April 19-25, 2002
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Restored West Pavilion Gardens turn 50

Historic Bolivar artifacts donated in honor of Jefferson-era connection
Hot Links -- Garden Week
Restored West Pavilion Gardens turn 50
Pink dogwoods planted on Founder’s Day to mark occasion
Photo by Stephanie Gross
Bessie Carter (with shovel) and Mina Wood (right), both of the Garden Club of Virginia, helped plant a pink dogwood tree last Friday to honor the late Alden Hopkins, who designed and supervised the restoration of the pavilion gardens. U.Va. President John T. Casteen III (center) called the gardens “a source of delight for generations. … For this work, we owe Hopkins and the Garden Club a debt of gratitude.”

By Lee Graves

When Thomas Jefferson looked out on the site for his University, he saw only a “disused cornfield rising high and dry by itself, without any obstructions in the way of trees or bushes.”

Now the Grounds are lush with gardens, and on April 12 two more trees were planted in a Founder’s Day ceremony that honored a turning point in the greening of U.Va.

President John T. Casteen III joined representatives of the Garden Club of Virginia and other officials in observing the 50th anniversary of the opening of the West Pavilion Gardens. Shovelfuls of dirt were placed around two freshly planted pink dogwoods in honor of the late Alden Hopkins, who designed and supervised the gardens’ restoration.

“[The gardens] have been a source of delight for generations,” Casteen said, standing between the dogwoods during a brief respite from Friday’s rain. “For this work we owe Alden Hopkins and the Garden Club of Virginia a debt of gratitude.”

Hopkins, renowned for his work in Williamsburg, was selected as the landscape architect when the Garden Club offered to restore the University’s gardens in 1948. He oversaw work on the gardens until his death in 1960; his assistant, Donald Parker, completed restoration plans for the East Gardens.

Friday’s ceremony actually was held in the East Gardens at Pavilion VIII, because the two dogwoods were planted to replace trees that died recently, said Mary V. Hughes, the University’s landscape architect.

She noted that until the West Pavilion Gardens’ dedication in 1952, they were off-limits to the public.

“Since then many people in Charlottesville have made walking through them part of their weekly, or even daily, routine,” Hughes said. “So they’ve gone from a private amenity to a public resource that we too often take for granted.”

Garden Club members Bessie Carter, Lucy Ellett and Mina Wood weren’t taking them for granted. After performing their shoveling duties, they walked westward across the Lawn to the garden behind Pavilion I and admired the tulips rising to their peak in the mid-April mist. Carter commented that the flowers were the precise ones specified by Hopkins in his original design.

“We are very proud of the combined effort of Mary Hughes working with Will Rieley to take the garden back to the original Alden Hopkins design,” Carter said. Rieley is an adjunct professor in landscape architecture and consultant with the Garden Club.

Carter and her companions praised the meticulous maintenance, but Hughes said the state budget crunch will affect her ability to hire seasonal help, usually students, during the summer.

“This summer we won’t be able to hire any,” Hughes said. “That makes it hard to keep up the elaborate maintenance of these plants.” The University is in the process of raising money through the Historic Gardens and Grounds Endowment. “Our hope is that such an endowment will buffer the gardens from the kind of maintenance cutbacks that we anticipate in the current budget crisis.”

The gardens will be in tiptop shape, however, when the University observes Historic Garden Week April 20-27. The Pavilion Gardens will be featured April 23 as part of a larger focus on the gardens of Monticello and Charlottesville April 20-24.

For information, see Hot Links.


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