More Progress

04/01/13 11:30 PM

Landscape Plan dating back to the restoration in 2003. This will give you an idea of the lay of the grounds at Belle Grove. We aren't using all these ideas, just some.

Landscape Plan dating back to the restoration in 2003. This will give you an idea of the lay of the grounds at Belle Grove. We aren’t using all these ideas, just some.

Tomorrow we head back to the plantation… YAY!

We are meeting with the landscape contractor we have selected to help us turn Belle Grove Plantation back into the showplace it once was. I was very excited to find out that the person who is going to help us design the landscape is a licensed horticulturist. She is able to tell us what we have and how to best use it. She is also able to help us know what we need and what will look best. I am very excited!

Our goal is to use as many Virginia native plants as possible. We have several trees, but sadly a few are going to have to go. We are going to try and preserve as many ancient trees that we can.

Trees on the Bowling Green

Trees on the Bowling Green

But we have to look at the placement and remove those that might threaten the house. We have one just in front of the front entry. If a good wind came along, it could end up in the front hallway. So we are going to have to sacrifice this one. I don’t think I can be there when they do it though. After doing so much research and knowing about how long it has been there, I would be in tears as it came down. But don’t worry. It won’t be going far. The tree is large enough that we can have it milled to make boards to use on the Smokehouse or Summer Kitchen. So it won’t be gone, just changed in form.

The Tree that will need to be removed is to the right of the horse and buggy.1906

The Tree that will need to be removed is to the right of the horse and buggy.

The Bowling Green looking toward Mansion1906

The Bowling Green looking toward Mansion

So what kind of plants would you recommend? I love crepe myrtles. I am looking to use them around the Bowling Green (the large circle of grass on the Carriage side of the house). I also love flowering plants and want to use ones that will keep the yard filled all year around if possible. We are also looking at putting in a Formal Walking Garden. In the center of this garden will be a smaller version of Montpelier’s Temple. It is our way of remembering James Madison in the yard. It will also be a great place to take wedding pictures!

3D Drawing of grounds ideas dating back to 2003We are not going to follow all the ideas, but use it as a starting point.

3D Drawing of grounds ideas dating back to 2003
We are not going to follow all the ideas, but use it as a starting point.

Here is a copy of the landscape plan that was done back in 2003. This was just an idea of what they were thinking about doing. Β The walking garden at the Riverside of the house isn’t going in at that place. We are thinking of moving it to the right of the house behind the garage area. This will leave open the grounds between the house and the river. We want this to be a three terrace step from the main grounds to the bluff over looking the water. It will also leave space for weddings at the Riverside with a view of the river and wooded area across the river. It is so beautiful.

If you look to the left of the house, you will see a pool. The three buildings around the pool are the three 1790s outbuildings, the Smokehouse, Ice House and Summer Kitchen. The pool isn’t there yet. Right now, there is only open ground. Under that open ground is an older inground pool that runs from the side of the house to the Ice House. But it was filled in for some reason years ago. So before we can put in the new pool, we will have to dig up the old one and remove it.

Current area around Outbuildings

Current area around Outbuildings

The pier you see at the waters edge isn’t there either. There use to be pier there many years ago. In fact I was told by a local man that he use to come to Belle Grove to swim in the pool with the owners son. He would travel from his plantation home downstream up to Belle Grove by boat. We hope in the future to add that pier back. It would be a great place for guests to get down to the water’s edge to watch the birds or do some fishing.

The trees around the Bowling Green aren’t all there yet either. Those will be the crepe myrtles that I love. This will be my touch on Belle Grove that came from my heart. There are also more trees on the Bowling Green that aren’t showing on this plan.

Trees that are still on the Bowling Green -picture date - 19061. Tree to be removed 2. Maple 3. Elm 4. Hickory

Trees that are still on the Bowling Green -picture date – 1906
1. Tree to be removed 2. Maple 3. Elm 4. Hickory

As you can see, we have a lot to talk over and a lot of work ahead of us! Our first task is driveway, sidewalks and grading. We also need to get some drainage work done on the guttering system. Right now it just comes down at the base of the house. This isn’t good for the foundation or the basement that dates back to the Conway period (1670 to 1790).

Whew.. just talking about it, I am already tired. But it will be a labor of love for us. And just think of the wonderful artifacts we are going to find! I can’t wait to get my hands dirty! Anyone what to come “play”?

To see more picture of Belle Grove Plantation

Please visit our Facebook Β Page!

