Category Archives: Washington, D.C., gardens

Vintage landscape: daffodils

Middleburg, Va., flower show, 1931, Library of CongressMiddleburg Flower Show, Middleburg, Virginia, April 1931, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Right now, here in Stuttgart, a few daffodils have poked up from our front yard. I will probably pick them. I don’t usually like Narcissus in the landscape in early spring — the bright yellow is too much, too soon.  But, like those in the photo above, they look really nice in a vase.

There are also some fat cultivated Dutch hyacinths by our front door. They’re going to get the chop too.

In the fall, for next March and early April, I want to plant snowdrops and snake’s head fritillarias.

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Life in gardens: sowing

Gardeners at the 1936 White Hse., Library of Congress“Grounds workers at White House, Washington, D.C.,” March 1936, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The National Park Service has maintained the White House gardens since 1933.

. . . [W]hile lawns are cultural (in the sense that they are meaning-laden), they are not the product of some pre-existing “culture,” and are instead the meaningful expression of political and economic forces. . . . Lawns are propelled into the landscape both by economic imperatives (e.g., real estate growth) and also by intentional and thoughtful efforts to produce certain kinds of subjects. Lawns are a strategy, therefore, both for capital accumulation and making docile and responsible citizens.

– Paul Robbins, from Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are (p. 32)

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Vintage landscape: preparation

Starting seeds 2, 1943, L. Rosskam, Library of Congress“Washington, D.C. Victory gardening in the Northwest section. [Tomato s]eedlings in paper cups that will be transplanted in the victory garden,” 1943, by Louise Rosskam, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (Another view here.)

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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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