Garden variety

Naturals: As spring comes into bloom, so do garden tours and shows around the region. Here's a winter 'catalog' of travel temptations.

February 07, 1999|By Randi Kest | Randi Kest,Contributing Writer

By late next month, the air will finally begin to fill with the sweet scents of spring. As the breeze slowly warms, crocus, tulips and daffodils will sprout from softened ground, and red maples, dogwoods and forsythia will start to bud. Grass will begin its slow transformation to green. The birds that wintered quietly in their nests or traveled farther south will gradually reappear, first the fox sparrows, then the robins and eventually the bluebirds. They bring with them their bright colors splashed on a still-gray background and their light-hearted songs.

These signs of spring are celebrated in back yards and convention centers across the region. Here is a sampling of the season's garden shows, tours, lectures and displays.

VIRGINIA

Two popular flower and garden events here capture the beauty of nature and the brilliance of landscape design.

* The first, Maymont Foundation's annual Flower and Garden Show, will be held Feb. 18-21 in Richmond. One of the season's earliest shows, Maymont marks its 10th anniversary with a "Once Upon a Garden" theme, where 20 landscape designers will use greenery, flowers, fountains and trees to re-create scenes from tales such as "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Humpty Dumpty."

The show's 3 acres of indoor gardens will include a display by last year's "Best in Show" winner, Atlantic Plantscapes, who imaginatively combine color and texture. New to the lineup will be "Flowers After Hours" activities -- nightly garden-oriented events including a flower-arranging seminar and a children's scavenger hunt.

Two popular British garden experts are scheduled to make appearances. Marney Hall, the gold medalist from last year's Chelsea Flower Show in England and a natural habitat restorer, will create Maymont's Garden Invitational Exhibit -- a natural English garden. And Anna Pavord, a garden writer for Britain's Gardens Illustrated and Country Life magazines, will explore centuries of tulips from her new book "The Tulip."

The Maymont Flower and Garden Show will take place at the Richmond Centre, 400 E. Marshall St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 18-20; 9 a.m to 6 p.m. Feb. 21. Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door; free for children under 12. Call 804-358-7166.

* One of the region's most expansive garden events is Historic Garden Week, highlighting more than 250 homes, gardens and historic landmarks across Virginia, April 17-24. This week of tours follows a path through James River plantations, country and suburban estates, farmhouses, beach houses and historic buildings.

The garden event traces its roots to a 1927 flower fair that raised more than $7,000 to restore and replenish the trees at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Capitalizing on that success, the first Historic Garden Week was launched two years later. Funds raised during the annual weeklong event have restored 36 gardens on historic properties around Virginia.

This year three dozen separate tours are scheduled, each highlighting at least five private homes and gardens.

Just outside Washington, the Fairfax Garden Club tour through McLean (April 23) highlights a garden crafted by a professional water-garden designer. April 18-19 are the dates for Leesburg Garden Club's tour through the Catoctin Rural Historic District, visiting properties dating to the 1700s.

Farther south, the Warrenton Garden Club's tours will take place April 21-22 and visit famous sites such as the mansion and stable of William "Extra Billy" Smith -- Civil War officer and two-term Virginia governor.

Restored historic buildings in rural Madison County will be toured April 17 and the countryside surrounding Charlottesville will be the focus of the Country Homes and Gardens tour April 19-20.

Along the eastern coast, Essex County is the newest addition to Historic Garden Week. It is one of the state's oldest areas, and five 18th- and 19th-century houses will be toured April 23.

Down at the shore, Eclipse, a fishing village near Suffolk, is the subject of a tour April 17, and Virginia Beach opens doors to five waterfront homes April 20 for its "From the River to the Bay" tour showcasing a home with a master gardener's landscape.

A comprehensive 200-page guide can be ordered by sending a $5 donation payable to Historic Garden Week, 12 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Va. 23219. Visit the Garden Week Web site at www. vagardenweek.org for limited information. Tickets: $10 to $20 depending on event; admission to any single home or garden costs $3 to $5; tickets can be purchased on tour days at each property or at designated information centers.

PENNSYLVANIA

Starting next month, Pennsylvania displays a spring wonderland, recognizing the influence of American Romantics on landscape design and relating the gardening process to that of animation in three shows.

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