Posted tagged ‘Dumbarton Oaks’

Autumn Vistas at Dumbarton Oaks

November 15, 2014

One of the most amazing gardens in the Washington DC area is tucked away at the top of Georgetown. I’m speaking, of course, of Dumbarton Oaks, designed over a period of thirty years (more or less) by Beatrix Farrand. Farrand, the first woman landscape architect in the United States, worked with Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to create an expanse of garden “rooms,” and designed every aspect of the landscape, from the plantings down to the finials and stone benches you find throughout. (For those of you who follow such things, National Geographic just ranked Dumbarton Oaks as one of the top ten gardens in the world.)

On the first of November, I went to visit the gardens. The last time I saw them, several years ago, I had been disappointed in the herbaceous borders. But this time the whole place looked spectacular; and there was a new “performance art” installation in the form of sound pipes in the Lovers Lane Pool, by Hugh Livingston. The Dumbarton Oaks website describes them as “an imaginary chorus on a watery stage.”

Dumbarton Oaks, Hugh Livingston, Lovers Lane Pool

“Pool of Bamboo Counterpoint,” by Hugh Livingston, at Dumbarton Oaks.

Livingston’s sound “piece” follows on other temporary art installations that have graced other parts of the garden in past years, including Patrick Dougherty’s “Easy Rider” installation in the Ellipse, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

After investigating the pool installation, I spent several hours in the rest of the garden – the weakening fall sun was low enough that photography was less challenging than I’d anticipated. Hope you enjoy the show.

Dumbarton Oaks is located at 31st and R Streets NW in Washington DC. From now until March 15, 2015, the gardens are open only in the afternoons from 2 – 5 pm and admission is free.


Bewitching Witchhazels

March 12, 2011

Yes, I know, spring is just around the corner – but those of us in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern U.S. aren’t quite there yet. Still, there is some excitement to be had in the garden these days, especially if you are fortunate enough to have somewhere in your landscape a witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). These shrubs usually grow about 12-15′ high and have a wide spread at maturity. Their strap-like, twisted petals are a sight for sore eyes in winter.

Hamamelis x intermedia, Dumbarton Oaks, winter shrubs

A witchhazel in flower at Dumbarton Oaks in early March. I'm not sure, but I think its a Jelena.

As I wrote when I first began this blog, it was the sight of a ‘Jelena’ witchhazel in bloom at the National Arboretum, many years ago, which helped spark my interest in garden photography. But when it comes to planting them, it’s hard to choose a favorite. All of them provide welcome color at the end of winter, when a gardener’s soul – and eyes – are eager for spring to arrive. The petals, which appear on bare stems, are lightly fragrant. And there’s even a bonus, in the fall, of beautifully colored foliage.

Do you like yellows? I saw two specimens at Dumbarton, close by each other (not far from the Orangerie), that were equally lovely. Thanks to a little sleuthing by my work colleague, Abby Yager, I’m able to identify them for you.
The first one is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise,’ with a rich golden yellow color. This is a favorite for landscape designers since it’s quite vigorous and reliable; it was developed at the Arnold Arboretum.  This particular specimen, according to Dumbarton Oaks, was grafted onto  H. virginiana rootstock.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise,' Dumbarton Oaks

Hamamelis x intermedia Arnold Promise, at Dumbarton Oaks (grated onto H. virginiana rootstock)

Prefer something a bit paler? Here’s Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Angelly.’ Its pale yellow flowers really stand out against a dark evergreen background.

Hamamelis x 'Angelly', Dumbarton Oaks

Angelly witchhazel at Dumbarton Oaks in March

According to what I’ve been able to learn, ‘Angelly’ is a more upright-shaped witchhazel that blooms relatively late in the season. Around here, you see most witchhazels in bloom in  late February into early March. There is another species, H. mollis, which blooms in late fall.

New cultivars are developed regularly. But sometimes if you dig a little into history, you learn something fascinating and sweet about the old tried-and-true cultivars. According to Wikipedia, Jelena and Robert de Belder of Arboretum Kalmthout, selecting for red cultivars, found three: the first, with bronze flowers, was named ‘Jelena’; the next, with red flowers, was named ‘Diane’ (the name of their daughter); the last, with deep red flowers, was called ‘Livia’ (the name of their granddaughter). Nothing like keeping it in the family. Now I just need to find space for one in my own garden.

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