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Posted April 17, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Timeless design: Home and garden tours spring to life in northern valley

Colleen Zoller in the dining room
Colleen Zoller, of Winchester, stands in the dining room of her home, which will be on tour as part of the year's Historic Garden Week. Dennis Grundman/Daily

A hand-painted table
A hand-painted table stands in the foyer of the Zollers' home. Dennis Grundman/Daily

A sundial
A sundial depicting druids growing out of roots is featured in the ivy garden in the Woods' yard. Dennis Grundman

the sunroom
The sunroom, or "tree house," is Mrs. Zoller's favorite room in her house. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Arbors separate
Arbors separate different areas of the Wood family's gardens. Dennis Grundman/Daily

The statue garden offers a place to sit
The statue garden, part of the Woods' larger gardens, offers places to sit and take in the peacefulness of nature. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- From the outside, the Zollers' house looks like any other well-landscaped brick home on Breckinridge Lane in Winchester. A step through the front door, however, is like a transition through a magical looking glass, into a world far away, where warm colors and bright sunlight complement the hues of nature outside.

It's as if the Zollers built a country cottage in the midst of this neat suburban neighborhood. Don't be fooled by typical provincial images that come to mind; visitors to this comfortable abode will not find tea and crumpets sitting on doilies. Instead, they will discover what Colleen Zoller calls "urban sophistication" -- a collage of accessories such as an enchanting black and white checkered entrance table with multi-colored legs, original artwork by artists from around the world and silk curtains draped alongside couches of cherry wood and leather.

"This is a family home," Mrs. Zoller says of the house that witnessed her four children grow into adults.

Historic Garden Week will soon be in full swing in neighborhoods all around Virginia, but in Winchester, newer, more modern homes and gardens are receiving the attention usually reserved for only the oldest of beautiful houses.

The Zoller family and their neighbors, the Woods, who are hosting two stops along the tour, will offer examples of how even new homes and landscapes can emanate charm and elegance echoing centuries past.

Dr. John Zoller and his wife have been adding little touches to their house ever since they moved into the 20-year-old home with their children 18 years ago.

"The house is fabulous; I'm a traditional girl, but this is cool," says Martha Parthemos, of the Little Garden Club of Winchester, which, with help from the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, is organizing the tours in Winchester.

The tour of the house will begin in the foyer and will offer a brief history of the house before moving to the right into the dining room, which spotlights a Calman Shemi painting above the mantle and other artwork throughout the room.

"I like the color of the paintings, and that's why they were picked," says Mrs. Zoller. "My husband, John, is really very fond of this artist," she says of Shemi, an Israeli artist.

"We chose the painting first, and of course the size is perfect," she says, indicating its place above the white mantle behind the dining room table. "And it's one of the first that we bought," she adds.

"My style is a little crazy," she says, offering up the living room as an example. "I've got glass in here with metal, so it's a real mixture. ... Plus, too, I think color adds a lot of warmth."

The curtains in the living and dining rooms are red and orange silk.

A gigantic mirror hanging behind a leather and cherry wood couch could certainly be a conversation piece.

"That was a door in Tibet," Mrs. Zoller says. "It was a door that they took out the middle and put in glass.

"It is contemporary, but ... sometimes pure, pure contemporary is without warmth -- just glass and metal," she says.

"I'm the type of person, I know what I don't like."

One of her favorite parts of the house is the room she has nicknamed "the tree house." What used to be a screened-in porch is now a sunroom on a raised platform with windows in every direction offering a view of cherry blossoms just beyond the glass.

"We're just creative," Mrs. Zoller says.

"They're just geniuses," Parthemos amends.

Creative genius is prominent in the neighborhood, where, just down the street from the Zollers' house, the Wood gardens await visitors, inviting them into a maze of green.

Tall garden walls reminiscent of something out of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" separate different "rooms" in the Woods' back yard, evoking images of English tea parties.

Mary Beth Wood was inspired to begin building the hedge gardens 15 years ago when she and her husband moved into the house. One of their first personal touches was whitewashing red brick portions of the facade to make the house look much older than it is.

"We wanted it to look old and added onto," she says. "This was what we wanted, sort of a funny, jumbled up house."

Of the Woods' six main garden rooms, the ivy garden is the one that most illustrates the idea behind the entire plan.

"Everything in here is about agelessness," Wood says of the ivy garden, which houses a sundial with images of druids growing out of tree roots. "Everything is just kind of ancient and timeless."

"I guess I always wanted to [build the gardens]; I never had the time and I never had the space," she says. Now with an acre of land under her feet, Wood has constructed outdoor rooms that have become the envy of many in the area, including the garden club, which has been asking her for years to include her gardens in the historic tour, says Pembroke Hutchinson, house chairman of the Woods' gardens.

"This is great fun to do this with her," says Hutchinson, who has been friends with Wood for over 16 years and even has a few hedges of her own at home.

"It became an all-consuming passion," Wood says of seeing the hedges constructed and adding to each separate and distinct garden.

"You can't just stop, a garden just keeps growing and you can't just say you're done," she says.

Visitors will be welcome to walk through the gardens spanning the length of the yard -- the peony garden, the ivy garden, the cutting garden, the boxwood and yew parterres, and the statue garden.

Behind the parterres and the cutting garden is a 24-foot-tall Leyland cypress hedge, which Wood says began at almost 10 feet and took about eight years to grow. Along one whole side of the house is the statue garden, which spotlights a statue of The Four Seasons and another of Athena, the mythological Greek goddess of wisdom.

Off a small section of the statue garden is the library garden, which can easily be overlooked. The private garden sits right outside the library of the house offering a beautiful view of foliage from indoors as well as a quiet place to read. This garden features its own statues as well.

"All the statues out here are reading," Wood says. "That is our big love, is to read."

Though the Woods' home will not be part of the tour, visitors will surely find all they seek among the leaves of the garden rooms.

"It's not really a blooming garden, it's really a garden of green," Wood says.

This year's tours in Winchester and Front Royal will take place on April 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In Winchester, the Little Garden Club of Winchester in conjunction with the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club will offer their "Branching Out" theme at the following addresses:

* The Quarles Home at 102 Heth Place

* The Garrett Home at 788 Johnston Court

* The Scully Home at 575 Seldon Drive

* The Wood Home at 928 Breckinridge Lane

* The Zoller Home at 936 Breckinridge Lane

Tickets range from $15 to $25, with $12 tickets for children ages 6-12. For tickets or other information visit at the tour houses on tour day or information centers or visit the Web at www.VAGardenweek.org.

Front Royal's tours, organized by the Garden Club of Warren County, will spotlight houses at the following locations:

* Bon Air at 124 Luray Ave.

* The Rollinson Home at 138 S. Hatcher Drive

* The Evans Home at 192 S. Hatcher Drive

* The Lang House at 304 Mineral Springs Road

Tickets are $8 for single-house admission, $20 for a full ticket; children ages 6-12 pay half price. For tickets or more information call 635-5788, visit the houses on tour day or the Front Royal Visitor's Center, or visit the Web at www.VAGardenweek.org.

All proceeds from both tours will benefit restoration of historic gardens and landmarks in Virginia.

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