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More than a pretty house

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by Tom Chillemi

Before visitors get to Dave and Linda Cryer’s home on Cedar Pointe in Middlesex County, they are greeted by whimsical animal figures stationed along the winding driveway.

A baby elephant, an alligator and nearly full-sized mountain gorilla are stationed in the natural areas the Cryers have planted or nurtured.

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A setting sun provides dramatic lighting to the entrance.

Dave, who admits he’s not fascinated with growing flowers, has created a meandering nature path lined with unusual trees, each with a plate indicating its popular and botanical names.

He explained that Middlesex County has the same micro-climate as coastal Honshu on Japan’s main island. Among his favorites are the Yoshino cedar and the Kousa dogwood.

Among the other trees are four Bald Cypress trees that he planted at the same time. It’s a mystery why one of them has grown to about twice the size of the others.

The Honey Locust tree blooms with a fragrant white blossom in the spring. Due to its thorny bark, it’s also known as “the devil’s walking stick” until it’s about 10 years old.

Along the way is a Zelkova, a hybrid variety of the Dutch Elm tree, which were wiped out in a blight, decades ago.

A hardy Ginko, the oldest tree on earth, is resistant to disease.

The Cryers built their French country home in 2003 at the mouth of LaGrange Creek near Urbanna on the Rappahannock River. From there, they can see the Norris Bridge about 11 miles south, get spectacular full moon rises, and watch ospreys build a nest.

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Rappahannock River and LaGrange Creek as viewed from the living room of the Cryer house.

The Cryers opted for a low maintenance exterior of Dryvit synthetic stucco. The trim is redwood with a baked-on finish.

One thing that was important to Linda was that she didn’t want to be “closed off” in the kitchen. The open floor plan was accomplished using steel beams. Vaulted ceilings divide the kitchen, dining and living rooms.

The open floor plan accommodates large groups including family, friends and the many foster children to whom the Cryers have opened their home.

One of the smartest things they did, said Linda, was install ceramic tile floor that resembles stone. It’s indestructible and low maintenance.

Linda said she has since learned that standing barefooted for extended time on ceramic floors is hard on her feet, because the floors have no give.

The hardwood floor upstairs takes a beating from the nine dogs that are there when all the family visits at the same time.

Linda likes the smaller windows above the fixed windows on the water side of the house. They have awnings and can be opened even in the rain.

Both the crawl space and the attic are heated and air conditioned.

Upstairs is a game room with a pool table, adjacent to a home theater room decorated with favorite movie posters of their family. One of Dave’s favorites is the satyircal “Blazing Saddles.”

The guests’ favorite of the six bedrooms is the “lighthouse room.” A raised shelf is filled with lighted models of famous lighthouses.

The Cryers home will be open for the Virginia Garden Week Tour on Friday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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posted 03.23.2012

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