Facebook Link

We have also created a new “ABOUT BELLE GROVE PLANTATION” page!

Located just under the “About Us” page on the left hand column!

Scroll Divider

Don’t forget to enter the “First Annual Official Cookie of Belle Grove Plantation” Cookie Contest!

Just Click on James Madison for entry information and rules!

Cookie Contest 2013

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 54 Comments »

54 Comments on “More Progress”

  1. John Says:

    This is such a fascinating era for me, the 1930’s way back to the 1200’s. Both here and in England. The old photos are great.

  2. Those are just the tip of the iceberg! I am trying to get the next chapter written for the early 1900s at Belle Grove. I have several pictures, but I am missing some historic information. Research on this owner has been really hard to come by. But I have someone trying to help me find it.

  3. vanbraman Says:

    Wow, you have a lot of work to do. I am sure that it will look beautiful when you are finished.

  4. I hope so! I can’t wait until it gets started.

  5. Reblogged this on Simon Sundaraj-Keun.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing our blog with your readers! We really appreciate it!

  7. Lynda Says:

    You asked for thoughts, and I’m willing to share them! πŸ˜‰

    For blooming native trees, why not consider Dogwoods and Redbuds? Highly decorative and they can live in partial shade as an understory tree. And you simply must have a kitchen garden! How wonderful would it be to harvest fresh herbs and other delights to serve to your guests in season! Oh, and did you consult with a certified arborist on that tree you are planning to remove? If the tree is not diseased, you may be able to thin and properly prune it to prevent its falling over in high winds. If its been there this long and still healthy, then why not keep it if you can?

    That’s my .02 cents. Oh, and I would LOVE to come and play, but you are too far from me… πŸ™

  8. All great suggestions. And let’s not forget the holly bushes for winter color. Those red berries are beauties!

  9. You should see our Holly Tree in the Bowling Green! I was looking at it today and just couldn’t believe hope beautiful it is. Thank you for your suggestion!

  10. We love Dogwoods, but there is a disease that seems to get them here in our area. I haven’t thought of Redbuds, but they sound wonderful! We have already made plans to put in a kitchen garden! We must have some fresh herbs for our guests! We also have a arborist on hand to help with the trees. We are going to try to keep them if we can, but some need to go. And no worries about your .02 cents! We value your opinion! It through readers like you that we find new ideas and remind us of things we have forgotten about. πŸ™‚

  11. combs2jc Says:

    One of the many interests I have is woodcarving. If you would like, I could carve one of the boards from that tree at the entrance into a sign or maybe a relief of the house. Just an idea, another way to preserve the historic tree even after it is gone.

  12. I must say I love this idea. Good thinking.

  13. I am going to look into it. If isn’t need to costly, we may be able to do it. Of course since we are opening a new place, money is tight at the second. πŸ˜‰

  14. Oooo, we would love to have you do some. Please email me at and let me know where you are and what kind of cost it would be. Thank you so much!

  15. combs2jc Says:

    will do

  16. Dianna Says:

    A major undertaking, for sure. The old pictures are great. And I, too, love crape myrtles. It’s the official tree of our county!

  17. It’s going to be a lot of fun! We can’t wait!

  18. Amy Says:

    The old pictures are precious! I love crepe myrtles, Dosen’t it take major trim each year to get the beautiful blooms?
    It take great passion to do what you do!

  19. We have tons more of those pictures to show soon. We are coming up on that part of the history. We have had crepe myrtles that we haven’t done any major trimming and they bloom wonderful. Beside we have a caretaker for that part πŸ˜‰ Thank you!

  20. Amy Says:

    😳 I meant it takes… Sorry about that.

  21. No worries! πŸ˜‰

  22. Amy Says:

    just ignore or delete the earlier reply… πŸ˜•

  23. πŸ™‚

  24. Glad to hear you are working with a horticulturist. Consider using lots of blooming shrubs and small trees, which are less work than herbaceous plants. Also think carefully about color scheme (of blooms) in key areas where wedding photos might be taken.

  25. Thank you! We talked today to her and that was one of my major concerns. I want the wedding pictures to be breath taking. πŸ˜‰

  26. Jane Sadek Says:

    Ya gotta have some magnolias – aren’t magnolias synonymous with plantation? And those old favorites – Azaleas, camellias and gardenias?

