Hidden away behind carefully designed plantings at the end of an unassuming driveway on a dead end street, the historic William Carter house, home of John and Julie Adams, is an undiscovered treasure.
The Federal style brick two story home, built in 1834, is not clearly visible from the street. Neither are the manicured gardens. Only invited guests are privy to the delights within. And on June 10, when three Mount Airy garden clubs present “Mount Airy Blooms,” the first Mount Airy garden tour in many years, everyone is invited. To see the gardens, that is. “Mount Airy Blooms” is a garden tour, not a house tour. But the gardens are the real star here.
The house sits on a hill overlooking Paul’s Creek and was built next to a proposed railway line that never happened. The previous owners enlarged the home which was later remodeled and landscaped by the current owners. Included on the property is the original blacksmith’s wooden shed.
Tour goers will drive through the front gate and up the drive to be welcomed by espaliered apple trees and arborvitae. At the end of the drive are foundation plantings of boxwoods, lavender and cotoneaster draping over a stone wall. Mixed among these are Russian sage, dianthus, mint and artemisia.
This elevation presents the addition made to the house about 10 years ago by its previous owners. The granite building stones are Mount Airy granite, recycled from a demolished downtown building, according to John Adams. Though a new addition, care was taken to make it look like the organic growth a house of this age might have experienced in its almost 200 year history.
Around the corner of the house, a walk leads past a water feature to a covered porch with an outdoor fireplace and dining table. This wonderful sitting area and entertaining space steps down to a stone-walled terrace with an even better view of Paul’s Creek, the bottomland and the wooded hillside beyond the creek.
A path leads from the porch with an allée of hornbeam trees on one side, underplanted with boxwoods and yew. Before reaching a fountain designed by the Adams using a 100-year-old fountainhead found in King and antique brick and stone remaining on the site from the house’s expansion. Turn right to go to the pool or left to go to a formal garden surrounding the house’s original front entrance. In this area, John Adams, a Virginia native, was inspired by the gardens of Williamsburg. The space is a delightful mix of formality and ease.
The boxwoods and holly are shaped without being constricted into a forced shape. The hornbeams grow in their natural form. They have only been shaped twice since they were planted seven years ago.
“There’s no gardener,” says John Adams. “It’s just us,” referring to himself and wife Julie. “We have some help,” but maintenance has clearly been a consideration. Still, Julie Adams says, “I’m out there all the time.”
The landscape was designed by Chip Callaway, who specializes in historic gardens. The Adams also credit Ginny Adams and her knowledge of plants and which ones work well locally as being indispensable. Ginny Adams also got John and Julie Adams involved in the “Mount Airy Blooms” garden tour.
“How do you say no to Ginny?” asks John Adams rhetorically.
“Mount Airy Blooms” is June 10 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are on sale at Webb Interiors, 1191 W. Lebanon St., Mount Airy, and online at Eventbrite.com.
Though some gardens, including the Adams’ historic William Carter house, are at historic homes, the tour is not a home tour. The gardens will be open but the houses will not be. Restrooms will be available at the comfort station on Main Street and at Cross Creek Country Club.
Proceeds raised from “Mount Airy Blooms” will go to support garden club projects in the area, including the Joan and Howard Woltz Hospice Home Rose Garden, restoration of the gardens at the Historic Moore House, maintenance and upkeep of the Main Street mini-garden fountain, lobby arrangements at Northern Hospital and special programming for the Jones School exceptional children’s class.
A Box Luncheon will be available under the Pavilion at Cross Creek Country Club, 1129 Greenhill Road, for $12. It must be prepaid by June 5. A vegetarian meal is available. Please request when ordering.
The tour is underwritten by BB&T Insurance Services, Inc., Carolina Environmental Contracting, Inc. and SouthData, Inc., as well as other sponsors and contributors.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.