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Virginia's Historic Garden Week, largest open house in the country, is underway

Historic Garden Week celebrates 90th anniversary: Visit 'inspired private landscapes, public gardens and historic sites'
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Posted at 8:02 PM, Apr 14, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Garden Club of Virginia's Historic Garden Week, dubbed the largest open house in the country, begins Saturday, April 15 and continues through Sunday, April 22.

“They're real families, real homes," Historic Garden WeekCo-Chair Meredith Lauter said. "These homeowners have invested in our tour and helped us tremendously."

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This year, which marks the event's 90th anniversary, features 29 tours with 150 homes and gardens on the roster. All tours feature flower arrangements created by Garden Club of Virginia members.

Richmond tours are Tuesday through Friday. And West Avenue in the Fan is on the tour Wednesday.

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"All of our homes are between 1905 and 1920, with the exception of one that was built in the 1700s,” Dorothea Martin, Chair of the Historic Richmond West Avenue Tour, said.

Some of the tours are to historic buildings like the Executive Mansion, and the Kent-Valentine House, home of the Garden Club of Virginia. Many are private homes, which are open to the public for the event.

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“We have Victorian, mostly Victorian row houses," Martin explained. "There's some Queen Anne architecture. We have courtyard gardens, so they're small, but they all have a lot of personality.”

Historic Garden Week attracts more than 25,000 people every year and means millions of dollars for Virginia.

“And the funds raised are put right back into the Commonwealth," Lauter said. "Historic gardens are restored and maintained and then the future student fellowships are given in landscape architecture to teach our young people how to preserve our natural resources in our environment.”

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Historic Garden Week got its start from an original flower show in 1927.

"The Garden Club of Virginia President Mrs. Massey said, 'I have a good idea. The trees at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, are dying and need care. And let's have a flower show, and we'll raise some funds to do that.'"

The club raised $7,000 and the work continues now into its 90th year.

"We only missed two: one during a war and one during COVID. So 927 to 2023 is not 90 years, but that it's missing two," Lauter noted.

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For six decades, the Council of Historic Richmond has been a partner.

"We started working with the Garden Club of Virginia in 1963," Martin said. "Garden Club of Virginia restores historic public gardens, and Council of Historic Richmond Foundation restores public architecture.

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Private and public spaces will be opened April 15–22, including Richmond, Ashland, Petersburg as well as historic Berkeley, Shirley, and Westover plantations.

If you would like to showcase your home next year, contact the Garden Club of Virginia. You can also contact Historic Richmond or one of the four garden clubs: Tuckahoe Garden Club, Boxwood Garden Club, Three Chopt Garden Club and James River Garden Club.

"We love to have people participate and help us out," Lauter said. "We have in Richmond I would say... over 350 volunteers working on this tour."

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Historic Garden Week kicks Saturday around the state and continues through next Sunday. Find a complete list of tours at the Garden Club of Virginia.