Evermay

On Wednesday evening of this week, I joined a group of landscape design colleagues from the local chapter of APLD for a rare opportunity – a visit to the gardens at Evermay, a private estate in Georgetown. When I think of Georgetown gardens, the first word that comes to my mind is usually “tiny,” closely followed by “boxwoods.” Well, I was half right – but in for some surprises as well.

Evermay estate

The view from the south terraces of the Evermay estate, framed by a mature elm tree, reaches far beyond Georgetown.

At the outset, we were greeted by Mr. Harry Belin, Evermay’s current owner and the grandson of Lammont Belin, an architect who is primarily responsible for the creation of the terraced gardens on the estate. Mr. Belin was the most gracious of hosts, welcoming us and thanking us for visiting the site. The estate, which comprises 3.5 acres in the heart of Georgetown, is currently on the market for $29.5 million; Belin had driven in from Potomac, where he now lives with his wife, to meet us, introduce us to his gardener, and answer questions about the gardens and the estate.

We started the tour at the north side of the house, where a circular driveway with a large granite fountain sculpture – purchased from the Blisses, who owned Dumbarton Oaks – provides a focal point. ( Mr. Belin explained that because of budgetary constraints, none of the fountains were on at the moment, and so all the pools we saw were empty.) The “real” front of the house, to which we were promptly led, is on the south side, where a large terrace leads into a series of connected “garden rooms”, designed to provide separate areas where visitors could gather in more private groupings.

Evermay Estate, Washington DC, south terrace view

The view from the south-facing door of Evermay

It was at this point, looking out at the terraces below and as I began to walk around, that I started to comprehend the challenge for the next owners of this enormous property. Just maintaining what is here – somewhat understated though it is in terms of plantings – is quite a challenge, and one that the current gardener has done admirably. There are clipped ivy patterns on many of the retaining walls, mature boxwoods that have suffered some winter damage but still remain viable, and large swaths of lawn that looked recently mowed in appealing curved patterns.

Evermay Estate

Note the curved mowing patterns in the lawn leading up to the steps.

Evermay

Neatly tended rectangles of lawn break up the brick paths on the first terrace below the main terrace to the south of the house, and the stone obelisks also seen in the photo above make their first appearance.

The hillside beds between the first pool (with cherubs, see the second photo below), could use some more imaginative plantings than the large abelias that now dot them.

Evermay Estate

A hillside planting of Abelias in groundcover on one of the lower terraces at Evermay. The empty areas between the lawn and pool may have been planting beds for annuals.

Evermay Estate

Two cherub sculptures adorn the pool shown above.

Here and there on the lower terrace, I saw borrowed views over and through the brick walls.

Evermay Estate, Washington DC

A "moongate" with an elaborately-designed double copper gate between Evermay and an adjoining neighbor's garden. The overhanging tree looked like a variety of bald cypress.

Evermay, Georgetown, Washington DC

Clipped ivy and a lacecap hydrangea soften the brick walls on a lower terrace at Evermay that affords a beautiful "borrowed view" into the grounds of Dumbarton House on Q St. NW.

The biggest surprise came when I ventured farther down towards an Asian-influenced pavilion overlooking the tennis court area.

Evermay, Washington DC

A small Asian carving atop the copper roof of a viewing pavilion for the tennis court.

In front of me was an old Franklin tree (Franklinia altamaha), so rare that I have seen only one other in my life. This tree, discovered by John Bartram in his travels in Georgia in 1765, is no longer extant in the wild. I’ve never dared try to plant it for a client because it is notoriously difficult to establish. But here it was, trunk heaving out of a paved area next to a terrace overlooking the “Rabat Fountain,” dipping down and up again as it made itself quite at home. We were all amazed.

Evermay, Franklinia altamaha

A rare Franklinia altamaha growing on the terrace at Evermay.

So, treasures and challenges alike await the next owner. I came away with a greater appreciation for the responsibility that will come with owning such an historic property – and a sense of anticipation and hope that the new owners, whoever they may be, will rise to the occasion.

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8 Comments on “Evermay”

  1. bangchik Says:

    Owning a property which is very open to public scrutiny is never easy. But it must be very rewarding and satisfying…..
    Lovely garden..,
    ~bangchik

  2. Melissa Says:

    Visiting gardens as a designer is a treat and an experience that offers opportunities for delight and learning. Mr. Belin was very generous to allow our group to visit as it is still a private garden and you can see it only if invited by the owners or as a prospective purchaser. I had known little about it before this week and was grateful to be able to see it and hear about its history.

  3. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, What an amazing garden and a wonderful posting, both packed with interest. How I should love to visit this garden and how very special to have been shown around by the owner which always adds so much to any experience of this kind. Of particular interest to me was the way in which, as you remarked, the grass had been cut in broad, curving swathes. Given a lawn of any size, I should copy this instantly.

    • Melissa Says:

      Edith, I think you would have enjoyed visiting this garden. It has three terraced levels and is given structure by not only the terracing but placement of the various fountains as well. And that mowing pattern caught my eye – I see it when I visit Chanticleer, where it’s most strikingly evident from the various overlooks down towards the Serpentine and Pond Gardens.


  4. A truly amazing garden. I love the terracing, so much more interesting then having everything on one level.

    • Melissa Says:

      Yes, the terracing keeps drawing you further into the garden to see what the next “room” looks like. But your own garden uses a similar approach (and I, for one, would love to explore it someday!)


  5. I stumbled across your blog and am very happy I did. I feel like I’ve actually been to Evermay. Thank you for the visual images as well as the discriptive words that led to a relaxing walk within these gardens.
    I’ll visit you again!

    • Melissa Says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I hope you explore some of the older posts as well – there are ones on Filoli, Great Comp in England, Chanticleer here on the East Coast and more. I appreciate your stopping by.


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