By 11 a.m. last Saturday morning both parking lots were full, tour buses were lined up for nearly a mile, they were guiding arrivals onto the circle, and traffic was backed up on the Parkway. The cause of all this was Mount Vernon Estate's first Spring Garden Party.
Various activities were highlighted throughout the estate with the main attraction being a "tea" on the patio of the upper garden hosted by Martha Washington. She was joined by Lady Fairfax and her "dear good friend," Mrs. Craig, whose husband was a long-time advisor to General George Washington.
As the three women sat under a shade umbrella sipping tea and enjoying cookies, Mrs. Washington discussed her role in the American Revolutionary War. She also explained that although Lord Fairfax had remained faithful to the Crown of England her "friendship with Lady Fairfax had withstood their political differences."
This scene of the three women having tea and conversation surrounded by the colorful upper garden of Mount Vernon Estate was repeated four times Saturday and Sunday to the delight of visitors attending this initial Spring Garden Party. Adding to the 18th-century atmosphere was the music of Wendy Barlow and Bob Bellamy, who performed various selections on the harp and hammered dulcimer, respectively.
Serving as the opening event for Mount Vernon's Annual Gardening Days, there were a variety of venues throughout the estate that featured musical groups, games for children, a visit and wagon ride to the Pioneer Farm, and, as usual, a tour of the mansion. For the latter the line stretched from the entrance to the end of the bowling green by noon.
In addition to the various participatory events there were also demonstrations of period gardening techniques, herbalist practices by Betsy-Ann Golon based on recipes from Martha Washington's cookbook, and presentations on the development and operations of Mount Vernon Plantation under Washington's stewardship.
Featured in the garden shop was a new line of garden furniture inspired by historical furnishing and architectural elements at the estate. Designed by California based Terra Furniture Company, the various pieces replicate such things as the side chair from Washington's dining room and the elliptical "bulls eye" window from the mansion's third floor.
"Pieces from this collection are being used by Martha Washington at her tea parties this weekend. It is on display throughout the upper garden and on sale at The Shops," said Julia Mosley, director of retail, Mount Vernon Estate.
Constructed of cast and extruded aluminum, pieces are available in 20 designer finishes. Individual pieces range in price from $695 to $3,195.