In early May, I organized three days of visiting some of our area’s finest gardens for visiting members of The American Horticultural Society. And all I can say is Wow!! The gardens are all fantastic and well worth visiting. In Northern Virginia we went to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Green Spring Gardens, Mount Vernon’s Distillery and Gristmill. In Washington DC our visits were to Hillwood Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks. In Maryland we visited the gardens of Glenstone Museum.
Our group found the gardens of Glenstone and Dumbarton Oaks to be the most remarkable but for different reasons. Our Glenstone tour was given by Paul Tukey, Director of Environmental Stewardship. Paul has led the sustainability and carbon reduction efforts for more than eight years. He has been able to demonstrate possibilities when working with native plants, naturalistic designs, and all the efforts are done organically. Glenstone has a total commitment to the potentials of both sustainability and regeneration.
Glenstone gardens are a kind of living classrooms. The 300-acre site includes a five-acre organic lawn, native meadows, as well as restored streams, tributaries, and forests. These kinds of gardens can be replicated on a smaller scale for home gardeners. A visitor who is ambling through the gardens will experience the gentle swaying of grasses that soften the feeling of the landscape, stunning trees, long views, and a sense of being in a natural utopia.
Dumbarton Oaks is one of the finest historic landscape gardens in North America. Designed by Landscape Architect Beatrix Farrand in 1921, the gardens have been developed over the next thirty years in collaboration with the owners who were Mildred and Robert Bliss. The property, including the museum and library, is now owned and operated by Harvard University.
Farrand developed a plan for the hilly site. She created a series of garden rooms situated on a variety of terraces. Her designs integrated elements of traditional country estate gardens with many components from Italian and English design. Visitors walking through the gardens will experience small intimate spaces followed by majestic gardens which incorporate extraordinary details including grand trees, lovely garden ornaments and fabulous views.
Throughout the year, the quality of Dumbarton Oaks gardens is astounding. My favorite place is Lover’s Lane Pool where a visitor enters a small, enclosed amphitheater that includes a shallow pool and a gently curving walkway planted with bulbs and wildflowers. These elements lead you to even more magical gardens.