Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Jeanne brought to our attention another garden in Washington, DC that rivals the National Arboretum. Dumbarton Oaks was originally the estate of the Robert Woods Bliss family. Purchased in 1910 the 53 sloping acres, complete with old farm buildings, was transformed by architect Beatrix FarrandĀ  into her conception of an 18th century American estate.

The concept included pastoral and wooded elements that would have been common to the area in an earlier century. It included French, English and Italian features that were executed with an American flavor. There was an emphasis on the gardens as living spaces, so they were divided into usage areas. Not only were they planted for spring and summer interest but winter appearance was taken into consideration as well.

In 1940 the property was split into three sections. Ten acres were sold to the Danish government for an embassy. Harvard University received 16 acres and the buildings for the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. The remaining 27 acres were deeded to the Parks Service. The formal 10 acres of gardens designed by Farrand was included in this parcel.

The gardens and vistas include: the Star Garden, Green Garden, Beech Terrace, Urn Terrace, formal Rose Garden, Arbor Terrage, Fountain Terrace, Lover Lane Pool, and Pebble Terrace, as well as a Camellia Circle, Prunus Walk Cherry Hill, Crabapple Hill, Forcythia Hill and Fairview Hill. The Pebble Garden is one of the later additions to the design. The wheat sheaf represents the Bliss family motto Quod severis metes which translates As you sow, so shall you reap. It is done in pebbles imported from Mexico and covered with a thin film of water to enhance the color and sheen. A pictorial tour of the gardens begins here: http://www.doaks.org/housefront.html

The Dumbarton Gardens are opened daily to the public except for Mondays, holidays and during inclement weather. The hours between March 15 and October 31 are 2-6 p.m. Admission is $8.00 adults with children and seniors free. From November 1-March 14 admission is free and the hours are 2-5 p.m. A printable brochure can be accessed here : http://www.doaks.org/Gardens.html