Founded in 1651, historic Gloucester was part of the Virginia Colony and named for Henry Stuart, the Duke of Gloucester, who was the 3rd son of Charles the 1st of England. It lies at the end of a large peninsula bordered by the Rappahannock River to the north, the York River to the south, and the Chesapeake Bay. The fishing industry has been very important to Gloucester, but so has agriculture. The first daffodils arrived with the colonists in the 1600’s, thrived in the rich soils, and became naturalized. Gloucester is the home of famous daffodil and bulb specialist Brent Heath, of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, a featured attraction on the Gloucester Garden Tour. Their display garden covers several acres and includes bulbs of all kinds liberally used in a diverse landscape setting with other choice flowering trees, conifers, woody plants, and perennials. Adjacent to the business and garden center is a well-labeled “catalogue garden” where they grow all of the bulbs listed for sale so visitors can see and compare varieties.
On this tour we will be able to visit four other gardens since they are all situated in close proximity to one another. There are two smaller private gardens near the town of Gloucester belonging to avid rhododendron and azalea hobbyists. One is the home of native azalea enthusiast Jim Brant and his wife Pam. He has used a variety of plants in the landscape design around this traditional suburban home but he has other garden areas including a woodland dell that features many azaleas including a collection of McDonald hybrids. Very close to the Brant garden is the home and garden of former ARS Executive Director, Barbara Hall, and her husband Al. They have many choice azaleas, rhododendrons, wildflowers, and perennials, but also look for humorous sculptures and touches of whimsy throughout the landscape. The other two gardens are larger properties with historic homes on the waterfront near Ware Point. The garden of landscape designer Sue Perrin is more traditional with broad perennial borders, azaleas, evergreens, and woody shrubs, but also occasional humorous accents. The garden of Cam Williams is delightfully whimsical with a deluxe outhouse that is also known as a “necessary,” an exterior building that contains a tiled spa and showers where she can bathe her Golden Retrievers, and a reconstructed ruin in the woods that is the entrance to her “Secret Garden” where visitors might find evidence of magical happenings including large mushrooms, elves, and fairies.