The Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian
Several weeks ago, having not picked up my camera seriously in a while, I decided to make a dawn run down to the Mall in search of architecture to photograph for an upcoming themed competition at my camera club. After spending some time outside the National Museum of the American Indian, I headed for the Enid Haupt Garden, the most well-known of the Smithsonian’s garden spaces. On the way, however, a funny thing happened – I discovered the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.
Tucked into a relatively modest space between the Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Ripley Garden is packed full of unusual trees and shrubs as well as annuals and perennials. It was dedicated in 1988 to honor Mary Ripley, who founded the Smithsonian Women’s Committee (she was the wife of the Institution’s eighth secretary). It was designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, and the Smithsonian’s Horticulture Services Division.
The raised garden beds are laid out in a curvilinear pattern that invites the visitor to explore and keeps you from seeing all the garden has to offer at once. They also offer the advantage – to the plant material – of making it less likely visitors will step into the beds (which of course means the Horticultural Services Division has to climb up carefully to tend to the plants!). I was surprised by the large amount of tropical plants I saw, but presumably the banana plant shown below is one of those that is hardy in our Zone 7 climate here.
An ornate 19th-century cast-iron fountain is complemented by similar benches, lampposts, and stands for hanging baskets throughout the garden.
My visit was in early July, not a peak time for gardens struggling with the heat of a Washington summer. But in addition to the tropicals and annuals I saw, there were other spots of color along the way in the form of lilies and Echinops, complete with bees.
If you’re visiting Washington, don’t miss this small gem of a garden just off the Mall. The Enid Haupt garden – to be the subject of another post – is justly famous. The Ripley Garden, however, offers much more in a small space, so put it on your list of sites to visit!Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, photography comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.