We spent a few days in colonial Williamsburg (restored 18th-century capital of colonial Virginia) this week and of course, I wanted to see the many gardens that sit nestled behind and beside the homes and shops in the historic district.
At one such spot a gardener was tidying and cutting back some of the spent flowers. She remarked a bit apologetically the gardens were not at their best, but rather were transitioning, caught at an in-between stage. Nonetheless, I felt the plantings offered plenty to enjoy. In that very garden was this red spectacle of a flower, which I think is Celosia cristata (Cockscomb), underplanted with white Gomphrena.
I was particularly delighted when we happened upon this next little garden at mid-morning.
Last year I planted 5 or 6 Lycoris radiata (spider lily) bulbs, but in early fall the foliage emerged without the plants having flowered. This year not even the foliage returned. My grandmother grew spider lilies and I always associate them fondly with her.
So to be able to lift the latch on the gate from the street and step into this sea of calm green and lively red was sheer indulgence.
My husband and I were alone in the small, quiet garden. Summer finally letting go, the air was cool and crisp, the sunlight soft and warm. Being here was a lovely, private morning meditation.
Further down the street at the Colonial Nursery’s eighteen century display garden and sales shop, these flowers were tucked into a back corner behind a small hedge. Colchicum, I believe.
Planted in an out-of-the-way place, they were an unexpected and charming discovery for wandering visitors.
Note: To learn more this Gardens Brochure is a good starting place. Colonial Williamsburg has information about the history and design of the gardens (use the menu on the left for viewing more garden topics). In the Related Info section on the right-hand side there are more articles and slideshows.
this sounds a lot of fun Susie; do I understand correctly that the private gardens were open for anyone to visit; that sounds a really charming idea. The spider lilies growing up through the deep green ground cover is so simple yet visually very exciting.
It was fun, just a leisurely get-away. All of the gardens are maintained by Colonial Williamsburg and are open to the public (no admission ticket required). Some buildings though are private residences so it feels at first like you’re wandering through someone’s back yard. Many of the buildings are open to the public (with admission ticket). There is a mix of homes, historic shops featuring trades and crafts, taverns, etc. They are just finishing up a new market and the tradespeople spent the last couple of years making the bricks, nails, fashioning the beams, the lanterns and everything. The gardens at the Governor’s Palace are extensive while some are small like the one where we saw the spider lilies, but they’re all researched.
I’m not sure I could live with such a restricted planting scheme, but it was so lovely I’d be tempted to try.
I added some links for you.
I can see why you like the spider lilies – they are so charming rising from the deep green foliage in an otherwise very, very restrained garden
Yes, that restraint in planting design is interesting Matt and I just love that red frilly flower.
Beautiful. I love Williamsburg.
I do too Cindy. We’ve been there a lot but there’s always something new to discover.
Your words are beautiful Susie as are your photographs, I love the thought of a private meditation, for me thats a feeling I only have in a garden.
Thanks so much Julie. There is a special quality to being in a garden. It’s hard to put into words.
Love the spider lilies, they look so good with the dark ground cover and the Colchicum are always a surprise to me here as the foliage dies down in the summer before the flowers pop up.
Oh, good, so that is Colchicum! I have only seen it on garden blogs before. That’s interesting that the foliage is done before flowering, whereas the spider lily’s habit is the opposite, with foliage following.
It has been years since we visited there so enjoyed the post and the photos of the beautiful gardens. 🙂
Judy, glad you enjoyed this Col. Williamsburg post. The gardens are always different each time we visit and we always discover something new.
Lycoris is such a wonderful group of plants. Thanks for sharing your views of what I believe is a national treasure.
Guess I should try again to grow Lycoris. They are lovely. I guess CW has its critics John but we’ve always enjoyed it there.
It’s been years since I’ve visited Williamsburg, but I’ve always loved it. Thanks for sharing your visit. The cockcomb would look beautiful in your borders, don’t you think?
Thanks for verifying the cockscomb Marian. It’s not something I’d have thought to grow but yes, maybe it would be a nice addition. CW gardens had lots of lantana (even standards at the Gov. Palace!) and marigolds, ageratum and such.
I haven’t been back to CW for a couple decades!!! Took the children there and loved the gardens then. It night be time for a return visit without children!
Hi Jayne, there are a lot of activities for kids these days at CW, much more so than when we took our daughter. But yes, you’d probably enjoy a return trip. I have followed your blog and am looking forward to reading your blog.
Certainly looks like prime time to me.
Yes, I agree. There were lots of things to admire.
We were in Williamsburg last spring visiting William and Mary and the gardens everywhere in the area were so impressive. I wish I had more time to spend there just wandering about and soaking it in. Enjoyed your pictures.
Stephi, spring would have been a wonderful season to visit Williamsburg.W&M campus always looks inviting too but I’ve never explored it.
These flowers are so vibrant! We visited this spring when we were nearby for the Daffodil Society meeting. This area is lovely: it was a very memorable trip.
The Daffodil Society sounds intriguing. I’ll have to look that up. Thanks for commenting.
They are a very nice group of people. I only met them that one time.
The Spider lilies are a ‘Wow’ plant. I haven’t come across them here.
Aren’t they terrific? I agree–very wow!
What perfect timing for you, maybe a few gardens were “in transition” but the lycoris are something else! I’d agree that it might be a plain garden for the rest of the year, but the blooms coming up through a simple groundcover would be something one could easily duplicate on a smaller scale.
If it makes you fell better I also have trouble getting lycoris (the hardy pink ones though) to settle in. I see them around, but mine quickly give up the ghost…
The lycoris were absolutely a highlight of the trip. Sorry yours didn’t make it either. I think some helpful moles/voles have redesigned a lot of my garden plans this year.
The Lycoris looks fantastic against the background of deep green ivy. I have never been to Williamsburg, we have to make a point of going there some day.
Williamsburg is interesting. We have been a lot and always find something new to enjoy. The person who portrays Thomas Jefferson (Bill Barker) is extremely knowledgeable. Gardens are nice but rather hit or miss.