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Friday, June 3, 2016

Improvements to White Gardens to start this summer

The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) is starting work this summer on improvements to the John C. & Margaret K. White Gardens, a 13-acre park in Falls Church between Annandale Road and Sleepy Hollow Road.

The Whites had cultivated rhododendrons and azaleas on the property, which they purchased in 1939. After John died, Margaret sold it to Fairfax County in 1999 as a life estate with an agreement that the land would be preserved as a horticultural park rather than developed. She continued to live there until 2008 when she died at age 103. 

At a community meeting June 2, Bill Boston, a project manager with the FCPA, said the improvements planned for the White Gardens are aimed at protecting the natural, horticultural, and cultural resources on the site.

The house where the Whites raised five children could eventually be repurposed as a caretaker’s residence under the county’s new resident curator program. That program, authorized by the Board of Supervisors in 2014, allows individuals to live in certain historic properties in exchange for agreeing to maintain and make improvements to them.

A park bond passed by voters in 2012 included $500,000 to make improvements to the White Gardens.

The projects, to be completed this summer, include an inventory and identification of the hundreds of rhododendrons and azaleas and the installation of an irrigation system.

The rest of the bond-funded improvement projects, which should be completed by summer 2019, calls for restoration of the meadow by replacing invasive, non-native plants with native grasses and wildflowers; an archaeological evaluation of the house and barn; restoring the trails; and new interpretive and wayfinding signs.

The barn foundation dates from 1819, when the property was part of a 130-acre farm.

In addition, Boston said, the gravel driveway accessing the park from Princess Ann Lane will be resurfaced. Only maintenance vehicles are allowed on the grounds; visitors park on streets outside the park. The FCPA will evaluate where new trails could connect the park to neighborhood streets to improve pedestrian access.

The old barn.
If the FCPA decides to have a resident curator, that would be several years in the future. There’s also a possibility of eventually developing a 20-space parking lot at the park.

Mary Olein, the manager of Green Spring Gardens, has been conducting periodic work days over the past few years to remove invasive non-native plants, like Bradford pears, honeysuckle, English ivy, and mugwort at the White Gardens.

Volunteers are invited to the next work day, tomorrow, June 4, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., hosted by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. Meet at the park entrance at 3301 Hawthorne Lane. For more information, call 703-354-5093, x 106.


  1. Wonderful:) Wonderful:)
    The more parks and green space the better our lives will be.:)

    1. Absolutely!!

      I hardly knew this park existed, but I'm glad to know that it will STILL exist for years to come. My gratitude goes to the Whites and their children for giving such beautiful land to our community. We two-leggers won't be the only ones to benefit.