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Two of Virginia’s Historic Gardens: Oak Spring and Blandy Experimental Farm

In-Person Program

All-Day Tour

Friday, April 26, 2024 - 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1CD031
Departs Mayflower Hotel, DeSales St side
1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Fringe: Vienna Metro, south side Kiss&Ride
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Oak Spring, the former estate of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon (Courtesy of Oak Spring Garden Foundation)

Historic Garden Week in Virginia offers the opportunity to visit beautiful homes and gardens in the state, ranging from classic to modern. This year, Oak Spring, the former home of philanthropists Paul Mellon and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon—usually closed to the public—opens its doors to visitors for this special event.

Although she had no formal training, Bunny Mellon designed landscapes for many of the Mellons’ properties and is known for her 1961 redesign of the White House Rose Garden and East Garden. Spend the morning discovering the nearly 700-acre Oak Spring estate. The visit includes the main Mellon residence and its extensive gardens, the formal greenhouse, Oak Spring Gallery, and the Broodmare Barn, where Paul Mellon raised his most successful thoroughbreds, including Sea Hero, winner of the 1993 Kentucky Derby.

The walled garden, which Bunny Mellon created, incorporates individually designed formal and informal spaces. Distinctive features include fruit trees trained to grow flat against walls, reflecting pools, and a bridge to a garden pavilion. Beyond the north wall, a crabapple arbor leads to the greenhouse, which has an extraordinary trompe l’oeil mural.

The afternoon takes you to the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm, which includes the State Arboretum of Virginia, for a look at Blandy’s history and its arboretum collection and a tour of the herb and pollination gardens and historic Quarters building. The 712 acres of land were once part of the Tuleyries estate, home to the Tuley family tannery, fields, and orchards. Since 1924, the University of Virginia has owned the former estate land, using it to train college students in farming methods and to perform scientific experiments. In the 1980s, it was opened to the public. Many research projects at Blandy focus on the ecological relationships of plants and animals, as well as the effects of human influence on natural ecosystems.

Horticulturist Chelsea Mahaffey leads this tour and lectures en route. Members of the Middleburg Garden Club welcome you at Oak Spring and offer interpretation throughout the estate. Hands-on activities, demonstrations, and tastings are available during the visit.

Know Before You Go

  • The tour departs by motorcoach from downtown Washington, DC with a designated secondary pick-up outside the city. Content delivered by the study leader on the way to the destination, after the secondary pick-up, is an integral part of the study tour experience. Meeting the group once the tour is en route is discouraged.
  • Tour participants meet at and leave by bus from the Mayflower Hotel, Connecticut Ave. & DeSales St. (DeSales Street side), with a pickup stop at the Vienna Metro south-side Kiss & Ride kiosk at about 7:55 a.m.
  • Boxed lunch is included.

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 25, 2024.
  • Smithsonian Associates is a mask-friendly environment. Please feel free to bring and wear a mask at any time during a tour, both for your safety or the safety of others.
  • For additional tour information: