Colonial Gardens

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

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.

Colonial Garden In Late September

Colonial Garden In Late September

I was particularly delighted when we happened upon this next little garden at mid-morning.

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

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.

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

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.

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

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.

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

Planted in an out-of-the-way place, they were an unexpected and charming discovery for wandering visitors.

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

Colchicum at the Colonial Nursery

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.

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32 thoughts on “Colonial Gardens

  1. Christina

    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.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply
  2. Julie

    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.

    Reply
  3. Pauline

    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.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply
  4. Stephi

    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.

    Reply
  5. bittster

    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…

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      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.

      Reply

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