On a little more than five acres on Lawyers Road, Margaret Wilson Thomas created a vast iris garden that brought her national acclaim and local adoration. She died May 25, and now the fate of her gardens is very unclear.
In 1963, Thomas and her husband George bought 33 acres of land just outside of what is now Reston, on the busy road that is now mostly Reston Parkway and West Ox Road. The Thomases sold most of the land in 1973, and when George Thomas died the following year, Margaret Thomas began supporting herself by selling irises and vegetables. Before long, it became widely known as an oasis of beauty amid the Fairfax County house farms and also a great place to buy iris roots by the clump.
In 1996, the Cultural Landscape Foundation and Garden Design magazine named Margaret Thomas’ Gardens one of 18 great endangered American gardens. The New York Times did a lengthy article that year on the place which asked, “Can a Legendary Iris Garden Survive?”
“Some gardens should be preserved because they are works of art,” Anne Raver wrote in The Times. “But others are made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things — like planting a field of flowers that becomes the heart of a community.”
Volunteers helped Thomas keep the place going, but attempts to sell it to Fairfax County have repeatedly bogged down. Going back at least 15 years, Thomas talked about trying to turn the gardens into a permanent park, and said that she was old enough to want someone else to take over. Now, it’s not clear who will inherit the place or what the next step will be, according to Gregg MacDonald in the Fairfax County Times. A Facebook page, Save Margaret’s Iris Garden!, has been launched, and we’ll see if the many thousands of people who enjoyed buying, photographing or just wandering among the flowers can now make a difference.
Here’s a nice piece that NBC 4’s Craig Melvin did shortly before Thomas’s passing:
View more videos at: http://nbcwashington.com.