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.

May 23, 2011

Kimchi and Flemish Bond

Saturday evening my wife and I attended a dinner held for the people of the Virginia Horticultural Foundation at the Weblin House in Virginia Beach (I play a small role in helping the foundation put on the Mid-Atlantic Horticulture Short Course).  The Weblin house was built in the late 1600's and was a working farm until late in the 20th century when it was swallowed by suburbia.  Its current owner and our hostess, Gian Petersen bought the property (along with a few of its original acres) in 1997 when the house was in extreme decline.  Since then a lot of very hard work has pulled the house away from the brink, so perhaps it should be here for a few more centuries. 

Weblin House Doorway

Weblin House

Weblin House Chimney

Magnolia grandiflora

At some point in its history Weblin House became a dairy farm.  Several of the structures that served that purpose still persist, including silos, which now seem out of place in the thick of suburban sprawl. 

Weather Vane

Silo (2)

The cow barn/milking parlor has been converted by by Ms. Petersen into a very unique home surrounded by gardens with a large koi pond right outside the kitchen door.   


Koi Pond Ledge

Patio Table

Koi Floor


The remaining few acres of the farm are still under cultivation, but are growing crops not likely familiar to first Weblin family.  Ms. Petersen is Korean, and much of what she grows reflects her heritage.  She has allowed other members of the local Korean community to use a portion of the land to grow their preferred varieties of cabbage, greens, peppers, eggplants and other produce.  There were also more than a few Asian persimmon and pear trees, Chinese Dates (Jujubes), figs, pomegranates and many a young ginkgo.  Some of what was grown in the garden was also served at dinner.  We had bok choi, marinated cucumbers, pickled radish, some really good marinated beef, glass noodles, fried rice, sushi rolls, dumplings and of course, kimchi.

Some may think it odd that a Korean woman would be so dedicated to preserving a small piece of early American history, but Ms. Petersen will be the first to tell you that her efforts are an investment for future generations.  I don't think it odd at all, especially when you consider that the first family to occupy this house also came from somewhere else very far away in order to make an investment in the future.


  1. A quintessential American story. It even has political overtones in these times.

  2. superb photo at the top of your post. sounds like you had a great meal there -- can you tell what my priorities are?

  3. Love the silo, glad its still there. Living in kansas there everywhere, I'm told someone somewhere created a house out of one.

    Nice post.

  4. What a unique and beautiful place. The brick chimney with the brick wall and contrasting patterns is gorgeous.

  5. Les, I am sitting here in stunned amazement. Growing up and living most of my life just a few miles from Weblin House I must have passed in hundreds of times and never gave it much thought. Now, living on the other side of the state I learn from you that it is historically significant! As soon as I saw the first shot I knew exactly where it is.

  6. Actually I meant to say the second shot was the one that put the light bulb over my head. Fine article, my friend!

    BTW: You may want to avoid 460 and 58 the evening of the 13th. We'll be passing through on our way to Mom's. My wife has recently fallen in love with me expedition, took it away from me and has a heavy foot. If you see a large green blur with a red Lab head hanging out one window and a terrified old geezer clutching the grab rail for all he's worth hurtling past I suggest you get out of the way. I'm not sure she'd use the brakes if she had to.....or if she could reach the peddle.

  7. Gorgeous house! Must have been a fun evening. I like how they repeated the koi theme inside.

    My husband makes his own kimchi – yum! He isn’t Korean but he’s head of Asian Studies at Bowdoin. I don’t think you need to be from a region to appreciate its culture. I loved this post for being inclusive.

  8. I like a story / place with a mix of cultures and time. I just spent a week in Oklahoma researching the next book, and wonder what a person could do to some crumbling old farmhouses, silos, and barns that would bridge not two but three centuries. Oh, if I had infinate resources....

  9. Two of my favorite things -- historic preservation and Korean food!

  10. A very interesting house and story.

  11. Wow, that house is gorgeous. I wonder if Ms. Petersen would sponsor a fellowship at her home. I could be so creative in that setting.

  12. What a fabulous place - I love the way that huge pond comes right up to the house. I don't find it all odd that someone of Korean descent now living in the US should work so hard to preserve American heritage, but there again as a Brit I probably have a rose-tinted view of the "America as cultural melting pot" idea, where people adopt the US as their new country while hanging on to their own culture too. I love the fact that land has been made available to the Korean community to grow their preferred food too, what a great way to honour your herirage and share your own good fortune. Inspirational.

  13. History and Horticulture... my two favorite things! Ms. Peterson is a generous steward of this rare historical property.

  14. An enjoyable post, Les. Thanks for sharing the history of this home and garden.

  15. James,
    The overtones were not on purpose, but then again they are never far from the surface.


    We share priorities.

    I can not remember what show it was, but HGTV showed a converted silo. We drove through Kansas on the way to Colorado, and I did notice the silos and grain elevators. They were the most prominent feature in many of the small towns we went through.

    I was really impressed with the size of that chimney.

    I have lived here a long time, and I have never heard of it until I got the invite. I found out that a good part of the original farm was intact until the 70's or 80's, but now you wouldn't know it was even there. Thanks also for the traffic update.

    It was fun. This was only my second taste of Korean food, but I will return at a future date - it was delicious.

    I often long for infinite resources, but especially so when I see crumbling buildings that once had reasons to be proud.

    Lisa and Robb,
    I am glad I could get two birds for you.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    She might be open, she seems to have many different irons in the fire.

    I have recently read that we are more of a stew pot, then a melting pot. Some flavors rub off flavoring the whole and vice versa, but there are still quite a few chunky bits.

    They are also two of my favorite topics as well.

    You are quite welcome.

  16. Les, I so enjoyed this post.I love that she is giving people space to grow their foods from home. I don't enjoy Kimchi, but loved marinated cucumbers with peanuts and most other Korean foods. I've grown pak choi and bok choy. There are some dwarf varieties which worked well in my garden. Lovely.~~Dee

  17. Hi Les, I love the sentiments in the conclusion of your post. We to easily forget that most of us are the descendants of immigrants to North America.Your pictures are terrific as always.

  18. i grew up playing on this farm. my family lived there for several generations. it makes me so happy to see that it is being preserved as it should be. my great grandmother had the most incredible gardens around the property and seeing some of these pictures reminds me of those days. thanks for documenting so well

    1. I wish you could know what is being proposed in this property now. 2019. For info contact me at patty @ pro cbs dot com. Delete the spaces.

  19. Bitstream,
    I am so glad you ran across this post. I think your family would be proud of how well the Weblin House is being taken care of. It not only is a private residence, but it is also a gathering place for the local Korean community, so many people get to enjoy it.


  20. I stumbled across this post and am very happy I did. I also grew up on this property and remember playing under the trees around the Weblin house. My grandparents were the Moore family and used the land as a dairy farm, and then rented out gardens and sold vegetables and fruit. Our family has fond memories of this property, my grandmother is even buried at the foot of one of the larger trees on the property. I am glad to see the land being so well taken care of.

    Thanks for the article!
    Rob Saunders

  21. Rob,

    I am glad you came across this post. I hope you read the comment from Bitstream, perhaps you know each other.