Peek beyond the garden gates of six homes in Virginia and Maryland. On Saturday, June 5, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., stroll through a woodland garden and visit a "spirit house," or just smell the roses. It is all a part of the National Capital Area Federation of Garden Clubs’ 2004 Garden Tour featuring the meticulously landscaped properties of Federation members and plant society friends.
The garden of Robin and Sam Rentsch holds a number of surprises, not the least of which is a giant Israeli carp named Jonah, which has been swimming in the pond for nearly 15 years. The garden is constructed primarily of native plants that thrive in the myriad conditions of this garden. There are low-lying wetlands by the pond, an extensive shade garden on one side of the house, and a long path of sun-loving native plantings bordering pastural land.
The Rentsches have spent the last several years expanding the garden and finding what works in each zone of the yard. At this time of year, many of the blooming plants, such as peonies, have passed their prime, but there are still numerous varieties to enjoy, such as the native honeysuckle blooming pink and irises surrounding the natural pond.
Located at 718 Springvale Road in Great Falls the garden of Robin and Sam Rentsch is dedicated to preserving habitat for wildlife. Robin "wants people to see the possibilities of native plants and species diversity — that the garden can look smashing as well as benefit wildlife." The focal point of the quest to integrate diverse native plants into the landscape is the pond area. Here nectar plants and berry shrubs are combined, and they are all native. Look among the pickerel for the resident bullfrog. Also noteworthy, native thalia dialbata, marsh marigold, arrow arum, iris versicolor, marsh hibiscus and Virginia iris. This lovely 5-acre property proves "native" doesn't mean "wild and unkempt."
PARKING FOR THE ASH GARDEN tour is at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 10550 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls. In 1981, Ellen and Allie Ash designed and built their contemporary home on a 5-acre lot. A large perennial garden and extensive landscaping surrounded the house, including a fishpond with a cascading waterfall. Later a pool and pool house were added, and the landscaping expanded to include a conifer garden, a rose collection, and a small vegetable garden. Of special interest is the woodland garden with landscaped trails through mature oaks, hickories, native American hollies, azaleas, rhododendrons and pieris. Enjoy the garden room with its softly splashing water and inviting benches. An additional treat is provided in the garage area, where the visitor will find several Ferraris on display.
OTHER GARDENS include:
The Davidson Garden, 11259 Stones Throw Drive, Reston. In March 1999, 13 bare-root, hardy shrub roses arrived at the Davidson property. Today the breeze is infused with the aroma of almost 150 roses. As if this were not enough, about 60 tons of rock were added to create zigzag paths that lead from the top of the garden to a wide plane below. The pathway is edged with perennial borders featuring Japanese iris, sedum, callicarpa and roses. Be sure to walk the grass paths and smell the roses.
The Shannon Garden, 7908 Fenway Road, Potomac. This half-acre property began 20 years ago as a wooded lot, which grew into a woodland garden. With the loss of some of the trees, the woodland has evolved into a series of lightly shaded gardens dappled with sunlight. The pathways lead through areas of grasses, sedges and plants selected for interesting foliage. Special features include a millstone water feature, a Thai-style pavilion and a "spirit house."
The Barclay Garden, 11600 River Road, Potomac. An American cottage garden wraps around the 1830s farmhouse. This 5-acre property combines plantings of old-fashioned perennials and more modern cultivars. Informal and idiosyncratic, a hornbeam hedge defines a garden room behind the house. Sumptuous and inviting, this room is constructed of massive, rough-hewn columns and cross beams. A stonewall on one side defines the room. The pocket herb garden is just around the corner from the outdoor kitchen. The kitchen divides a new vegetable garden from a walled garden. There are David Austin roses everywhere.
The Fairchild Garden, 4603 Tourney Road, Bethesda. A small, colorful patio garden is surrounded by a white picket fence and packed with a variety of perennials. This garden is a lesson in container gardening. Every part of the compact space is designed to require a minimum of work and give total enjoyment.
Tickets will be $15 on the day of the tour and may be purchased at any property. Tickets in advance of the tour are $12 and may be purchased by sending a check payable to NCAFGC and a stamped No. 10, self-addressed envelope to Jane Goodman, 8310 Lilac Lane, Alexandria, VA 22308. For additional information, call 703-938-2826. Visit the NCAFGC Web site at http://ncafgardenclubs.org.