Dumbarton Oaks: Art and Beauty Around Every Corner

One of my greatest local pleasures is the garden of Dumbarton Oaks on R street in Georgetown.

The garden entrance on R Street.

In all four seasons, it is so beautiful that it reminds me of a line in a letter Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to Margaret Fuller in October 1840:  “Heaven walks among us ordinarily muffled in such triple or tenfold disguises that the wisest are deceived and no one suspects the days to be gods.”  At Dumbarton Oaks, the disguises are thrown off.

Like some of the Italian gardens I saw last summer, Dumbarton Oaks provides a combination of beautiful vistas and smaller, more private spaces or “rooms” to enjoy.

There are quiet places to sit.

In the spring, Cherry Hill is a peaceful alternative to the Tidal Basin

The garden was a collaboration between Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s and 1930s, though it continued to evolve into the 1960s.

There was work going on when I was there, from leaf raking to picking up landscape cloth in the growing garden.

A rake sprouts up among the leaves...

Apparently, there was once a large kitchen garden where now mostly flowers are grown.  The vegetable garden, though much reduced, is still bigger than mine, and there is some discussion of expanding the vegetables according to the gardener I buttonholed on my way through the prunus walk.  They have a nice set-up for compost, which I noticed because one of the leaf rakers emptied a big tarp into it while I was having garden envy by the remnants of the vegetables.

The vegetable garden; compost bins and leaves being dropped upper left.

Most people think about visiting great gardens in the spring and summer, but Dumbarton Oaks is one of my favorite places to stroll in the fall and winter.

The Japanese maple blazes, while the Katsura's turning leaves (see branches reaching across the lawn) lend a scent of cooked sugar to the air.

It sheds its glory spectacularly in the fall to reveal the outlines of its beauty—the bones, as a gardener would say.  And there is nothing so cheering as the sight of snowdrops along the R street path by the east lawn in the depths of February.  There is something here for everyone to enjoy, whether it be a view,

From the spires of 16th Street to the minaret on Massachusetts...

a specimen plant,

This American Beech is on the Beech Terrace....

a sense of place,a special feature,

Stairs to the pool; turn right for the mosaics of mythical scenes.

or pure whimsy.

Sapling sculptures circle inside the Ellipse.

So don’t discount a visit now that we’re approaching winter.  You’ll be surprised and, I hope, delighted.

If you need help, Pan can point the way...

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3 Responses to Dumbarton Oaks: Art and Beauty Around Every Corner

  1. Pingback: Cloud Terrace at Dumbarton Oaks: Wowsers! | arlingwords

  2. Pingback: Dumbarton Oaks: the View from Winter | arlingwords

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