Historic Garden Week's Orange County tour focusing on three centuries of architecture

This year’s 85th annual Historic Garden Week in Orange County focuses not only on lovely blooms, but also on good bones.

The Dolley Madison Garden Club chose “300 Years of Architecture” as its theme for this year’s tour, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Bloomsbury, Eastern View and Belle Terre, this year’s tour stops, offer glimpses of centuries of home and garden designs — often at the same address. While Helen Marie Taylor’s circa-1722 Bloomsbury, home to a wig-powdering closet, claims the National Register of Historic Places’ honor for “oldest unaltered dwelling in Orange County,” Martha and Howard Zaritsy’s Eastern View started with an 1839 Georgian Style abode and added an 1850 Greek Revival portion with a corkscrew staircase — not to mention a gingerbread-flavored Victorian renovation in 1875.

And although Belle Terre, with its Georgian Revival lines, looks like a time-honored landmark, Gina and Rodney Sedwick’s home was built in 1991.

Organizers of the annual tour say three centuries’ worth of gardening yields interesting insights into trends.

“Our gardens are smaller now than they used to be,” said Mary Stowe Queitzsch, who serves as Historic Garden Week publicity co-chair with Gale Martin for Dolley Madison Garden Club. “There are more border gardens. At every house, you’ll see boxwood, but eighty-five years ago, you’d have seen those massive beds of flowers.”

What made the difference? These days, the owners are likely to be doing most, if not all, of the gardening themselves.

“It’s important to them to have something manageable,” Queitzsch said.

Over time, that has meant smaller planting beds, more lawnmower-friendly open spaces and intentional habitats for pollinators and birds, Queitzsch said. Visitors also will enjoy seeing how the plantings at each home play up favorite architectural features while adding color, texture and fragrance. And one of the advantages of having glorious flowers outdoors is having a ready palette for indoor displays.

“We’re just looking for the common thread, and this year, the architecture was a fun way to approach it,” Queitzsch said. “Inside, what our club does is to have floral arrangements in every room.”

And although Bloomsbury has 18th-century origins, Zobird, Two Brothers Southwestern Grill and Mouth Wide Open food trucks will add 21st-century verve. There also will be performances of colonial music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We want to make it exciting for all ages,” Queitzsch said.

Proceeds from this year’s tour will support the Garden Club of Virginia’s efforts to restore and maintain significant Virginia gardens and an ongoing partnership with Virginia state parks.

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