1 During the regular season, from March 15 through October 31, the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks are open from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., except on Mondays and holidays.
2 In addition to its lovely historic Gardens designed by Beatrix Farrand, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum contains world-class collections of art.
3 Tucked away on ten acres in Georgetown, once you enter through these gates, you don't feel like you're in the Washington, DC anymore.
4 Ellen and I were greeted by Bob.
5 This is Charlotte Beer, a Docent at Dumberton Oaks. She provided us with lots of information and walked the grounds with us.
6 In the tradition of European garden design, Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand incorporated a rich mixture of garden ornament, some purchased and some designed. I loved this cast stone birdbath, which looked like an Eric Soderholz, an artist from Maine where Beatrix also worked.
7 When purchasing Dumbarton Oaks in the early 1920s, the Blisses were attracted by its beautiful trees, many of which date to the nineteenth century and still survive today. Mildred Bliss was especially sensitive to this element of the garden and wrote "…trees are noble elements to be protected by successive generations and … not to be neglected or lightly destroyed."
8 Even a well-staffed public garden has its issues, like this boxwood that died and needs to be replaced. I speak from experience that gardens require tremendous maintenance to keep them looking groomed and well maintained.
9 In 1810, more than a century before the Blisses bought the property, a previous owner erected a detached orangery on the eastern side of the main house. In the 1860s, the orangery was attached to the main house and a Ficus pumila was planted in the northwest corner of the room. It has grown in an exceedingly wonderful fashion and surrounds the entire room with hanging vines.
10 The ficus, just one plant, now covers the inside walls and even swags across each of the Palladian windows.
11 Each wall, between French doors and transoms, has a beautiful medallion or plaque. I love the way the ficus has grown around them.
12 During winter the orangery continues to serve as a winter greenhouse for collections of citrus, gardenias, and oleander. It's also used as a gathering and events venue.
13 In the Green Garden, there are four of these amazing baskets of flower ornaments, designed by Beatrix Farrand and Armand Albert Rateau, c. 1930; limestone and lead.
14 Another old and stately tree
15 This is the Urn Terrace. The urn is a copy in stone of an eighteenth-century terracotta urn that Mrs. Bliss purchased in France. The original was removed and placed in the Garden Library when the terracotta proved too soft to withstand Washington's winters.
16 A wall in the Urn Terrace is topped off with this wonderful technique called pierced brick. To create this lattice effect, the ends of the bricks were cut at 45º angles.
17 More great brick-work joining a stone wall. I often photograph such amazing stonework in hopes of one day incorporating such designs in my own garden.
18 In the Rose Garden, there were a few late-blooming aromatic specimens. I would love to see this garden in the spring because there are approximately nine hundred roses growing here in a scheme that is dictated by color.
19 Farrand thought that the Rose Garden would be much seen in winter and added boxwood to act as accent plants to each of the rose beds. This giant boxwood grows in the center of the garden.
20 A stone bench in the Rose Garden is adorned with this wheat sheath basket designed by Benedict Tatti and cast in lead.
21 This is a pyracantha, a genus of thorny shrubs in the rose family. It's also called firethorn because the thorns really hurt!
22 This is in the Fountain Terrace. The central lawn has two limestone pools, each featuring a lead sculpture of a putto holding a fish that spouts water from its mouth.
23 The other pool. In East Hampton, I have a similar putto that I purchased in an antiques shop in Alabama many years ago - it may be by the same artist?
24 This is a lead and iron baldacchino over an oak and metal bench. Above the bench is a plaque commemorating Matthew Kearney, the Irish-born superintendent of the gardens from 1949 to 1973
25 A wonderful urn by Maine potter Eric Ellis Soderholtz - I have several of his pieces at Skylands, my home in Maine. Soderhaltz began his career as a photographer of antiquities and used his knowledge to design wonderful garden ornaments that adorned great houses from Maine to Washington state.
26 This is a good idea for edging a brick walk - lining it with field stones.
27 This is the Lovers' Lane Pool, featuring fifteen columns with urns, designed by Farrand, c. 1928-29 in cast stone.
28 Another view of the beautiful pool. Obviously the filtering system has been turned off, which would account for the algae filled pool. The stonework and brickwork is varied and elegant throughout the gardens.
29 In France it is traditional to grow apples and pears inside glass bottles like this. The pear bud is inserted into bottle and allowed to develop and ripen. This pear has been growing naturally inside the bottle, suspended in the tree, and once cut free from the branch, the bottle will be filled with pear liqueur and made into what is called Poire Willem.
30 This is how one gets a pear inside a bottle of pear brandy.
31 This is one of a pair of ornamental vase and flowers on the Fountain Terrace designed by Farrand and carved by Frederick Coles, c. 1932-35 in Aquia Creek sandstone and iron.
32 This sculpture is called Cloud Terrace and is a hand-sculpted wire mesh cloud suspended over the Fountain Terrace and embellished with 10,000 Swarovski crystals, by landscape artists Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot.
33 Another view of this sculpture - The garden allows contemporary artists to embellish the gardens and exhibit their talents on a regular basis, entrancing the locals with ingenuity and light-heartedness, such as with these "clouds."
34 Because Dumbarton Oaks sits atop a hill and the gardens are all terraced, there are clever drainage methods throughout, like this one - a stone trough lined with rocks for excess water to flow and gurgle over.
35 A compost area in the vegetable garden.
36 Complete with instructions
37 There were many figs on the trees. One wall is completely faced with fig trees.
38 This area is under excavation. It is an original underground heating system used somehow for the warming of the gardens to elongate the growing season.
39 This is a fabulous ellipse of Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam. Designed by Farrand as one of the quietest and most peaceful parts in the garden, the original wall of American boxwood was replaced in 1958 when the boxwood was declining.
40 There are many wonderful staircases to reach the different terraces.
41 Beautiful patterns in the brick
43 In the early 1920s the Blisses hired architect Frederick Brooke to design a swimming pool and bathhouse. The western end of the pool is adorned with an ornamental cast-stone wall surrounding a fountain and red marble basin from a design drawn by Beatrix Farrand.
44 To the east of the swimming pool is a rectangular area enclosed by wisteria-draped walls, originally designed by Farrand to be a tennis court. It was later turned into the Pebble Garden with pebbles imported from Mexico.
45 A closeup of the Mexican pebbles set into distinct patterns and colors in the Italian manner with carved limestone edgings - In the pool sits three lead 18th-century French sculptures.
46 "Quod severis metes" is Latin for "That which you sow, you shall also reap." The stonework, the inset round stones, and the stone carvings are very beautiful.
47 This is the inscription at the Green Garden - With these Latin words, Mildred Bliss honored Beatrix Farrand for both the garden and the close friendship the two women shared.
48 Great garden furniture
49 A handsome old door
50 After a long search for a permanent home in Washington, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss purchased this 1801 Federal-style house and property in June of 1920.
51 This is one of four pier finials in the North Vista by Ruth Havey, c. 1952-53 in limestone.
52 Here I am standing before the house.
53 The vistas from atop the hill are spectacular! Way off in the distance is Washington Cathedral and a mosque. They look near by, but they're not!
54 We met up with Dean Norton - Director of Horticulture at Mount Vernon and Gail Griffin - Director of the Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.
55 They were so friendly and very happy that Ellen and I were visiting.
56 There were many informative plaques to read. This is about the early history of the property.
57 And this one, later history