An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

November 2, 2008

Williamsburg Day Trip

As I mentioned in my previous post, yesterday's weather was spectacularly beautiful, and I took a bunch of pictures as we strolled through the historic area of Williamsburg. Many of the buildings are accurate recreations of what stood there in the 1700's, while a few are restorations of buildings that managed to survive the centuries. Most of the rebuilding was done in the 1920's and 30's with the help of Rockefeller money, but even still it is a work in progress . A lot of the gardens and plantings were done then as well, and as a result there is a great collection of varied and mature plants. In those early years of restoration, the gardens were designed as ideas of what people thought colonial gardens looked like, or what they wanted them to look like - or more simply they are gardens in the Colonial Revival style. As scholarship has changed over the years, there is now a more accurate impression of what typical home gardens may have looked like. Most gardens must have been filled with a variety of plants to supply the larder and with culinary and medicinal herbs, and not so many ornamentals. The ability to have a pleasure garden was the privilege of the wealthy. Today however, if these gardens were to be restored to a condition that was more typical of the era - they would be a lot less showy and a lot less interesting to the people who visit Colonial Williamsburg, including myself. So I am OK with seeing less historically accurate gardens in order to enjoy showier gardens that have a historical flavor.

Let's start with some trees. The Maples were at their peak and I could have spent all day staring at them.

The Oaks were also holding good color.
The street leading to the Governor's palace is lined with Catalpas (I don't know which species). Family lore has it that my grandfather's only experience at smoking was with the seed pods from this tree which is also called a Monkey Cigar tree. He apparently got very ill, and was a rabid anti-smoker the rest of his life. The flowers on these trees remind me of Orchids or Digitalis.

Crape Myrtles are really showy right now as well, and the smaller leaves add a different texture to the fall foliage show. The path is made from crushed oyster shells - shoes recommended.
Did the color of the house bleed into the Crape Myrtle, or was it the other way around?
Bruton Parish Church is one of the buildings that managed to survive into the 20th century. It has a great grave yard too, but unfortunately it was closed yesterday.

I passed one fenced garden that had rectangular plots in the middle surrounded by a riotous border of yellow Marigolds, Gomphrena and a Lantana that was pink and yellow. It was not very traditional but looked great, even though it had been hit with the season's first frost.

Here are a few shots from a kitchen garden.

These tools are for Carol of May Dreams Gardens, who is celebrating her 1000th post, and who has a thing for garden hoes.
Finally some smaller shrubs with good fall color, like this Sassafras...
...and a Viburnum.


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I would love to go to Williamsburg... sounds like a nice fall day is a perfect day to see it. Those trees are beautiful right now. Thanks for providing the nice pictures of them.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. Amazing Carol.

    Les, did I see Bilko doors on one of those buildings?

    I wonder if the Governor's bed had its original cover on. We made a very very long journey to see the embroidered crewel bedspread. I rushed upstairs first thing and there it was: Not.

    They told me it was 'resting' in the basement. Resting? What else does it do on a bed?

    It took me twenty minutes to get them to allow me downstairs to see it. Ahhhh, perfect it was. Still there?

    Lovely visit again. Thanks.

  3. Carol,
    You are welcome, and yes it was as close to perfect as possible.

    I had to Google "Bilco Door" to figure your reference. Yes you did see that type of door. Many of the buildings had them, particularly those that were owned by merchants. I have also seen them at other older homes throughout Tidewater. As for the Governor's bedspread or any of his other home furnishings, I can not speak. We never buy the entrance pass, but merely enjoy the stroll.


  4. Les, Williamsburg is certainly lovely and your photos are beautiful! There are some remarkably beautiful communities in our country...this is obviously one of them! A lovely tour.. thank you, Gail

  5. The colors are certainly stunning this time of year. I think this must be the time that most people really appreciate our trees.

  6. Hi, Les--I'm trying to get more info for you about the Adams garden, and I'll put it on the comments to that post when I find it. Here's a link to a site called "claytonsnatives" on Flickr (not a blog, but his photos):

    This is one of the Curmudgeon's personalities, and these are his photos of native plants in the area. He often does native plant walks in CW, so I've sent him a link to your posting.

  7. Gail,
    Yes there are many beautiful communities in this country. This is one of the reasons I enjoy the internet.

    I agree, and I also like to see the winter silhouette that trees cast without their leaves.

    Thanks for the Flikr link, I have been browsing through it. Ironically, I just ordered today, some John Clayton Honeysuckle to sell at the store this spring.


  8. Les, we did see the same things! I do believe you were there a bit later then I though as the trees were not quit that colorful for me...

  9. I guess it's much less crowded there this time of year. When I visited, oh, 15 years ago, the place was packed. What's under those cloches? Is pyracantha "traditional"? That plant always reminds me of the 1970s for some reason. I think my grandmother had one.

  10. Les, I was told by Wesley Greene, who runs the CW nursery, that all the catalpas in CW were Catalpa speciosa (not bignonioides). Great photos!

  11. Skeeter,
    Yes we got our timing right this year. In some falls past we have either been too early or too late, but it is always beautiful.

    It was not very crowded when we were there, but it was not a holiday weekend, nor was there a William & Mary football game going on. I have no idea what was under the Cloches. The glass was a little cloudy and the jars were too far in the middle of the bed.

    Phillip M.,
    Thanks for the positive ID. Part of my job is to purchase plants for the garden center, and I have been looking (unsucsessfully) for any Catalpa species to sell. There is one used in England that has golden foliage. The way they use it is to cut it down every year so it is more shrub like and adds golden color to the garden. I have heard Wesley Greene speak at the VB Hort. conference years ago.