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Garden Dedicated to Former Legislator

A garden is established to honor Dorothy S. McDiarmid, an advocate for children and education.

In her more than 30 years of service with the Virginia General Assembly, Dorothy S. McDiarmid focused on three passions to keep her happy: gardening, children and education.

As a fitting tribute, the Ayr Hill Garden Club last Friday morning dedicated a Children’s Discovery Garden in McDiarmid's memory.

“It was a real pleasure and privilege to do this for Dorothy,” said Vienna Council member Maud Robinson at the garden’s dedication ceremony Friday morning.

“This really was an incredible lady, and I don’t think we realized what we had in this garden club or in Vienna,” she said.

McDiarmid was one of the first women in the General Assembly in the 1950s, Robinson said, and “before we heard the term ‘glass ceiling,’ she broke through it."

“She wanted to do things on a broad humanitarian aspect. She helped to bring the kindergarten and community college programs to Virginia and was a driving force behind taking George Mason University to the forefront of education,” Robinson said.

“There would be no more fitting tribute to Dorothy,” she said.

Club member Nancy Keeran said that she remembered McDiarmid as a substitute teacher and neighbor.

“I remember how beautiful she was,” she said. “She was always a kind, gentle lady. No one would like the idea of a children’s garden better, and I’m sure she would’ve loved to come out here and work on it.”

“We could sit here for hours and talk about her 30 years in the legislature,” said McDiarmid’s daughter Mary McDiarmid.

“There was one statement made in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that said she looked like a little sweet grandmother but had the constitution of a linebacker, and she loved that,” McDiarmid said.

“She loved this town. She loved the commonwealth,” she said.

WHENEVER MARY McDiarmid was in town, her mother, who was a member of the Ayr Hill Garden Club for half a century, would attend garden club meetings and work in her own garden. “Whatever honors and awards she received, she was always proud to be a member of the garden club. I really think it was bedrock for her… the members were always her friends.”

Mary McDiarmid told the 20 or so people gathered at the dedication ceremony of the time shortly following a mastectomy in the 1960s that she’d come to visit her mother, only to find her out pruning a tree.

“'Well, I thought I might as well do something productive while I’m recovering,’ she said, and I just couldn’t believe it,” Mary McDiarmid said, among laughs from the crowd.

Mayor M. Jane Seeman was assisted in cutting the ceremonial ribbon by the kindergarten class from Parkwood Elementary School, who also sang a song and were the first children officially allowed in the garden.

The two “M” shaped structures that contain the garden were made by Christopher Holdaway, who took on the garden as an Eagle Scout project and spent 200 hours cutting and assembling the timbers for the garden.

“The garden was planted this year, but the timbers were put in place last fall," said garden club president Ann Stuntz.

“It’s so cute, and I’m so excited about it,” she said of the garden.

The garden has been in bloom since the summer, and she was delighted that her 11-year-old son and his friends even showed interest in the flowers, Stuntz said.

“They were all over it. They were so silly,” she said.

The plants in the garden were carefully selected to make sure nothing poisonous was included, she said.

“The garden contains a mix of perennials and some annuals,” Stuntz said. “Some of the plants will self-seed and come back, but we’ll fill it in with annuals."

“The garden was designed as a place where kids could run through,” Mary McDiarmid said. “Most of the plants have wonderful names and colors, and there are lots of herbs and things that, if they picked off a leaf, it would be safe for them to eat,” she said.

“I think she’d be so touched by this,” she said.

Dorothy McDiarmid’s granddaughter Jennifer McDiarmid came in for the dedication from Boulder, Colo., with her 5-month-old son, Samuel.

“The garden club built and planted this wonderful garden for my grandmother. It was the least I could do to come out,” she said.

“I remember her working in her garden, dirty hands up to the elbows,” she said of her grandmother.

She has a garden of her own in Colorado, “but ours is in the high desert, so it’s completely different. There are a few plants here that remind me of home, so my kids can come here and see things they know,” she said.