As Historic Garden Week marks a milestone, homes on the Lynnhaven showcase the joys of living indoors and out.
by Betsy DiJulio
On a 1-acre peninsula in a quiet Virginia Beach cove, Betty Villers freely combines naturalistic plantings with recycled building materials to create her piece of paradise.
Though gardens in Virginia can’t escape their historic formal and cottage-style roots in England and Colonial America, they are still shaped at least as much by the local landscape, native plants, and the personal preferences of the gardeners who brought them into existence.
More than 250 of these beautiful gardens, homes and world-class floral arrangements – representing more than 40 garden clubs from across the state – will be on display April 21 through 28 as a part of the 85th Historic Garden Week in Virginia.
Proceeds go to restore and preserve more than 40 historic Virginia gardens and landscapes, a research fellowship and a new “Centennial” initiative with state parks. The oldest garden week in the country, this spring ritual has run for more than eight decades and has in the past 45 years had an economic impact estimated at more than $425 million.
Hosted locally by the Princess Anne Garden Club and the Virginia Beach Garden Club, the event this year features seven homes on Great Neck Point. Bordered on the north by Long Creek and on the west and south by the Lynnhaven River, this tucked-away neighborhood near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, with its diverse architecture and coveted views of the large tidal estuary, is a former Chesopeian Indian encampment.
Representing opposite ends of the chronological spectrum are the dramatic mid-1990s home of Cindy and Rod Rodriguez, and the . The latter was constructed in the early 1700s by Keeling on land deeded to his father, Thomas, by King Charles I and is believed to be the second oldest home in Virginia Beach.
The Keeling House, aka “Ye Dudlies,” which has long been the home of Lynn and Glenn Carwell, is on the National Register of Historic Places. “Halfway up the brick path,” says Lynn, a Realtor and an artist who bought the home on her 50th birthday, “I knew I wanted this house.”
Architecturally, it is a fine example of the Georgian style, and is especially noteworthy for the chevron pattern of its brick headers. The bricks, as well as the oyster shell mortar, were made on site. In addition to a tasteful master bedroom and a solarium added by a previous owner, the two-story home’s 2,800 square feet include four bedrooms, one used as an office, and 2½ baths laid out in a central passage plan.
Wide-plank pine floors throughout most of the home are joined by stone in the solarium and tile in the baths. Twelve-foot ceilings downstairs, gable ceilings upstairs, and five fireplaces (two working) lend the home some of its considerable charm. A palette of white, butter yellow, burgundy and sage green on the plaster walls sets off the dark floors and fine woodwork, as well as the plentiful Oriental rugs.
Lynn and Glenn, a plastic surgeon, are avid travelers and have filled their home with treasures from their many trips snugged up next to “right many antiques,” family heirlooms and photos, natural objects, art, and lots of rabbits. “I like to keep things personal,” says Lynn, noting that, with a historic home, “your fear is that you turn it into Colonial Williamsburg.”
At one time, the garden reflected the previous owner’s passion for native plants, which Lynn says she has “let die a slow death.” But she does love to garden her way, tucking a sundial here and an urn or a millstone there.
With a commanding postmodern presence on Long Creek, the home of Cindy and Rod Rodriguez – treasurer and CEO, respectively, of Bay Mechanical Inc. – stands in direct contrast. Designed by Rod’s late brother, Arnold, of RRMM Architects, the home’s symmetry was inspired by Arnold’s design for Chesapeake City Hall. Rod had his doubts, but his brother assured him that he would be “20 years ahead of his time.”
The 10,000-square-foot home, with its black-and-white central marble foyer, grand staircase, and expansive windows, strikingly showcases the Rodriguez art collection. Bronzes from the 19th and 21st centuries, including a Frederic Remington and a model of Paul DiPasquale’s 31st Street King Neptune, are juxtaposed with bright jewel-toned paintings and art glass from the likes of Dale Chihuly.
Interior design by Uschi Butler features a vivid, unexpected and playful color scheme of teal, violet and peach, which joins Rod’s own design for his black and red kitchen with its German-made cabinetry and largely German appliances. Add spectacular views of the terrace, pool and Long Creek, and it is easy to see why this stunning home is the frequent site of philanthropic fundraisers.
Between these extremes of historic and postmodern are five more must-see homes that celebrate historic architecture, modern conveniences, natural and cultivated gardens in scenic coastal settings, and even restored vintage automobiles.
The stately home of Monique and Scott Adams employs a neutral palette of white, beige and gray inside and out to let the architecture, artwork and river views take center stage.
Bebe and Tom Edmonds will serve refreshments by their tranquil pool between 2 and 4 p.m. on the day of the tour. Their backyard seamlessly blends with the natural setting as banks of mixed borders of shrubs, grasses and perennials give way to river vegetation.
At the home of Stephanie and Joe McSweeney, 500 feet of gravel paths lead along their property’s edge, making the most of mature camellias and waterfront views. A rescued oyster-packing shed has become a boater’s landmark and treasured family gathering place.
Siobhan and Jimmy Miller rebuilt their dream home on the site of Jimmy’s family home, expanding its size to house family heirlooms – furnishings and a library – but preserving his mother’s greenhouse, where she still nurtures orchids.
Meanwhile, Betty and Jim Villers’ property marries her passion for master gardening and his passion for car collecting.
Taken together, these seven sites celebrate the diversity of indoor and outdoor living on the Lynnhaven.