Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Margaret's Garden

Photo via Washington Post

When I first moved to Herndon in 1979, my elderly neighbor who lived across the street soon realized I liked flowers and offered to take me to her friend's garden on Lawyers Road, on the edge of Herndon, where she sold bearded irises. Well, little did I know that was my introduction to the garden of Margaret Thomas, who came to be quite a gardening legend over the next thirty years. Her garden of over five acres was devoted to more than 2000 varieties of iris, and people driving by would stop and admire her flowers, and over the years people from all over would come to visit her garden, set up easels and paint, take photographs, and of course, place orders. There were articles about her in The New York Times and The  Washington Post. "Some gardens should be preserved because they are works of art," Anne Raver wrote in The Times. "But others are made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things--like planting a field of flowers that becomes the heart of a community." I can remember walking around her garden and picking the irises I wanted, and Margaret would write my name in a notebook, noting the named irises I chose. In August  or September, she would dig up the rhizomes and I would receive a phone call, saying that I could come pick them up.

This is a story many people in town can repeat, as so many of us have been to Margaret's garden and have irises that came from her.  She died in 2011, and many people have worked tirelessly to save the garden, but its future remains uncertain. The county declined to purchase it, so now it is in legal limbo, but probably will succumb to development.

Margaret's house
The town of Herndon has an art exhibit going on right now at the ArtSpace Gallery, with photographs of Margaret and her garden, as well as paintings and drawings done by 39 local artists showing the garden over the years. Gillian and I went to see the exhibit last week and it brought back memories for both of us. I am so glad the town has made this tribute to one of its most famous gardeners. But it also made me think about what happens to a garden without its gardener. I sure hope that if Margaret's garden cannot be saved, that area garden clubs will step in and save the plants, so that Margaret's irises will live on in many, many other gardens.

Margaret's irises

Collage of photos

1 comment:

  1. Awesome story. I hope the garden can be preserved.