The Heirloom Garden in early fall

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During the last week of September, I took a walk around the Heirloom Garden of the Museum of American History and was filled — once again — with admiration for the Smithsonian Institution’s horticulture division.

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

The space is very large, open, and — at the south entrance — crowded with tourists. Still, the beautiful long borders, which were being allowed to fade with fall naturally, offered a surprisingly intimate and even soulful experience.

You can see more Heirloom Garden pictures here.

One would have thought, (so cunningly the rude
And scorned partes were mingled with the fine,)
That Nature had for wantonesse ensude
Art, and that Art at Nature did repine;
So striving each th’ other to undermine,
Each did the others work more beautify;
So diff’ring both in wills agreed in fine:
So all agreed through sweete diversity,
This gardin to adorne with all variety.

— Edmund Spenser, from “In the Bower of Bliss”

The Sunday porch: Ellen Glasgow house, Richmond

Preserve, within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries.
— Ellen Glasgow

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: Ellen Glasgow Hse., Richmond, ca. 1930s, F.B. johnston, Library of CongressView from the back porch of the home of novelist Ellen Glasgow, Richmond, Virginia, ca. 1930s, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  (Click here for a larger view.)

Ellen Glasgow House, 1930s, Richmond, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of Congress

Glasgow published 19 novels and an autobiography — The Woman Within — about life in Virginia. Their realism “helped direct Southern literature away from sentimentality and nostalgia.”

Her books were selling briskly in the 1930s, when these pictures were taken, and she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942.

Ellen Glasgow House, 1930s, Richmond, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of CongressHer home was built in 1841, and Glasgow lived there from the time her father bought it in 1887, when she was about 13, until her death in 1945.

Ellen Glasgow House, 1930s, Richmond, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of CongressIt is now owned by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities but is not open to the public.