  27. Jane, we have two already. And I love the other three! They are on my list! Thank you!

  28. terry1954 Says:

    I can only imagine a grand place becoming a starry splendor. I would go for hearty plants that stand tall, representing the strength of this home. bold colors representing the lives that have lived and lots of greenery, representing the monies you will take in from all of the new visitors

  29. You are such a hoot! Brett laughed at your last part today! Thank you!

  30. I will have to make plans to come visit – the plantation is absolutely beautiful!

  31. Thank you so much! We do hope you will stop by and see us!

  32. Love the old photos…and I would love to see you plant a few Magnolias…cheers

  33. Thank you! We do have two already, right in the front of the house. They are just beautiful!

  34. Dawn Says:

    Can you donate the wood from those magnificent trees to a local woodworker? Imagine what could be made from them.
    Gorgeous old plans and so much to look forward to in the time ahead. πŸ™‚

  35. We have had someone ask already, so we would love to see what he can do with them. We just don’t want to lose them from the plantation. They are still part of its history. Thank you! We have more coming soon! We are getting to that part of the history. πŸ˜‰

  36. If you must plant trees along the carriageway try pin oaks. They grow rapidly and that’s what they used at Gunston Hall at the front entrance. The line of trees looks like its 100’s of years old. And they have the requisite box hedges and anilmals the last time I was there. I like chickens running loose. Dianne

  37. I haven’t heard of Pin Oaks before. Now I have to do some research! I will also have to check out Gunston Hall too! Thank you!

  38. jo11anne Says:

    Your enthusiasm for restoration of the property is catching, and I’m so glad you are going to have the advice of a licensed horticulturist. What a great project – it will keep you occupied for years – and I hope that one day I will be able to visit the plantation myself.

  39. Thank you so much! We are so excited to see it develop and become the showplace it was before. We do hope to see you some day at the plantation!

  40. colmel Says:

    FORSYTHIA!!! This is a terrific perennial that can either be held in check by pruning or allowed to take off and grow into large, intersecting beauties. They bloom so early in the spring, they bring sunshine color and new life to even a barren landscape. I always get a happy, hopeful feeling when I see the forsythia begin to bloom – even up here in Michigan – because I know spring and more flowers are just around the corner.

  41. I don’t think I have thought of those. Now I need to do some research on them! Thank you for the suggestion!

  42. I can tell this is going to be a special place. As you may remember I am from Virginia and I would love to donate a copy of my book, “The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host; Becoming the Perfect Guest” for your opening. I think you will enjoy and appreciate the classic, beautiful design of the book and for sure appreciate the subject! Let me know if you would like a copy. Best regards. (And don’t forget winter color. Red berries are divine.)

  43. Oh wow that would be so wonderful! You know we have a library that we are working on filling. You are in the DC area right? If so, we would love to have you come down to the plantation for a private tour soon. If you are interested, please email me at

  44. I would love that. I will be in touch.

  45. Thank You!

  46. Chuck Ring Says:

    Don’t know where you folks find the time to keep up with it all, but I’m happy you have perseverance and dedication!

  47. Thank you Chuck, but we are about to drop right now from all that we did today….whew! πŸ˜‰

  48. jericho777 Says:

    Reblogged this on Jericho777's Blog.

  49. How exciting.Going native is always the best idea. Flowering trees also add a lot in the spring. Looking forward to seeing your progress with the landscaping.

  50. Thank you so much for the suggestions! We are taking all these wonderful suggestions and using them to make our plantation the envy of all plantation!

    Please don’t forget our Cookie Contest! If you don’t bake, you could still help us out by getting the word out. If you have a facebook and could post the link or reblog our Cookie Contest post, it would really help us. We would also really appreciate it!

  51. Landscaping isn’t my area (except for cacti!) so I don’t have any useful suggestions, but I love the pictures! We enjoyed touring a plantation on a trip to Virginia many years ago — it was Shirley Plantation, if I remember correctly.

  52. Thank you! We love Shirley Plantation! It is about an hour for our current home in Chesapeake! It also has several connection to the area around Belle Grove. We hope that one day you might find your way back to Virginia and can stop by our plantation!

    Please don’t forget our Cookie Contest! If you don’t bake, you could still help us out by getting the word out. If you have a facebook and could post the link or reblog our Cookie Contest post, it would really help us. We would also really appreciate it!

  53. Vanessa Says:

    It looks like you are keeping very, very busy! Good luck with the landscaping – it looks like it will be great!

  54. Thank you! We hope so. There has been a lot of planning going into this to make it just beautiful.