In the Garden: Proper Attire Required

Albemarle Garden Tour 2019 (Submitted)

In late April and early May homes and gardens across the Commonwealth will once again be open to the public as part of Historic Garden Week. In particular, the Albemarle County Tour will focus on the Ivy area on Sunday, April 28, and Monday the 29th. Phyllis Ripper of the Rivanna Garden Club was kind enough to send me information about the local tour.

This year’s tour in the Ivy area is an all-shuttle tour with parking, shuttles and vendors located at The Greencroft Club, 575 Rodes Drive. There is no parking along the tour route, at homes or in neighborhoods. Tickets are required for the Sunday tour and are available online. On day of the tour tickets will be sold only at Greencroft. Prepaid lunches may be picked up there on the day of the tour. Ticket prices are $40 in advance and $50 day of tour. Tour hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, when some locations at the University of Virginia are open to the public for free. 

There are five properties on the Sunday tour:

Boninti Home and Garden This two-acre horticultural paradise of rare native plants and shrubs was designed, planted and tended by the homeowners for over four decades. Their home is decorated with family heirlooms and reflects a keen love of nature.

Friend and Walter Property (garden only) This 3.5 acres of natural woods and informal gardens includes a charming workshop used for constructing bluebird houses.

Little Spring Hollow Home and Garden Described by its owner as “Early American meets restrained English Cottage,” this home reflects its owners’ flair for design.  Gardens contain cottage style plants, more than 200 dwarf English boxwood and rose-covered pergola. 

Ottaway (garden only) The owners’ travels are expressed in this garden’s outdoor living space.  Light refreshments will be served on the patio.

Viewpoint (garden only) Situated on top of Turner Mountain with spectacular views, the gardens feature boxwood, holly, spring flowers and a reflecting pond built of bluestone.  

For more information, visit

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In case you were wondering, the HGW website does request that you not wear spike heels.  Does anybody wear spike heels on garden tours anymore?

But what about proper attire for actually working in your garden in the warm weather ahead? Here’s some advice from someone who has sweated in gardens for decades.

Let’s start with underwear. (If the mere mention of unmentionables embarrasses you, please turn the page now.) For years I wore cotton briefs, believing that cotton “breathes” and absorbs moisture more than synthetics. But once cotton gets wet, it’s not going to dry off quickly in Virginia’s summertime humidity, especially if you’re wearing something over it. Which I always do, I hasten to add.

I switched to a mostly-nylon blend—Buck Naked Performance—from Duluth Trading Company.  You’ve probably seen their off-color ads on TV, featuring a burly cartoon guy accompanied by a growly he-man voiceover. I’d like to think that the nylon is a bit cooler than the cotton, but once you’ve worked up a sweat, there’s only so much you can do. And unless you like a silky feel, don’t spend the extra money on their Armachillo Cooling underwear, even if it does incorporate microscopic bits of jade (?!).

As for shirts for gardening— RANT ALERT!  I have a strong dislike for T-shirts, and I realize that they’re the default top for millions of Americans. Unless you’re in really good shape, T-shirts don’t flatter most of us. And if you spend more than $10 for a tee, you’re paying too much for two pieces of cotton sewn together in an offshore sweatshop.  

Some alternatives to cotton tees:  Duluth’s Armachillo shirts feel a bit cooler and are very light on your skin. I also like LL Bean’s Cool Weave shirts. Their puckered seersucker texture allows for some air space between shirt and skin.

For shorts, I favor lightweight nylon shorts from L.L. Bean, or Duluth Trading’s somewhat heavier—and more expensive—version. Speaking of expensive, I find Duluth’s prices generally too high. But get on their mailing list, and you’ll be bombarded with special deals almost every day. Ditto for L.L. Bean. Never pay full retail.

As for headgear, ball caps tend to be too hot in the summer and don’t provide sun protection to your ears and neck. Look for broad brim floppy fabric hats, or straw hats if the weave isn’t too open.

I should add that although I’ve bought many items from both Duluth Trading and L.L. Bean, giving me first-hand experience, I’m not on the take from either brand. Buy what works for you.  

Liliacs are likely to be blooming during Historic Garden Week later this month. Photo: Catriona Tudor Erier.


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