The birds

Wooden garden gate, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington, D.C., 1938, from the Arthur Peck Photograph Collection, via Oregon State University (OSU) Special Collections and Archives Commons on flickr.

Arthur Peck was a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Oregon Agricultural College from 1908 to 1948. During his long career, he created a teaching library of 24 boxes of glass lantern slides — now in OSU’s archives.

Does anyone know if this gate still exists in the Gardens?

A morning in the weeds

Preparing for a Weeding Day at Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, D.C./enclos*ureIs this not a picture of fun? Two buckets full of loppers, pruners, saws, and even a couple of machetes.

Our recent visit to Washington, D.C., coincided with a September Saturday “Weeding Day” at Dumbarton Oaks Park, sponsored by the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy.  I have wanted to volunteer for one of these days for a couple of years — ever since learning about the group’s efforts to restore this Beatrix Farrand masterpiece, which is located behind the more famous Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.

The stream and a dam at Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, DC -- a Beatrix Farrand masterpiece now undergoing restoration/enclos*ure
Owned by the National Park Service since 1940, the park has suffered from invasive exotic plants and water runoff.

The morning started with  Ann Aldrich, the Conservancy’s Program Director, making sure we knew how to recognize poison ivy.  Then we all doused our exposed skin in Tecnu, a soap that mitigates the effects of exposure.

We learned that poison ivy was not one of the weeds we would be pulling — it is native to the area and an important source of (protein) food for birds.

Poison Ivy plus invasive weeds at Dumbarton Oaks Park/enclos*ure
(Good) poison ivy surrounded by (bad) porcelain berry, English ivy, Japanese stilt grass, and liriope.

Our enemies were Japanese stilt grass, pokeweed, English ivy, tree of heaven, wild grape, porcelain berry vine,* and multi-flora rose.

We were clearing a meadow area just above the stone pump house (no. 2), on the right in the drawing below.

Plan of Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, D.C./enclos*ure

Below is a picture of the area before we started. . .

A meadow in Dumbarton Oaks Park before pulling invasive weeds/enclos*ure

And below is what it looked like after we finished (about 3 1/2 hours later).  We probably would have cleared out more above the old log, but there was a bees’ nest on the other side.

A meadow at Dumbarton Oaks Park after pulling invasive weeds/enclos*ure

Ann has spent many a weekend this summer leading garden enthusiasts, college students, and D.C. schoolchildren in “weed warrior-ing.”  There is so much to do, and I am so impressed with the group’s ambitious commitment to this lovely place.

The stream at Dumbarton Oaks Park, now under restoration/enclos*ure

As I was leaving, I stopped to admire the Arts and Crafts-style stonework of the dams that Farrand installed all along the little stream that runs through the park.

Stone work slated for repair by the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy/enclos*ure

The Conservancy was just about to have a contractor make repairs to this area when the government shutdown put a halt to even volunteer efforts. (The Conservancy supports and is supervised by the National Park Service.)  I  hope the work is underway now.  Earlier this year, the group was able to place compost filter socks (below) near the Lovers’ Lane entrance to the park.

Compost filter socks in Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, DC. The park is undergoing restoration/enclos*ure

They are preventing further damage from the water runoff that comes shooting down the small asphalt road that runs along Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.

The entrance to Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, DC/enclos*ure

I had a great time and I will definitely do it again when we move back to Washington (the park is an easy walk from our house).  If you live in the D.C. area and would like to help, click here and ask to be put on the Conservancy’s mailing list.

Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy is also holding a fundraiser on November 7, 6:30 p.m., at The Josephine Butler Parks Center.  Author Richard Guy Wilson will speak on “Edith Wharton at Home:  Life on the Mount.”  (Wharton was Farrand’s aunt.)  Tickets are $35; click here for more information.

* Farrand actually specified porcelain berry vine to be grown over her arbors, which just makes me shudder.

Creeping fig

Rosamond Carr’s cottage in the Virunga hills is covered in creeping fig or Ficus pumila. The plant (along with the nice windows and the stone steps) turned a little square box into something really charming.

The Orangery of Dumbarton Oaks is also draped with a wonderful specimen, which was planted in its northwest corner in the 1860s.

Creeping fig in the Orangery of Dumbarton Oaks. Click the photo to enlarge it.
Built in 1810, the Orangery was undergoing renovation last summer.

Creeping fig will survive outdoors in (U.S.) zones 8 – 11.  It is native to east Asia.

Growing up a tree in our Kigali garden.

The plant is not fussy about its conditions, but does need consistently moist soil.  Very fast growing, its aerial roots will adhere to anything, even metal and glass. All the sources I consulted warned against letting it attach to a wooden structure. With brick or concrete, it should be grown on something designed to support the plant forever, as the little rootlets will be very hard to remove if you later want a bare surface.

The fruit of the ‘Awkeotsong’ variety is used to make aiyu jelly in Taiwan (and ice jelly in Singapore). But several websites warned that all parts of the plant are poisonous. It may be that the processing technique makes the jelly safe to eat.

Since you inquire about creepers and ficus pumila,
They sum up the mood of a dweller in the wilds;
Respectfully visiting you in calf’s muzzle breeks* with a dove-headed walking stick.

— Ruan Dacheng, Chinese poet (1587-1646)

Thanks to Pam at Digging for  hosting Foliage Follow Up today (always the 16th of the month).

* “. . . a kind of shorts, or possibly a kilt, associated with a casual way of life in ancient times.”

The Kasura trees

If you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you’ve probably realized that I love anything old and contorted.  (No, I’m not going to make you look at any more 200-year-old boxwoods.)

So, of course, I wanted to share my photos of two lovely old Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) at Dumbarton Oaks at the edge of the East Lawn.

The branches of this pair of trees reach out to the lawn. Please click the photo to enlarge it and see the wonderful volume of space they enclose.
Katsura trees can become multi-stemmed with age, as this one certainly has.
It touches the lawn in places.
Katsura trees are shallow-rooted. This one's roots have stretched out . . .
. . . and broken through the walkway, which has been beautifully repaired.
The long branches frame the view across the lawn. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow and apricot and are said to smell like cotton candy.

Just for fun, here’s an entertaining little video (well, I thought so) of the staff of the New York Botanical Garden moving a mature weeping Katsura tree last fall. It first appeared on the NYBG’s blog, Plant Talk.