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Horticultural Delights Abound

During Historic Garden Week

Mary and Skipp Calvert's garden is eclectic. Maria and Ken Wertz's garden is magical. Janet and A. Carl von Sternberg's home is elegant. Ann and Mark Kington’s home has been meticulously restored. Gretta and Bill Bader’s home is original with marvelous additions. Maria and Harry Hopper’s garden is a work in progress.

All of these homes and gardens will be open to the public this Saturday during Historic Garden Week in Virginia. The Alexandria tour is sponsored by The Hunting Creek Garden Club and The Garden Club of Alexandria.

Not only are these homes and gardens on the tour, but entrance to several historic homes are included on the tour as well. The Lee-Fendall House has a garden filled with magnolia, boxwood and roses. Carlyle House’s gardens spring foliage is peaking and herbs and plants are for sale there as well.

The Bowling Green at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens have been restored by The Garden Club of Virginia to 18th century grandeur. Elsewhere on the estate, one can also see 18th century shade trees, 18th century flowers, and a working 18th century farm.

The results of The Garden Club of Virginia can also be seen at both Woodlawn Plantation and Gunston Hall Plantation, both of which have been beautifully restored and can be seen on the tour. Another stop the tour is River Farm, the headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. It is overflowing with azaleas, dogwoods, wisteria and colorful perennials. In addition to opening the home and the gardens, AHS will host their annual plant sale.

TO PREPARE FOR THIS SPECIAL EVENT, chairman Ann Edwards and co-chairman Maria Hopper have been working with the homeowners to ensure that everything is ready for the tour. Members of The Hunting Creek Garden Club will provide the floral arrangements for each home. Arrangements at the von Sternberg home will be designed by Penny Bryan, Julie Dudley, Anne Hobbs and Virginia Guild. For the Wertz home, Lyn Gas, Peggie Smith and Laura Francis will apply their skills.

Homeowners and staff at the historic properties have been busy getting their places in tip-top shape.

Although Mary Calvert is responsible for the interior decorating at their home, Skipp Calvert does most of the gardening in the Calvert household.

“I’m so happy to see the dogwood [bloom]. It looks and feels like Spring,” he said.

In addition to the upcoming tour, he and Mary had to prepare for a brunch which they hosted last week.

“It’s a wonderful impetus for getting the lead out of your tail,” said Calvert, who feels that he is as ready as he’s going to be. The replacement shutters from Maine haven’t shipped yet, but his feeling is, “If it doesn’t get done, it’s okay.”

Calvert has spent years working on his brick walled garden and is proud of what he has accomplished .

“I love my garden and I love to show it,” he said.

Having lived in Italy for several years, he wanted to create something which was reminiscent of Naples. He has even brought some classical pieces back from his travels in Italy. These, he blends with other pieces – thus, the eclectic feel. In keeping with the Italian theme, Calvert has installed a system of fountains and waterfalls; the effect is calming and cooling.

“You can never be too rich, too skinny or have too many water elements,” he said.

MARIA WERTZ IS ALSO PROUD of what she’s accomplished in her garden. She thinks of it as magical because she’s in awe of what is blooming.

“It’s been a treat for me. I want to come down and see what’s happening every day,” she said.

Wertz used Craig Hudson as their landscaper.

“He’s an artist. I told Craig what I wanted and he did it. It’s been a wonderful collaboration,” said Wertz.

Many of the plants are native, and include leopard plants, Virginia bluebells, trillium, Virginia iris, Coral bells, sweet ferns and red arum.

Inside the Wertz home is a blend of antiques and contemporary pieces. The Wertz’s remodeled the kitchen which lets in more light and gives a better view of the garden.

Janet and A. Carl von Sternberg moved into their home 2 1/2 years ago. They spent a year decorating and their efforts are apparent. One of the most striking effects is the hand-painted landscape mural which fills the dining room. The mural, which was painted by Gilders Studio, depicts local scenes as well as their country home. The archways are set apart with a touch of gilding. The bottom two levels of their home will be open for viewing to the public.