Category Archives: Washington, D.C., gardens

The winter garden: diplomatic cacti

Mexican Embassy cacti, Library of Congress“Mexican ambassador Don Manuel Tellez standing amidst potted cacti in the embassy’s conservatory, Washington, D.C.,” ca. 1925, by National Photo Company, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

More winter gardens are here.

After she left he bought another cactus
just like the one she’d bought him
in the airport in Marrakesh. . .

Next week he was back for another,
then another. . .

– Matthew Sweeney, from “Cacti

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The winter garden: Parmelee house

Washington conservatory, Library of CongressThe conservatory of “The Causeway,”  or James Parmelee house, Northwest Washington, D.C., 1919, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The estate has also been called Twin Oaks and Tregaron.  Its 1912 house still stands, and some of the land is a campus for the Washington International School.

James Parmelee was a Cleveland financier and co-founder of the National Carbon Company.

More winter gardens are here.

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The Downing Urn

Still looking through some photos that I took this fall, when we visited Washington, D.C. . .

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I admired the Andrew Jackson Downing Urn in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Institution Castle. It was designed by Downing’s architectural partner, Calvert Vaux, and sculpted from marble by Robert E. Launitz several years after Downing’s death.

In 1850, Andrew Jackson Downing transformed the Mall into the nation’s first landscaped public park using informal, romantic arrangements of circular carriage drives and plantings of rare American trees. Downing’s design endured until 1934, when the Mall was restored to Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan. Downing (1815-1852), the father of American landscape architecture, also designed the White House and Capitol grounds.

The memorial urn stood on the Mall near the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for 109 years (1856-1965). In 1972, it was restored and placed on the lawn east of the Smithsonian Building (“Castle”) flag tower. In 1987, it was relocated to the Rose Garden at the Castle’s east door. The urn was moved to its location in the Enid A. Haupt Garden in 1989.”

- text of the plaque near the foot of the urn’s pedestal

I wonder where the urn will go in the new design plans for the area, recently released by the Smithsonian.

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Garden classroom, Washington, D.C.

Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., October 2014, enclos*ure
In October, during our trip to the U.S., I poked fun at a Bradford pear tree (happily?) missing from the grounds of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) building on the National Mall.

But I did like all the other American specimen trees there — and the demonstration vegetable and flower garden on the corner of 12th Street and Jefferson Drive, S.W., (across from the Smithsonian Metro stop).

Outdoor classroom, USDA

I particularly liked the seating in what appeared to be an outdoor classroom.

Outdoor classroom, Oct. 2014, USDA

Earlier this year, an interesting 15-year plan was announced to turn all the green space (and parking lots) surrounding the USDA building into a “People’s Garden,” focusing on sustainable cultivation. You can read more about it here.

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The Sunday porch: lattice and brick

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“William Windom house, 1723 de Sales Place, Washington, D.C., Terrace,” ca. 1925, four hand-colored glass lantern slides by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Johnston used these slides in her “Gardens for City and Suburb” lectures. (You can scroll through larger version by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below.)

De Sales Place (now Row) is an alleyway between L and M Streets, N.W. (It connects 18th and 19th Streets.) The house is gone; an office building occupies the site.

The William Windom who gave his name to the home was twice Secretary of the Treasury, as well as a Congressman and Senator from Minneasota. He died in 1891. His son, also a William, may have been living in the house at the time of these photos.  He died in 1926.

[We] usually learn that modesty, charm, reliability, freshness, calmness, are as satisfying in a garden as anywhere else.

– Henry Mitchell, from The Essential Earthman

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