Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


Mason District lost a generous benefactor and environmentalist last week with the passing of Margaret Keister White, just weeks before her 104th birthday.

Mrs. White’s 13-acre property will become the John and Margaret White Horticultural Garden under the auspices of the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA). In 1999, Mrs. White sold the property to the Park Authority for $600,000, retaining a life estate so she could remain in the home she and her husband built in 1938.  At the time of the sale, similar properties could command $250,000 an acre, but she told friends and neighbors that she never wanted the property developed into more housing.  She preferred to preserve it as a public place for horticultural enjoyment of beautiful plants.

In a 2006 interview published in the newsletter of the Friends of the White Horticultural Park, Mrs. White remembered being captivated by the property’s huge oak tree, still standing, when she and her husband were looking for a home to purchase.  John White, known as JC, was the gardener, while Margaret was the “go-fer.”  She also scouted the area for new plants, and rescued a collection of laurel that was in the way of Route 50 improvements.  Although the garden is filled with azaleas and rhododendrons now, it wasn’t always that way.  Fruit trees, yews, and small deciduous trees on the property were very small, and some plantings died.  JC and Margaret replaced brush and “wilderness” with azaleas, and later added rhododendrons.  The hybrid version developed by Joseph Gable was good, especially for this area, according to Margaret, and JC learned how to propagate plants.  Eventually some of his creations were named after him, and some beautiful examples still remain on the property.

JC died in 1978, but Margaret continued the work they started together, and the garden today is an exquisite legacy to their devotion.  Anyone who has visited in late April and early May can attest to the incredible beauty of the flowering plants, and the rustic and shady trails that wind through the property.  “Thank you” seems inadequate to acknowledge such a wonderful and long lasting gift to future generations, but Margaret White often told visitors that was all she wanted.  Memorial contributions in Margaret White’s memory can be made to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, Inc., 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 404, Fairfax, Virginia  22035.  Indicate “John and Margaret White Garden” on the memo line of your check.

The Virginia General Assembly began its 2010 session yesterday.  Among the new faces is 38th District Delegate Kaye Kory, who was elected in November.  Delegate Kory represents 17 precincts in the Mason District, and three in the Providence District.  Prior to her swearing-in at the Capitol in Richmond, she tendered her resignation as the Mason District representative on the Fairfax County School Board.  At press time, a special election date to fill the school board seat had not been announced.  Good luck to Delegate Kory, and to all the Northern Virginians who represent portions of Mason District: Delegates David Bulova (D-37); Vivian Watts (D-39); Charniele Herring (D-46); Adam Ebbin (D-49); Jim Scott (D-53), and Senators Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31); Chap Petersen (D-34); and Dick Saslaw (D-35).

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov