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Gardens in Bloom

Historic Garden Week starts this weekend.

As if on schedule the plants, trees and shrubs in Virginia are starting to bloom just in time for Historic Garden Week in Virginia. This is especially true in Alexandria and Mount Vernon, where many gardens will be open for public tours during the next few weeks. Several private homes will be open this Saturday for Old Town Alexandria's Garden Week Tour. A ticket for this garden tour also includes admission to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, Carlyle House, Woodlawn Plantation, Gunston Hall, Lee-Fendall House and River Farm.

In addition to the tours that will be held this weekend, Mount Vernon will hold their Annual Gardening Days through May 2. During this time, guests can enjoy guided tours of Washington's gardens and browse at the Plant, Gift and Garden Sale.

Emily C. Coleman, assistant director of marketing for George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, said, "I think the plant sale is fun. You can buy cuttings propagated from heirloom plants and take a piece of Mount Vernon home with you."

Coleman also thinks that the garden tours are interesting, and said, "Most people don't realize how active George Washington was. When they see the gardens, they realize the historical aspect. They can see for themselves the difference between the upper (or pleasure) or lower (or kitchen garden)."

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) will hold their annual plant sale the following week. Marianne Polito, manager of gardener's information services and volunteer program, AHS, said, "We have an incredible range of plants this yearóannuals, perennials, shrubs and plants. We'll have rare and unusual plants, succulents, and more."

Polito said that a total of 27 vendors will be at the plant sale, which will be held April 22-24. The following is a list of events scheduled for Garden Week.

Saturday, April 17 — Alexandria

Owners of five of Old Town's finest homes and gardens will open their doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the 71st Annual Historic Garden Week in Virginia Tour.

The 2004 tour covers the central portion of Old Town, with most homes and participating museums within walking distance of each other. The tour is sponsored by Hunting Creek Garden Club and The Garden Club of Alexandria.

The five homes included in this year<pi>s tour are:

*607 Oronoco Street — Known as the Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee, this house was a museum from 1968 until 2000, when a private family purchased it and brought in experts to restore the house, which was in extreme disrepair.

*609 Oronoco Street — This house is attached to the Lee Boyhood Home and was built at the same time as a mirror image. At one point, it housed a school that Lee attended. It has changed hands many times, and is now the home of Director of Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art.

*312 Queen Street — Built on a lot surveyed by George Washington, the ìflounderî or rear of this house was built in 1750, with the main part built in 1797. It was home to Alexandria<pi>s first mayor, William Ramsay, and later to Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, during his navel career.

*213 N. Fairfax Street — This house was built by a successful merchant in 1815. It has had few owners so all of its beautiful moldings, trims, plaster work and pocket door have remained intact. The house has been recently renovated with the help of noted Alexandria architect Robert Bentley Adams.

*225 N. Pitt Street — This tiny house, built in 1850, is the home to an architect and his wife, a landscape architect. Throughout the house are custom-designed pieces built by the husband, who is furniture maker in his free time.

THE ALEXANDRIA self-guided tour includes refreshments at the Carlyle House, 121 North Fairfax Street, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and free admission April 17 only to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, Carlyle House, Woodlawn, Gunston Hall, Lee-Fendall House and River Farm.

For additional ticket information, call the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association at 703-838-4200 or 888-738-2764.

Saturday, April 17, 18 and 24 — Gunston Hall

Special tours focusing on The Hunt for George Mason's Garden will be held these days. Tour guides will talk about the discoveries that have been unearthed in Gunston Hall's formal gardens. Tour times are 1:15, 2:15, 3:15, and 4:15 p.m. and are included in regular admission. Lunch is available during Garden Week for groups of 25 or more by reservation. For information, call the Catering Department at 703-339-0460.

April 17-May 2 — Mount Vernon

Special tours of Mount Vernon's gardens will be held during the annual Gardening Days at Mount Vernon, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. These tours feature the Gardens and Landscape guided walking tour which focuses on Washington's innovative landscape design and includes visits to the Upper Garden, or formal flower garden, the Lower Garden, or kitchen garden, and the Historic Greenhouse. There will also be a plant sale featuring garden implements, flowers, and heirloom seeds from George Washington's gardens at the annual tented Plant, Gift and Garden Sale in the Upper Garden.

On Sunday, April 18, at noon and 2 p.m., Martha Washington herb-recipe expert and owner of Common Folk Farm, Betsey-Ann Golon, will demonstrate the ingenuity of our nation's inaugural First Lady, Martha Washington. Gardening Days activities are included in regular admission.

For more information, call 703-780-2000; 703-799-8697 (TDD) or visit the website: www.mountvernon.org.

Thursday, April 22-24 — River Farm

The Friends of River Farm 2004 Plant Sale will be held at River Farm, 7931 E. Boulevard Dr. It will begin on April 22, from 5 to 8 p.m. with the AHS Members Only Pre-View Saleóbring your membership card or latest magazine for admittance. The public sale occurs on April 23, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and April 24, from 9 a.m. to3 p.m. The National Capitol Area Federation of Garden Clubs, District II Flower Show, titled "Creative Expressions with Flowers," will be held April 23, from 1 to 4 p.m., and April 24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 703-768-5700 or visit the website: www.ahs.org.