An abstract painting by Robert Stuart is a focal point in the Neill and Bill Bellamy’s cozy library. Carpenter Paul Arnett matched the paneling, millwork and bookcases to the antique fireplace mantel and surround. The flowers are by members of the Boxwood Garden Club.
Sure as the dogwood and azalea bloom, Historic Garden Week is a true harbinger of spring in Virginia. From its humble beginning as a flower show organized by the Garden Club of Virginia in 1927, Historic Garden Week has grown to an eight-day statewide event featuring more than 250 private homes, gardens and historic landmarks. It’s the country’s oldest house and garden tour, and from April 26-28 in Richmond, it will take over Westover Hills, Windsor Farms and Monument Avenue.
Tours are organized by 47 regional garden clubs that operate as member clubs of the Garden Club of Virginia, with proceeds from Historic Garden Week going toward the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s public gardens. The event requires the work of about 3,400 volunteers each year, who do everything from selling tickets and shepherding guests through the tour homes to creating floral arrangements for each house on the tour.
“People think it is a garden tour, but it is so much more,” says Lisa Kunz, co-chair of the April 26 Windsor Farms tour and a member of James River Garden Club, one of four Garden Club of Virginia member clubs in Richmond. “It is dreamy to come in and see the flower [arrangements] and the gardens and the house looking so lovely at the same time.”
The floral arrangements created for the tours are a highlight, with each home featuring about six, Kunz says. “The goal is to have the flowers come from the gardens of the owners,” she says. “That is what makes it different from other flower events.”
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Looking to the stone and shingle homes of New England for inspiration, the late architect Michael Shearman designed the Bellamys’ home. Built in 2007, it blends well with the traditional architecture of Windsor Farms.
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A large porch off the kitchen overlooks a terraced lot and swimming pool. “I feel like our house really comes alive in late spring and summer,” says Neill Bellamy. “We open the pool, and plantings are at their best.”
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Soapstone countertops and a cherry island add character to a classic white kitchen. The pendants are from Visual Comfort, and the stools are from Ballard Designs. Members of the James River Garden Club created the market basket arrangement.
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Clarence House’s Flower Quince wallpaper adds graphic impact to the traditionally furnished dining room.
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Large windows flood the Bellamys’ home with light. The living room features a soft color palette and an eclectic mix of new and antique furniture collected by Neill. “There was no grand plan,” she says. “Things have come together over time.” The unique floral arrangement was created by members of the Three Chopt Garden Club.
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The first-floor master is painted in Sherwin-Williams Pearl Gray, a serene neutral with just a hint of color that sets the mood for a relaxing retreat.
Neill and Bill Bellamy will open their home during the tour of Windsor Farms on April 27. Built in 2007, the stone, shingle and clapboard house was designed and built by the late architect Michael Shearman to replace a small 1950s ranch that originally sat on the lot. “We loved the street and liked the idea of not having to fix someone else’s renovations,” Neill says. “We wanted to make a clean start in an old and great neighborhood.”
The custom-built house was inspired by the stone-and-shingle architecture where Bill grew up in Chappaqua, New York. “We didn’t want to build a traditional Georgian or colonial house,” Neill says. “This is clearly not out of a book, but we felt like it complemented the architecture of the neighborhood well.”
Building new meant the Bellamys could check off all the boxes on their dream-home list: first-floor master, 10-foot ceilings, a sloped lot that allowed a walk-out basement, an open floor plan, and generously proportioned rooms that accommodate large groups. At the same time, “We wanted something that did not look too new,” Neill says. “We wanted a traditional feel.” Substantial yet simple millwork throughout the home, a cozy paneled library with an antique mantel, and a paneled butler’s pantry add to the Old World charm of the new house.
Neill furnished the home herself, with help from friend Cindy Coppola, favoring mostly neutral colors accented with splashes of poppy and tangerine. It’s comfortable and inviting, yet elegant, with chinoiserie accents and a focus on original art, most of it from local artists. “It’s a mix of traditional impressionism and contemporary art,” she says. “When you buy what you like, it all comes together.”
The home features elevated porches that look out over the terraced property planted with crape myrtle, boxwood and perennials. The swimming pool and terrace are surrounded by roses, Limelight hydrangeas and Yoshino cherry trees. A stone fountain and outdoor dining area are located on the ground level. “I feel like our house really comes alive in late spring and summer,” Neill says. “We open the pool, and plantings are at their best.”
Historic Garden Week in Virginia
April 22-29, 2017
Windsor Farms Tour: Thursday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 day of the tour. For tickets and details on this and other tours, visitvagardenweek.org.
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Fabulous floral arrangements are a hallmark of Historic Garden Week. Richmond’s four Garden Club of Virginia member clubs created these arrangements for our shoot. Here, a French-style arrangement of hydrangea, ranunculus, tulips and stock by Ann Poarch and Peyton Wells of the Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton.
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A plate-glass container with submerged hellebores by Melinda Hardy and Jeanette McKittrick of Three Chopt Garden Club
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A market basket of organic vegetables and French tulips, all from tour sponsor Ellwood Thompson’s, created by Nell O’Neil and Betsy Trow of The James River Garden Club
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An arrangement of tulips and ranunculus in driftwood by Missy Buckingham and Janice Whitehead of the Boxwood Garden Club