Garden Week Highlights Free Union

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By Kathy Johnsongarden_week_waterperryFive of the star attractions of the 76th annual Garden Week are in Free Union on Sunday and Monday, April 19 and 20. For more than 75 years the Garden Club of Virginia has used garden week to raise funds for restorations of historic gardens and landmarks in Virginia.

The country homes and gardens tour in Free Union will feature not only spectacular gardens but an architectural array of homes including, it is believed, one of the fewer than 12 homes in the county that date from the 1750 to 1790 period. The Ballard-Maupin House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register and while historical records state that the “earliest history of this property is unclear,” it is believed to have been built by Thomas Ballard sometime soon after his purchase of the land in 1750.

Ballard gave the house and some land to his son, James Ballard, Sr., and following his death in 1804 it is believed that his son, James Ballard Jr., may have done some remodeling. In 1854 the land was sold to Gabriel Maupin. The property transferred several times after his death in 1866 and received further remodeling in 1934, when it was renamed Plainview Farm. The current owners, Mr. and Mrs. George Neff, carefully restored the home in 1995.

Those who tour the Ballard-Maupin home and gardens will see evidence of its history in the handmade bricks, hand-planed ceiling boards, double-beaded ceiling joists and random-width heart pine floors (all dating from the 1700s). The house also contains rose-headed nails and a six-panel wooden door with applied moldings dating from the early 1800s. Rock-lined gardens of daffodils, Cranesbills geraniums, iris, peonies and other spring flowers surround the house along with fruit trees, Linden, American hornbeam, witch hazel, paperbark maple, walnut and yellowwood trees.

The Ballard-Maupin home will be open to the public for the first time. Weather permitting, refreshments will be served from 2 to 5 p.m. The home is located at 4257 Ballards Mill Road.

The Cabin at Turtle Creek is located near the Ballard-Maupin home at 4803 Wesley Chapel Road. This home is named for the 1790’s cabin that is original to the property and for the nearby creek that is habitat to numerous species of turtles. The cabin was “discovered” enclosed in a 13-room farmhouse and first renovated in the early 1980s. It has since been converted to a guesthouse for the estate.

Owners Mr. and Mrs. Lee Waibel are opening the cabin and the extensive grounds to the public for the first time. Paved walkways, including a brick paved arbor with an inviting bench for a view of the surrounding gardens, mountains and fields and several ponds, dot the landscape and several include frog sculptures. The grounds includes nearly 200 species and cultivars of trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses.

Nearby at Tupelo Farm, 3403 Millington Road, the homeowners employ organic gardening practices and a pasture is being converted to native grass and wildflowers. The 1870’s farmhouse has been restored and the current owners commissioned Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects to develop a farm master plan.

An August 2008 magazine article praised the work done on this estate by Thomas Woltz, saying “Woltz drew on the region’s geology, agricultural traditions and plants–both native and imported–in designing the garden…. Locally quarried fieldstone walls retain the heat of the springtime sun and establish curving terraces for a peach orchard, a gesture at Albemarle County’s history as one of the state’s largest producer of peaches in the 19th century. Nearby, on a smooth flagstone terrace, a group of half-buried boulders has the same geological composition and similarly mounded shapes as the Blue Ridge Mountains that loom over the farmland.” 

Rain collection is practiced at Tupelo Farms and the flagstone terrace surrounds a pond with flowing water. The gardens and grounds are open to the public for the first time.

Morrowdale Farm, at 3365 Millington Road, is a working Thoroughbred, beef cattle and hay farm of 300 acres. Originally part of the 1748 English grant to St. Martin’s Parish, the farm is currently owned by Mr. and Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely, III.

A rose-covered arbor leads the way to the mid-19th century main house. The house is native clapboard and tin-roofed. American and English antiques fill the cozy but elegant rooms and sporting art and sculpture are noteworthy.

Outside, white picket fences enclose charming gardens reminiscent of Williamsburg with boxwood-lined beds filled with fresh greens, vegetables and perennial gardens. Dependencies include barns, a children’s playhouse, an old school house and an old icehouse. A chicken coop that once belonged to the owner’s grandmother was relocated to Morrowdale. A pool and pool house are privately sited off the boxwood allee. House and gardens are open and the gardens are wheelchair-accessible.

The final home on the tour is Waterperry Farm, owned by Katherine Kane and Olin West and located at 4284 Ballards Mill Road. This 1810-style farmhouse was rebuilt following a fire in 1868 and the extensively landscaped grounds are owner-designed.

Garden rooms welcome the weary to cozy seats and flowerbeds filled with Rosemary and other herbs. A shaded area offers a weathered bench and table surrounded by hostas, rhododendrons, and other woodland loving plants. Blooming dogwoods, peonies and hydrangeas anchor another of the garden rooms and nearby an old bullpen is now home to a healthy array of roses. Impressive stonewalls and softly manicured hedges help bring it all together. Garden paths lead to a secluded hammock, tennis and basketball courts, an outdoor ping-pong table, a pool and pool house and an attractive guesthouse.

The gardens are open on Sunday, April 19, from noon to 6 p.m. and again on Monday from 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. Advance tickets are $30 and available at a number of Charlottesville locations. Day of
the tour tickets are $35. Children 6-12 are $15. For ticket locations and directions to the homes, visit  www.gardeninginvirginia.org or call 434-296-8996.

The Garden Club strongly recommends carpooling. Those attending should wear comfortable walking shoes—no spike heels, strollers or backpacks allowed in the homes. No smoking or pets on tour and interior use of cameras and video equipment is prohibited.

Box lunches are available to benefit The Farmington Hunt Club for $15. Orders must be prepaid and received by April 10. Reserved lunches will be available April 19 and 20 from 11:30 to 2 p.m. at Chapel Springs. Checks should be made payable to Farmington Hunt Club and mailed to Carol Easter, Attn: HGW Luncheon, 2679 Free Union Road, VA 22901. Tickets are non-refundable. Maps and additional area garden tour sites are also available at  the above website.