, as well as prints by local artists. Outside is a potting shed and a pergola, as well as vegetable and flower cutting gardens.
Santillane is a well-known local landmark. Built about 1895, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its design and for its connection to early 19th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Clark married the builder’s daughter in 1808. The Georgian brick home sits on 24 acres on a hill overlooking Fincastle. The grounds feature mature white oak, chestnut and magnolia trees. The kitchen wing and smokehouse are remnants of the original dwelling, with the remainder constructed in the 1830s. There are five chimneys and 10 original fireplaces, eight of which are still in use. Original interior latches and brass knobs are embossed with the Great Seal of England. Now a private residence, the home has been used as a wedding venue and as a bed-and-breakfast. The owners, Angela and John Sengson, are presently renovating and restoring the grounds. The interior features original art by Edouard Cortes, Harriet Little and Nicolas Pace.
The Reynolds home, built in 1839, has been occupied by five generations of the Reynolds family, including current owners Kaye Reynolds Lowe and her husband, Alan Harper Lowe. This Federal-style farmhouse is on 10 acres of land and consists of a central hall with large rooms on each level, and has a rear addition constructed in 2005. The foyer holds a vintage Italian rosewood table and a custom Chobi rug. The living and dining rooms feature patterned Persian carpets.
This 1820 house in the heart of town is known as “Solitude” and features an unusual two-story design facing the street. The rest of the building is just one story, the rear incorporating what was once a detached kitchen. Owned by Charlotte and Robert Hagan, the gardens feature heirloom peonies, perennial beds, and a lap pool, while the interior decor includes American, English and Italian ceramics and porcelain and a collection of work by Rockwood artists and handcrafted furniture.