Creating a landscape and garden worthy of and suitable to Virginia House challenged landscape
architect Charles Gillette's (1886-1968) ability to marry history, art, and gardening on a single
rolling acre of land. Gillette's success would be both professional and personal. His synthesis of
Italian and English gardening styles at Virginia House resulted in a garden uniquely American.
His passion to please his clients resulted in a lifelong friendship with the Weddells. Gillette, who
intermittently vacationed with the Weddells was the executor of their estate upon their deaths in
When Alexander and Virginia Weddell retained Charles Gillette in 1927 to design "The
Pleasances," he was already well established in Richmond as a residential landscape designer.
Formal training between 1909 and 1916 at the Boston firm of landscape designer Warren
Manning (1860-1938) gave Gillette critical early experience in the creation and maintenance of
large estates. Indeed, Manning himself had assisted Frederick Law Olmsted in creating the great
landscape at George Washington Vanderbilt's French chateau, Biltmore (Asheville, NC).
At Virginia House Gillette created a series of terraces to deal with the steep pitch of the land. By
1930 the old salmon brick used to create retaining as well as decorative walls was festooned with
crossvine, roses, and creeping fig to reinforce the feeling of great age. A narrow linear canal or
rill and connecting fountained pools added strong spatial organization and linkage between the
various garden rooms, and the use of traditional English garden plants from pinks to cedars of
Lebanon set the stage for statuary from Florence, a basin unearthed near the Alhambra palace in
Spain, a fifteenth-century baptismal font from France, and many other decorative elements the
Weddells would send home from various duty posts around the world over the next 20 years.
1939 would see the addition of 8 more acres of land from which the rose, azalea, and tea gardens
would be created. Passionate about gardening and dedicated to his clients, Gillette created in the new world
what often took
generations in the old.