The heirloom garden

On a hot day in early August, I visited the Heirloom Garden of the National Museum of American History* and took a lot of photos,  but because of our move, I never had time to post them.  Now that it is seed-ordering time in the U.S., I thought they might be inspirational.

(Click on any image above to scroll through larger photos.)

The garden — huge, raised planters, all the way around the museum building — contains a mix of open-pollinated plants cultivated in America prior to 1950 (heirlooms). The plantings are anchored by crape myrtles and a variety of shrubs.

The colorful annuals, perennials, bulbs, and herbs are all so familiar, but  the combinations are often surprising.  It’s a splendid ode to the flower gardens of our grandparents.

The museum pipes in a selection of American music from speakers set in the planters (in fake rocks).  Normally, I would find this annoying, but in the already noisy, wide open site, it actually drew me in to the garden and enhanced the experience.  And their selection is excellent — folk, jazz, blues, musicals.  The planters are raised about 3′, which also helps the plants compete for attention in the immense space.

By late summer, the flowers were being allowed to grow a little leggy and fade naturally, which added to the various forms and tones of the groupings.


*The Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has eight beautiful gardens (ten if you count the inner courtyards of the Freer Gallery and Museum of American Art).