April 11-24, 2003
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Pavilion III Garden gets facelift

Pavilion III Garden gets facelift

Here, a student works on a project for her art class.
Photo by Peggy Harrison
Here, a student works on a project for her art class.

By Elizabeth Kiem

Last year, the West Pavilion Gardens celebrated 50 years of life in the public eye. This year, they will receive some much-needed maintenance after a half-century under the public’s foot.

“The gardens have been much used and loved. Fifty-one years of wear and tear needs to be repaired,” said U.Va. landscape architect Mary Hughes.

The garden behind Pavilion III will be off-limits while crews work to restore it to its 1952 state, when it was first opened to visitors.

The half-century-old landscaping, designed by the late Alden Hopkins and funded by the Garden Club of Virginia, was intended to reflect the horticultural preferences and availabilities of Jefferson’s time.

Will Rieley, a former U.Va. architecture professor and member of the Arboretum Committee, is the contracted landscape architect of the Garden Club. While he is relying almost exclusively on Hopkins’ original designs to restore the gardens, he stresses that the vision is ultimately Jefferson’s.

“Hopkins is quite clear in saying they were ‘garden interpretations’ of the time,” Rieley said of the Hopkins blueprints. “It’s a wonderfully honest and clear overview of his intentions. We’re going to be as faithful as we practically can be.”

Photo by Chris Myers
Pavilion III garden, above, will be closed for the next few months to undergo much-needed maintenance after a half-century of foot traffic. U.Va.’s nine other pavilion gardens, such as the one at left in the east gardens, will be open for recreation and study.

The small trees planted by Hopkins a half century ago have grown, creating root structures and shaded areas that must be worked with. Other plants and shrubs currently found in the garden are interlopers that have found hospitality in the peculiar microclimate of the serpentine walls. These vegetative newcomers will be removed.

“Wherever we can, we are trying to be faithful to the letter, and where we can’t be, faithful to the spirit,” said Rieley.

In Pavilion III, spiritual fidelity includes new drain inlets, entrance ramps for the handicapped and repaired brick walks. An arch in the western wall will be removed, and the original shrubs will be replanted. The overseers say these seemingly humble improvements will prove larger than the sum of their parts.

“It will be quite a dramatically different-looking garden when we get finished,” promised Hughes.

April 22 U.Va. Celebrates Historic Garden Week

Visitors will step through the gates of more than 250 of Virginia’s gardens, homes and historic landmarks during historic garden week April 19-27.

Visitors will step through U.Va.’s gates and pavilions Tuesday, April 22 — the day it participates in this event.

Entering its 70th season, Historic Garden Week is the oldest and largest statewide house and garden tour event in the nation. Tours benefit the restoration of important historic grounds throughout the state.

Schedule of garden week tours:


Hughes said the restoration, a $150,000 endeavor to be funded with donations from the Jefferson Circle and donated labor from the Garden Club, is meant as a showcase for the more ambitious project of restoring all the Pavilion Gardens. She hopes that when work behind the Harmon residence is completed, the refurbished Jeffersonian botanical garden will help sell donors on the idea of a full-fledged endowment for the Pavilion Gardens.

“Over the years, the gardens have suffered from a waxing and waning of the University budget,” said Hughes. “We can’t afford, as they move into their second half-century and beyond, to have them suffer from that lack of attention. A garden just doesn’t recover from that.”

Hughes said a $5 million endowment would protect the gardens by providing permanent staffing and maintenance. A well-trained staff, she added, would allow the University to provide educational programs for the community, much as Monticello offers.

“We try to look at it a little bit more holistically than just garden restoration,” said Naomi Allison, who heads up the garden endowment project in the Office of Development. “We’re looking at it more in the long-term.”

Currently, U.Va. has secured about $1.5 million in funds.

“Once that endowment is in place, there will always be an income stream to take care of those issues,” said Allison, referring to the constant need to replace plantings, benches and gates. “It’s so the gardens can be taken care of in perpetuity.”

Rieley estimates that the repair work on the walls and gradings will take a few months, after which landscapers will begin the new plantings.

If all goes as planned, by fall the Pavilion III garden will be as good as … new.


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