January 14, 2013
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Valerie Balentine, Bacon’s Castle
|Valerie Balentine and Barbara Insley|
The value of part-time gardeners to a property is revealed in the work of head gardener Valerie Balentine (shown left) and her assistant, Barbara Insley (right). The 17th century garden at Bacon’s Castle was uncovered in 1983 and restored by the GCV in 1984-89. Ms. Balentine has been involved in this “Virginia’s first garden” since 1998 and Ms. Insley since 1991. Their dedication to its maintenance remains throughout the vagaries of weather, staffing and time.
Their garden work involves keeping the formal garden of six large squares planted with grass and surrounding borders of perennials backed by a hawthorn hedge. A brick forcing wall at one end yields a mix of flowers, vegetables, herbs and two trellises supporting grape vines. Garden paths intersect the squares and surround the outer edges.
Ms. Balentine reports “Preservation Virginia’s Bacon’s Castle’s garden’s recent certification as a Virginia Green Attraction requires that we use earth-friendly organic products and homemade remedies. We receive help from area Master Gardeners, Mr. Glen Slade, Surry County Extension Agent and other historic site gardeners who share their expertise to maintain this garden.”
Garden Tip: Ms. Balentine uses a mixture of vinegar and salt to rid pathways of grass and weeds and prevent their return.
UMW student Caitlin McCafferty served an internship at Bacon’s Castle this summer and her work included some hands on garden maintenance. Read more at http://www.slideshare.net/cmmada/my-summer-internship-at-bacons-castle2.