Stop and smell the roses

Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Keeping up with the Joneses is never an easy task.

But with some of Suffolk’s finest homes and gardens open to the public on Friday, you may just come away with a bit of neighborly envy.

On Friday, five Suffolk homes and two Suffolk gardens will open their doors and gates when the Virginia Historic Garden Week tour comes through the city.

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“People can get wonderful ideas for their own gardens and homes,” said Nansemond River Garden Club Chairman, Jodi Browne. “It’s an event that takes us a year to put together, but it is very exciting for us to share some of the beautiful homes and gardens Suffolk has.”

This year will be the Historic Garden Week’s 77th anniversary, making it the oldest and largest statewide home and garden tour event in the nation. During the week, more than 250 homes and gardens will be open to the public to benefit the restoration of important historic grounds and gardens throughout the state.

“Some past funds have gone to help restore local history,” Browne said. “Saint Luke’s Church in Smithfield was restored thanks to the Garden Club of Virginia.”

Suffolk’s tour, hosted by the Nansemond River and Elizabeth River garden clubs, will feature the gardens of Mr. and Mrs. Richard F. Barry III and Mr. and Mrs. William W. Pinkham, and the homes of Dr. and Mrs. William H. May, Mr. and Mrs. James Leslie Hall, Mr. Michael and Ms. Elizabeth Hopkins and Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Tillman.

“It’s neat to see how people bring different personalities and tastes into decorating,” Browne said. “We have a butterfly garden at one home. The Pinkhams’ garden is on six acres — all done by gardening professionals — and the Barrys’ garden demonstrates the ecological way it was planted to withstand water erosion. The Hall home mimics the Turks and Caicos. The Hopkins home has wine-country flair, and the May home has memoirs from all the different places they’ve traveled.”

A home belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Lemuel Lewis was scheduled for tour but had to close its doors after construction vehicles, which were repairing damage caused by a nor’easter, severely damaged the landscape.

For those on tour, refreshments will be offered at the Barry and Pinkham gardens from 2 to 3 p.m.

Other opportunities available include lunch at Vintage Tavern, which is not normally open for lunch, and Cedar Point Country Club, which is not normally open to the public, and a wine and cheese social and gardening workshops at Smithfield gardens from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Each year we get about 400 to 500 people come through,” Browne said. “It’s a huge event and a great opportunity. I don’t think people realize they have neighbors that are as passionate as they are about their gardens. It’s great to let people see that.”

To purchase single-day tickets to tour the homes and gardens, visit Smithfield Gardens, A. Dodson’s or the Suffolk Visitor’s Center.