Saturday, May 3: In 1921, Mildred Bliss, American art collector, philanthropist and one of the co-founders of Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, chose Beatrix Farrand to design the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks. The two women developed a friendship that spanned 30 years, while collaborating on every aspect of the gardens’ design. Both women were well-traveled and well read, and they shared a knowledge of European gardens and garden traditions.
Approaching the house from the entrance gate to the gardens, the Orangery, built in 1810, is covered within by a large creeping fig planted in 1860. The outside of the Orangery is draped with fragrant wisteria.
Close to the house, Farrand created intimate entertaining spaces, enclosed by walls and carefully selected plantings, according to a Dumbarton Oaks brochure. She designed a series of terraces, framing views of the terraces below to enhance the sense of anticipation and flow.
One of the first views I can see when I walk out of the Orangery is the Swimming Pool and the Loggia’s tile mosaic of Diana and Actaeon. At the end of the Loggia, a path leads upwards through the boxwood to the Beech Terrace and Orangery.
The Pebble Garden is a pattern of colored Mexican pebbles designed in the 1960s. The Bliss family crest and motto are incorporated into the design. The arbor around the Pebble Garden is today covered in fragrant wisteria.
The Urn Terrace is curves of brick and ivy with a pebble mosaic.
The Rose Garden is the largest of the terraces. Over fifty varieties of nearly a thousand roses are planted here. The Blisses’ ashes are interred behind an inscribed sandstone slab in the west wall.
The Ellipse is made of a double row of American hornbeams clipped into an aerial hedge surrounding a 17th century Provencal fountain.
A walkway leading to the cutting garden has blooming trees offering shade from today’s heat.
The Cutting Garden is all about tulips today.
The English-style herbaceous borders are planted seasonally with tulips, annuals, perennials and chrysanthemums. Today, tulips are the stars.
The Fountain Terrace has two lead fountains within a grass plat bordered by flowers: tulips in spring, perennials and annuals in summer, and chrysanthemums in fall.
The Arbor Terrace is named after the wisteria-covered arbor. Formerly an herb garden, the paved terrace is a pot garden in summer with tubs of gardenias, lantana, and citrus. An aerial hedge of Kieffer pears partially encloses the terrace.
It’s a fantastic time of year to explore gardens in northern Virginia before the onslaught of a hot and humid summer. 🙂