Dumbarton Oaks in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. was a mecca for me when I was planning and implementing my gardens twenty years ago. A former private estate, now under the stewardship of Harvard University, its owners took full advantage of the topography of this hilltop property which has allowed a wealth of design opportunities from garden rooms to an all pebble terrace with water to woodland amphitheater to sweeping tapis verts.
My recent trip for a lecture in Alexandria, Virginia provided the welcome opportunity to visit this outstanding American garden at a time of year when I would not usually be in Washington. As I’ve always thought, a garden in its bare winter state affords the viewer a chance to “read” its true design; as foliage dies back, vistas open up. The garden’s winter incarnation has a stillness and grandeur about it.
And then there was the benefit of an early spring, with pink cherry blossoms and magnolia blooms taking center stage. Pure magic!
With few other plants blooming, I could give full attention to the tasteful embellishes and flourishes created in stone that accent walls as part of the residence site. These creative additions and the enhancement they provide, without ever being overwrought, are unlike any I have seen, even in France or England. Their three dimensionality is what makes them stand apart.
Dumbarton Oaks should be top of anyone’s list for a visit, particularly in the winter when uncloaked trees allow vistas to reveal themselves; case in point…the woodland amphitheater, created on one of the levels of this hillside property.
A curved series of rustic lattice trellises , centered with wooden urns, encircle the upper tier of the amphitheater. One can only imagine the entertainment that took place here…