There is only one glaring error in the otherwise magnificent $1 million restoration of Carlyle House, the 18th century home of Scottish merchant John Carlyle, built in 1752.

"Azaleas {which are planted throughout the lawn} were not hybridized in the 18th century . . . . Even the boxwoods that are planted along the front of the house were probably not there during John Carlyle's time," said historic landscape architect Rudy Favretti.

The Garden Club of Virginia, which has restored gardens at historic sites throughout Virginia since the club's inception in 1920, announced in May an undisclosed donation to pay for the research and landscape design of the front yard of Carlyle House. The landscaping will be paid for by the Carlyle House Garden Guild.

The donation will be given to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which runs Carlyle House, 121 N. Fairfax St. in Alexandria. The garden club has hired Favretti to research and design historically accurate landscaping for the front lawn.

"The donation will pay for a two-phase project," said Julia Claypool, administrator of Carlyle House.

The first phase will pay for work by Favretti, who teaches historic landscape architecture at the University of Connecticut. The donation also will pay for a permanent exhibit on the grounds of Carlyle House "to show what the property looked like in the 18th century," Claypool said. " . . . Because of all the changes to the property, we cannot return it to the way it looked during Carlyle's time."

The exhibit will allow visitors "to walk from marker to marker on the property and the plaques will give them some information and pictures" of several buildings and other features common to the property in the 18th century, Claypool said.

The Garden Club of Virginia began in 1920 with eight member garden clubs throughout the state. Today the club has 45 member clubs and 5,000 members.

"We're delighted that we have something here in Northern Virginia to restore," said Virginia Guild, a member of the club's restoration committee. "We usually have a historic garden restoration going on at any given time somewhere in the state. That's all we do is restore historic gardens. We also sponsor Historic Garden Week in Virginia every year at the end of April, and with the money we raise from that we restore or conserve the gardens."

The all-volunteer Carlyle House Garden Guild, which has about 20 members, has raised $4,000 over the last three years to help pay for the actual landscaping, which will begin next spring.

"I don't think $4,000 is going to touch it {the landscaping cost}, not necessarily for the plants, but for the labor," said Elizabeth Tasker, founder and immediate past president of the Carlyle House Garden Guild. "We will see to it that the money is raised."

Claypool said the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority plans to pay for part of the landscaping cost, although the funds have not been approved yet. "We hope that other organizations will donate money to help pay for the project," she added.

The gardens in the rear of the house, which are about a block and a half from the Potomac River, will not be historically restored because during Carlyle's lifetime the elevation was lowered about 15 feet and the river was filled in. "He {Carlyle} may have filled in the entire block and a half," Claypool said.

"It's really critical that we think in terms of the overall restoration of a site and get beyond the front door and include the outdoor surroundings," Claypool said. "It helps greatly with our interpretation of a historic site."