George Mason’s Gunston Hall will soon be undergoing a very important transformation. The restoration of the Riverside Garden at Gunston hall will return it back to the way it looked when the Mason family walked the grounds. The current Riverside Garden is divided into four beds decorated with boxwoods lining the footpaths.
Restoring the Garden will require the construction of a six-foot paled fence surrounding the entire space. The four large beds that we’ve discovered through archaeological excavation will be bordered with boxwood edging and contain perennial flowers as well as fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. Since the Garden serves as both a pleasure and a kitchen garden, it the gorgeous fruit trees, such as the Newtown Pippin apple which George Mason shared with George Washington, and perennial flower border will make the vegetables from view.
Based on The Recollections of John Mason and archaeological evidence, it is believed there to have been three terraces on the riverside of the Garden, instead of the single terrace currently in place. Gunston Hall staff, volunteers, and researchers believe there would have been a central viewing mount, below it cascading the three terraces, which are to be recreated along with the Riverside Garden. The viewing mount is believed to have had the same dimensions as the mansion. This led to the discovery of the importance of geometry on George Mason’s property, including his home, his garden, and the cherry allée.
The plants that go into the Garden will be selected from the plants that were available in the 18th century, with concessions made for vegetables that no longer exist as well as selections chosen for sustainability and disease resistance.
The decision to restore Mason’s Riverside Garden was made with a significant amount of planning and research by Gunston Hall staff and volunteers, outside firms and experts, and more. For this project, the team consulted 18th century gardening texts as well as the records of other gardens from the region that were constructed during the same time period. Archaeological surveys were also completed to better understand the traces of the garden that were left behind, such as post holes from the fence that enclosed the garden.
Part of the restoration of the Riverside Garden will include the removal of the existing boxwoods. While they have added to Gunston Hall’s character for many years, their health is declining for a number of reasons, mainly disease and old age. They are also far too large to be reduced to the size they would have been kept at in the 18th century, which was between six and eight inches. Even though these relics of the Masons’ family past are being removed, Gunston Hall plans to work with artists to turn their wood into beautiful objects to commemorate their history here. Gunston Hall recognizing that removing the boxwood is difficult and will be difficult on the community, but it must be done in order to recreate the masterpiece that Colonel Mason strolled through everyday.