The last time I saw Williamsburg, Va. was waaaay back in 1969, with my parents and my boyfriend Bob, who was visiting from Connecticut. My one souvenir is this obligatory photo of us in the stocks – him looking for all the world like James Taylor, and me wearing a mini-dress I made myself and holding a lit cigarette. Classy!

Finally last week I returned to Williamsburg, alone with my bicycle and excited to see the sites and cruise around capturing gardens to share with you all here. (As I’ve done from places like Rehoboth Beach, DE and Santa Monica, CA.)

Docks Stocks – still there!

The Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg – a Whole Lotta Lawn

Some sites in Colonial Williamsburg. The residence (upper right) is a rare one with perennials.

But I’m sorry to say, this trip report won’t be anything like those others. I have complaints, some justified and some probably not.

First, the extra-wide main roads through Colonial Williamsburg are surprisingly lacking in street trees or other sources of shade.  What vegetation I found in abundance was mostly turfgrass. Historic residences, except the one above with the daylilies, were bare of plants.

The back-yard gardens are kitchen gardens.

So before you take me to task, I’ll admit that my complaints reek of 21st Century expectations, ill suited to 17th Century horticultural practices. And I’m on board with historically accurate landscape design and even plant choices for Colonial Williamsburg. (If not there, where?) It just wasn’t what I was looking for in a getaway.
And likewise, I was disappointed by the grounds of the College of William and Mary, which, to be fair, was founded in 1693.  But can you blame a visitor, upon seeing a large “Sunken Garden” drawn on a campus map, for expecting, you know, a garden? Feast your eyes on the famous Sunken Garden, constructed in the 1930s. Yep, it’s a 2.7-acre lawn!
Landscapes in a newer part of campus played with Williamsburg’s iconic redbrick hardscape but the plant choices were still awfully boring.

Residential Gardens Outside the Historic Core

My tour through residential streets outside the historic center yielded almost nothing of interest – to me or, I’m guessing, to you guys – just three front gardens. This garden in a traditional style is overgrown, but in a good way: I’d love to get tackle it with my trusty loppers.

In my hours of riding around I did finally find two more ambitious and modern front gardens, like this one.

And this one, just across the street, exhibits quite an array of lawn alternatives, like what look like liriope and mondo grass in the front yard. (The little yellow flag caught my attention. Could it be a “Warning: pesticide application” sign? No, I’m happy to report it just marks a utility line underneath.)
And here’s a peek across their side yard and into the back – all with groundcovers other than turfgrass.  I wish I’d gotten the address so I could find the owner/gardener and interview them. Anyone recognize the street???

A Crappy Place for Cycling

Going off-topic, here’s my short rant about how unfriendly I found Williamsburg as a cyclist: lack of shade, lots of brick paving, dearth of helpful signage, and routes requiring stairs or – suddenly – highways with no shoulders. And it was hotter that day than forecast, which is no one’s fault, but added to my unhappiness.

I was so unhappy, I blew off my hotel reservation and returned home the very same day. After five hours in town, and a quick visit to Jamestown Beach (very nice).

What I Should have Done

Okay, I should have posted on social media my plan to visit and request for tips for finding the best gardens. That worked spectacularly when I visited Lexington, KY, where I didn’t know a soul but got a VIP tour from a follower who happened to be a professional gardener AND a horse breeder.

Whatever Happened to that Hippie Couple?

Left: somewhere in England. Right, roadside in France.

About a week after our trip to Williamsburg, Bob and I arrived in England, where we began four months of travel around Europe – at first by hitchhiking, then thankfully in a 1959 Volvo that we bought for $150. Our romance survived all that and our time in Aix-en-Provence, France where we picked up some transferable college credits, but alas, not our return to the States, where he chose not to return to our school.

We lost touch for decades, until a mutual friend on Facebook connected us, which led to my visiting him and his family in Asheville, NC, the site of a Gardenblogger Fling.  That was followed by hosting Bob and his family for the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, sharing an Airbnb with him and his wife at a class reunion, and more.

Now the old college gang is in regular communication!