The Garden at Dumbarton Oaks

So back in April Judy and I visited the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in the Georgetown section of DC. We were visiting our friends who live outside Baltimore and wanted to see this garden in part because it would be closed for almost a year starting in July.

DSC_0005Dumbarton Oaks as it exists today was created by Mildred and Robert Bliss. Robert was an American diplomat, but it was Mildred who took the lead in the garden. They bought the property in 1920, and over the next decade Mildred worked with the garden designer Beatrix Farrand.

DSC_0006The property was handed over to Harvard University in 1940. We entered through the South Lawn, which was unremarkable.

DSC_0011Things started to get interesting just outside the house in the Beech Terrace. This is an American Beech (Fagus grandiflora) that was planted in 1948 after the original tree died.

The property around the house is mostly sloping, and so the garden is organized into a series of terraces.

DSC_0019The Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) was coming into full bloom at the time of our visit. We were always going up and sticking our noses into the fragrant pea-like flowers.

DSC_0032There were lots of Tulips blooming in the Fountain Terrace.

DSC_0034I liked this arched iron gate.

DSC_0051The Arbor Terrace is all about places to sit, surrounded by fragrant herbs. The arbor is supposed to be covered with more Wisteria, but I guess it needed to be replaced. I liked the little orange tree in a pot.

DSC_0039Here’s a spot for enjoying the sunshine and perhaps some conversation.

DSC_0041What a great herb planter. Too bad you can’t really sit on it.

DSC_0070This is called the Lovers’ Lane Pool, though I don’t know why.

DSC_0065There’s a brick amphitheater at one end.

DSC_0069Curves gave the old brick an appealing softness.


An orchard and small meadow lie beyond the pool. The meadow is planted in Daffodils and various small spring bulbs, but most of the blooms had gone over already.

DSC_0082Beyond the orchard we found the kitchen gardens, with spring vegetables newly planted.

DSC_0103We admired some large Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida) as we strolled the grounds.

DSC_0130The Pebble Garden has an extensive mosaic of small stones surrounded by Wisteria-covered walls.

DSC_0148Here’s a view from the terrace above. The brown thing is a sheaf of wheat.

DSC_0134And finally, a couple more pictures of the Wisteria in bloom.

DSC_0139Dumbarton Oaks is a mere two miles from the White House. I’d like to think that a daily stroll here would calm the disordered minds currently in charge of our country. On second thought, Trump would probably try to turn it into a golf course.

28 Comments on “The Garden at Dumbarton Oaks”

  1. There were a lot of people there, and I had to work very hard to get some of these photos without people. That’s the first thing I see, looking at these photos. Plus, the scent of the wisteria was wonderful, I never knew it had such an aroma. Third, we had our friends with us, one of whom was just humoring us, because he is bored to death by flowers. But he loved the asparagus in the vegetable garden – he had never seen asparagus growing.

  2. What a lovely grand garden! If I admit it this is my favorite style of garden…more formal with pools, benches and symmetry. It sound like it isn’t open during the Fling…darn! Your pictures and stunning!

  3. Thanks for the tour of such a lovely garden (I bet the inside of the house would be interesting too) I haven’t seen many formal gardens in the US and this is a beauty. The wisteria and the flowering Dogwoods are gorgeous. Judy you did well with your photos, not another person in sight!

  4. And probably turn the mall into a large putting green. As for Dumbarton Oaks, it is on my to do list if I ever visit DC when it is open. Though I have made many trips to DC in the past, they were always in the winter. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

  5. Jason, your photos revealed elements of this garden that I’ve not seen before in a garden I’ve wanted to visit for a while. The structures are very reminiscent of British gardens – the pebble mosaic is a masterpiece, thank you for the view from above. Now this is on my bucket list for a future visit.

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