Friday, November 28, 2008

Washington Social Diary

One part of The Kitchen Garden, ready to go to sleep for the winter.
In the Center of a City, a Garden for All Seasons
By Carol Joynt

Georgetown is a village with some impressive public and semi-public historic mansion houses. There are Halcyon House and Evermay (both, coincidentally, on the market), and there is Tudor Place, which is almost fully a museum.

But the house on the hill, literally, is Dumbarton Oaks, fifty three acres of gardens with a mansion that, when it was bought in 1920 by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, was considered the “ideal country house ... an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds.”
The Lovers Lane Pool and amphitheater which Farrand designed as a homage to the theater at the Accademia degli Arcadi Bosco Parrasio in Rome.
Landscape architect Beatrix Farrand was the first and most prominent and enduring of several landscape architects to bring vision and function to the “neglected grounds,” collaborating closely with Mildred Bliss. What was created within the property were a variety of gardens and landscapes – each flowing from one to the other, each different, each in synch with the region and the seasons.

It is, in the best sense, a place to get happily lost in the midst of the urban maelstrom. Georgetowners probably take it too much for granted, but tourists, and garden lovers flock there for an afternoon’s walkabout.
According to Dumbarton Oaks, the borders of the Herbaceous garden change from tulips and pansies in the spring, to annuals and perennials in the summer, and their autumn face shown here of chrysanthemums and asters.
Robert Bliss, a career diplomat, bequeathed Dumbarton Oaks, both the gardens and the significantly renovated 1801 Federal-style house, to his alma mater, Harvard. They revitalized it as an institute dedicated to international scholarship in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies.

But for those of us who live here, it’s all about the gardens, and their changing face from season to season. We visited with our camera on the day designated as the end of the “regular season.” Now, through March 14th, the gardens will have “winter hours,” open only from 2-5 each day but Monday. If you come for the inauguration, it’s worth a stop, if nothing else for the calm and quiet. Besides, even a sleeping garden is a thing of special beauty.
Clockwise from above: The drive up to Dumbarton Oaks, the Federal-style home bought by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in 1920. It sits at the top of Georgetown; A tribute to Beatrix Farrand, who Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss hired to landscape and design their 53 acre Georgetown property. It was a collaboration that lasted 30 years; The original house of Dumbarton Oaks was built in 1801.
The exterior of the Orangery, built by Robert Beverley in 1810, more than a century before the Blisses bought the property.
In repose in the Orangery. During the winter months, the Orangery is used as a greenhouse and holds a collection of gardenias, oleander, and citrus.
Clockwise from top: Though it's now too cold to swim, the pool is inviting. It was designed in the 1920s by Frederick Brooke on ground that once was a stable yard and manure pit. Architects McKim, Mead & White, working with Beatrix Farrand, designed the bath house and loggia; An ancient garden plaque celebrating the sign of Aquarius, now hiding under an overgrowth of vines; Hydrangeas in their autumn shades; The distinctive Pebble Garden is in an area that was initially a tennis court. It is made of pebbles imported from Mexico.
Clockwise from top: You may think this is England, but it's Georgetown. This view of the rear of the house is called the North Vista. It is lined with stoned walls and wisteria; The back of the mansion, up close; A venerable wisteria; A view into the woods from the far end of the North Vista; The steps in the lawn of the North Vista.
A spot in the woods of Dumbarton Oaks; As much as Dumbarton Oaks is a feasrt of gardens, it is also home to many paths. This one leads away from the North Vista and into the woods.
Clockwise from top: It may look like France, but this double row of American hornbeams at Dumbarton Oaks is in Georgetown. This garden is called The Ellipse; The Provencal fountain in the center of the Ellipse was bought in 1927; Detail of the Provencal fountain; The path from The Ellipse to The Kitchen Garden.
Clockwise from top: One part of The Kitchen Garden, ready to go to sleep for the winter; The Arbor that runs along The Kitchen Garden; Moss grows on the bricks wherever there are bricks; Farrand designed The Kitchen Gardens as three "outdoor rooms," including a Cutting Garden, a Peony Garden and a Vegetable or "Growing" Garden. She also designed the tool sheds with their terracotta roofs.
Clockwise from above: A tool shed door; A tool shed roof; The wooden stairs in The Kitchen Gardens.
The borders of the Herbaceous garden change from tulips and pansies in the spring, to annuals and perennials in the summer, and their autumn face shown here of chrysanthemums and asters. There are two Irish yews at either end of the hundred-foot-long Herbaceous Border, known as "Mr. and Mrs. Yew." The benches were designed by Beatrix Farrand.
Clockwise from top: A beautiful place to sit along a stone path at Dumbarton Oaks; Pan is pointing visitors toward The Lovers Lane Pool; A resident squirrel scampers along a stone path; The seats of the amphitheater that look down on The Lovers Lane Pool.
The path along the Bamboo Garden. To the right is the Lovers Lane Pool. Many of the trees are impressively ancient.
Topiary between the Lovers Lane Pool and the Fountain Terrace. The view from the Bamboo Garden.
The Fountain Terrace, which Farrand considerd to be Dumbarton Oaks one real flower garden. A putto holding a fish. There are two in The Fountain Terrace garden.
A balcony suitable for Romeo & Juliet; there are two iron balconies suspended over The Fountain Terrace. They are adjacent to the Rose Garden above. A bench on The Fountain Terrace.
The Rose Garden in late afternoon. It is home to approximately 900 roses. An autumn rose. Dumbarton Oaks says most of the roses in The Rose Garden are "remontant," meaning their strongest bloom is in spring, but they repeat bloom in the summer and autumn.
The silhouette of the Rose Garden gate in the late autumn glow. A moss covered bench in a corner of The Rose Garden.
Clockwise from above: Autumn color in the woods at Dumbarton Oaks; A bench in The Lilac Circle; Fruit that did not make it past summer.
The Lilac Circle is also home to wonderful Lilies of the Valley in the spring. A path that leads to an old lattice wall of illusion.
The Catalogue House, which is where visitors can learn more about the plants and animals that live in Dumbarton Oaks. Also a good place to wait out a sudden rain storm.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.