Riverside Garden Restoration

Come see how our garden grows. 

The garden’s historic structure is now visible.  Guests may climb the mansion’s exterior side stairs to peek over the fence.  Even better views of the garden are available during tours of the mansion itself.  Guests may look through the windows to see the garden’s broad pathways and the four planting beds.  The garden is surrounded by what John Mason called a “high, paled fence.”  This 18th-century style design has tall vertical boards installed next to each other without gaps. Elegant gates mark the three entrances to the garden.

Within the planting beds, staff have planted the boxwood edging, as well as parts of the perennial borders and many historic varieties of vegetables.  Dozens of fruit trees are in the garden already or are ready to be planted soon.

All spring, summer, and fall, Gunston Hall’s horticulture team grows vegetables and flowers that were familiar to George Mason, his family, and the enslaved workers who tended the garden.  

Visit our Learning from Home: Cooking and Drinking page to learn more about foods consumed by people at Gunston Hall.

Explore the People of Gunston Hall page.

What’s next for the garden?

We expect the final construction on the terraces to be done by the end of the summer of 2021.  We look forward to then welcoming visitors into the garden itself.  Until the garden opens to the public, the best views of the garden are available from inside the mansion during guided tours.

Over the next few years, we will continue to add historic varieties of fruiting trees and shrubs and perennial flowers to reproduce the borders that framed the garden beds.  Seasonally, we will plant medicinal plants and vegetables within the beds.   

You can help!  Volunteer shifts are available Monday through Thursday and Saturday each week.  To apply to be a garden volunteer, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities page.

Curious about what we’re planting?  Check out the plant list we’re using to decide.

Background on the garden

The riverside garden restoration is the culmination of more than four decades of archaeological research.  Both staff and consulting archaeologists have gathered evidence from dig sites.  Staff, volunteers, and interns have conducted years of documentary research. And staff have learned from the inspiring work done at other sites in the region and around the world.  

Under the leadership of architecture firm Glave and Holmes and landscape architect Robert McGinnis, Gunston Hall conducted additional, targeted research and developed a restoration plan.  We began construction in 2019.  

Carefully, and under the supervision of our archaeologist, the area was cleared of plants and leveled.  Then we added topsoil and leveled the space, taking care not to disturb the archaeological record beneath the ground.  Next, came the structure of the garden, including the four planting bed, the bowling green, and the fence.  For much of 2020, cover crops helped protect the soil from erosion, while also adding nutrients, aerating the soil, and helping prevent weed growth.

Growing Personalities: Q&A

Watch our August 7, 2020, program when we partnered with Monticello and Mount Vernon for a live streaming event that explored the personalities reflected at each property. In this 45-minute event, you will discover the gardens of historic leaders George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.