Back home in DC this weekend, my family and I took a walk in the Palisades neighborhood where we saw this pussy willow and Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick in bloom. We also went to McCrillis Gardens in Bethesda and found camelias, Korean azaleas, stachyurus, and winterhazel in bloom.
One of my favorite things about the neighborhood I grew up in are a few gardens I see on routine walks I used to take. I went back home this weekend to visit my family, and as per usual, my parents and I did the routine Saturday morning dog walk up to Fort Reno, passing by my three favorite gardens.
The first one on the way is a garden across the street from Fort Reno. It’s infamous in my mind because of the two huge pomegranate shrubs in the front yard. There’s a profusion of orange-red blossoms this time of year that make the plants appear on fire. The flowers are large, with petals like crepe paper that emerge from a thick, fleshy calyx. I love watching the fruit form on pomegranate, as both fruit and flowers retain the intense scarlet color. One of these days I’m going to come back for some cuttings….
On the way home from the park, we cut through an alley to see our friends’ back yard garden. They planted into a retaining wall using native prairie plants that looked stunning in the morning light.
The last garden on our walk is one we just discovered. They have several little vignettes of plants with objet d’art scattered throughout their garden. I loved their planters of aloes and the funky table with foreign coins, succulents, with a clematis twining its way up.
That sums up my favorite sights in the ‘hood. I’ll hopefully be back next weekend with some more shots.
Have you seen all the bees hovering around the ground these days? Ever since the temperature rose above 60 last week, I’ve seen yards swarming with bees. “Well, should I get out the poison?” one homeowner asked me recently.
No no no no no!……These are solitary ground nesting bees! Known more scientifically as Andrenid bees, they come out when the weather warms up in the spring, and only live for about a month. Being solitary bees, they don’t attack like swarms of wasps do, and they rarely sting.
Andrenid bees build their nests underground, and you’ll notice where by seeing small holes surrounded by mini volcanos of soil (see photo above). They like to nest in sunny, dry sites without much vegetation, and where the ground is bare, like well worn paths or playing fields. I noticed them today in a client’s raised garden bed, where there was a large patch of exposed soil amidst their herbs.
These bees are busy pollinating your plants, so think twice before killing them (but please don’t kill them).
Check out that bug! If you look closely you’ll see it’s not one, but two bugs! It’s a cicada being eaten by a cicada killer wasp! The wasp was flying around with this huge cicada in its death grip and we had a spontaneous kodak moment when it landed near us on this post at the Arboretum.
Yes, we did make it to the US National Arboretum, though it was noon on a particularly hot day when we finally made it out the door. While I didn’t take many photos at that godforsaken time of day, we did manage to get around and see a lot: the amazing bonsai collection, the Capitol Columns, native woodland Fern Valley, and the Asian gardens. But, what stood out for me were the specimens above: a handsome espaliered ginkgo and a well-pruned yellowwood - have you ever seen a yellowwood with such great crotch angles?
Dumbarton Oaks (aka the D.O.) was also on the list. I love the D.O. I sort of grew up here, too. My mom worked as the Administrative Assistant at the D.O. for ten years, and so I spent my formative teenage years rambling in the garden. From around age 13 until my college years, we had the run of the place - swimming in the pool every summer; picnicking in every garden nook; and daydreaming the hours away. Needless to say, I memorized the place.
And yet I still discover something new every time I revisit Dumbarton Oaks. Like the detail and ornament. Within the Horseshoe Fountain (see above), Equisetum stood out against a backdrop of cattails carved in stone. The North Vista culminated in an ornamental rail with a marine motif of shells and snails designed by landscape architect Ruth Havey, an associate of Beatrix Farrand.
Repetition is also used beautifully throughout the garden. Take the ellipse, for example. I think there were 3 or 4 places where I discovered ellipses in the garden - the Lovers’ Lane Pool, Cherry Hill, within the various stonework, and obviously The Ellipse.
The garden was designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. She was hired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in 1921, one year after they bought the 53-acre property that sits at the highest point of Georgetown. The Blisses had a unique relationship with Farrand in that they worked in close collaboration for almost thirty years. Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand planned every detail of the garden together, including each terrace, bench, urn, and border.
The Blisses gifted Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University in 1940, complete with the grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Harvard continues to operate the institution with the mission of “supporting scholarship internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships, meetings, exhibitions, and publications.”
After the U.S. Botanic Garden, we made our way to one of my favorite places - the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. As we neared the central fountain, it looked as if the place was deserted. The seating bench surrounding the eastern side of the fountain was empty. But, as we came closer, it became clear that everyone was clustered on the western half, taking refuge in the shade. The stone seating wall was draped with bodies, most with their feet in the water. So, we sat down, took off our shoes, and dipped our toes into the collective wading pool. A double ring of Little-leaf lindens encircled the fountain, screening out the surroundings - Constitution Avenue, the National Mall, the mobs of tourists - and created an oasis of calmness and quiet that we cherished briefly.