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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Early pink magnolias

Tulip magnolia

When we arrived back in Washington, D.C., in the first week of April, I enjoyed the flowers of the tulip magnolias.  They were practically the only blooms in the still wintery landscape.

Tulip magnolia at DACOR-Bacon Hse., Wash., D.C., April 2013/enclos*ure

Although I believe what I was calling ‘tulip’ magnolias were really saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangeana), which are a hybrid of tulip or Mulan magnolia (M. liliiflora) and Yulan magnolia (M. denudata).

Tulip magnolia at DACOR-Bacon Hse., Wash., D.C., April 2013/enclos*ure

At DACOR-Bacon House, about two blocks west of the White House, I took a lot of photos of two magnolia trees that are planted at the tops of retaining walls, so that the lower blooms are right at eye level.

One of the best places in Washington to enjoy this tree blooming (or leafed out and casting shade) is the Moongate Garden of the Smithsonian’s Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Tulip magnolia at DACOR-Bacon Hse., Wash., D.C., April 2013/enclos*ure

And that Washington flower, the pink magnolia tree, blooms now/ In little yards, its trunk a smoky gray. . . .

James Schuyler, from “Hymn to Life