Carlyle House party offers touches of past

This article is posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette.

Page updated on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:39 PM
Alexandria Gazette Packet Logo

Carlyle House party offers touches of past

April 13, 1995
By Pamela Cressey

GAZ9514 image
Carlyle House Historic Park, where the Spring Garden party will be held April 22. Photo/Tisara, Inc.
When anyone builds a house or digs garden soil with their own hands, they feel a special kindred spirit with the product of their work. So it is with archaeologists excavating the soil of a site and recovering clues of a bygone era. This is my feeling for the Carlyle House Historic Park. Beyond its magnificence as architecture, as garden, as open urban space across from Market Square, the yard at the Carlyle House has special meaning for me after touching its soil for eight months.

On Saturday, April 22, everyone has the opportunity to visit the site and discover fascinating gardening, handicraft, herbal and literary items at the Spring Garden Party. The Friends of the Carlyle House are hosting the garden party as a fund-raising event to enhance the site’s collection and further its educational programs. What a wonderful chance to gain a closer look at the site, as well as bring back items and information to enhance the enjoyment of your own home and garden!

Perhaps you would be interested in antique or modern garden equipment, wooden toys, or birdhouses with thatched roofs? Colin McGhee, a master thatcher, will demonstrate roof thatching in the garden. McGhee comes to Virginia with more than 16 years of English thatching experience. Today he practices his craft in Amissville, and specializes in thatching houses, stables, garages, gazebos, poolside bars and even kennels. Thatched roofs date back to the Saxon and Norman huts in Britain. Today, 50,000 contemporary homes in the United Kingdom have thatched roofs. They last 60 to 70 years!

For other bits of history, you may also purchase a tussie-mussie of rose beads made by members of the Herb Society of America. Women used to carry a tussie-mussie – a little bouquet of aromatic herb leaves and flowered tied into a doily with a ribbon – to safeguard against foul street smells. They are still seen in many English celebrations – for example, in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Each herb has a symbolic meaning; it is customary to choose herbs to convey a message. For instance, basil means love and good wishes; calendula stands for happiness; dandelion equates with absurdity; mints are wisdom.

Rose bead necklaces are made of rose petals that have been cooked, mashed and molded. Crusaders brought the art form back to Europe from India. The word “rosary” was first used in 1208, but beats were used in prayer as early as the third century by Easter and Christian monks.

Visit John and Sally Carlyle’s home, stroll their garden and sip tea on the terrace. You will enjoy yourself while supporting the endeavors of this historic park, operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Call 549-2997 for details.

Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria city archaeologist.