Inaugural fall-out in the garden
(Ripley Garden on the Mall)


I'm sorry to report that the inaugural news out of Washington, D.C. isn't ALL good, at least in the gardening department.  Remember the "Best Little Garden in D.C. and the Plant Geek who Tends it?"  I didn't think so, but it's the Ripley Garden just off the National Mall.  Its gardener in charge, Janet Draper, wrote to tell me about – oops – major damage caused by enthusiastic crowds (and I'll add – crowd control and security that let everyone down).  Just look where the poor garden is located – awfully close to the action.Riple400
Here's some of Janet's sad report.

"I was very thankful to learn before the event that the Ripley Garden
would be safe since they had walled it off with 6’ fencing for security
reasons…Due to excitement and massive crowds being forced down Independence
Ave (as early at 6:30 a.m. 7th street was blocked off!), people were
desperate in their excitement to get to the Mall, so the fence
protecting Ripley was breached (people first climbed it; then it was
just moved out of the way).

“As far as I can determine, what must have happened is that people were
flooding (coworkers describe people nearly running) into the garden and
then they were blocked in by the fence at the other end, and until that
was removed, the crowds were backing up and people must have been
frantically just trying to find someplace to stand and not get
trampled. Needless to say, the garden took a major hit.  The gates remained down through the entire event so tJanet400he garden was trampled both coming and going."

The result? "Plants just disappeared!  It is as if they were
freeze dried then they just turned to dust!" 

But Janet's a REAL GARDENER, and everyone here knows what that means – neither rains nor winds nor gate-crashing crowds can kill her spirit!  And she tells me her Smithsonian bosses are supportive and the garden WILL make a comeback!

Photo:  Today Janet's smiling and inspiring crowds to plant gorgeous annuals from seeds.  She's sharing her photos with me, so stay tuned.


  1. I marveled at the crowd control — I’ve been living in parts of the world where crowds of 1 million-plus coming and going in the space of a few hours would have meant stampedes, panics and people trampled and killed.
    If what you’re writing about is annuals — isn’t the loss of some annuals, which can be replanted, worth allowing everyone who could crowd into D.C. to do so for a historic inauguration?

  2. Lauraellen, I’ve sent this link to Janet and hopefully she’ll give us more specifics but I promise you it wasn’t annuals that were destroyed. There ARE no annuals outdoors in DC in January.

  3. I had the good fortune to spend time with Janet while I was an intern at the Smithsonian during the summer of 2000. I worked on educational projects, and also made sure to spend time outdoors working with her. (I also worked in the Folger Rose Garden-learning about as much as I ever care to learn about roses.)

    The Ripley Garden is one of my favorite gardens anywhere, and I have seen a LOT of gardens. Probably, thousands. I was smitten from the first time I saw it and was in awe of Janet. A little intimidated. (Ok, scared?) I was thrilled when her other intern didn’t work out and I got to spend time with her that summer. I learned so much just by watching her-how NOT to grow a boring garden, weird and cool ways to use plants. We would all pile into the gator or cushman and get milkshakes some afternoons. We fought rats, weeds, homeless people, and tourists. We grew plants between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. It was amazing.

    Over the past nine years, I have run into her here and there, as gardeners to, and I always love seeing her and hearing her stories of where she has been and what she is up to.

    She took us to wonderful places like Green Spring in Virginia and Annapolis. Far as I can tell, she is still working on hammering out boring horticulture and introducing in a love of plants and gardening to interns, seasonals and new horticulturists at the Smithsonian.

    Aside from Janet’s great talents, I applaud the Smithsonian for hanging onto what is clearly a treasure in their collection–and I don’t mean the garden. I mean Janet.

    Yes-this sounds like a smarmy love letter, but all of you who are truly in love with plants can remember a handful of people along the way that have nurtured this love in you, as you learned to nurture the garden. Janet is one of those people for me. She probably has no idea how great her influence was on me. This is a good opportunity for me to thank her for that.

    And, to wish her best of luck repairing her lovely garden. As a plant lover who can never find enough room in this beautiful, but special place, I’m sure that while she is disappointed in the damage, inside she is at least a teeny bit glad that she’ll get to try some new plants!

    Janet-all the best to you.

    Katie Elzer-Peters

  4. thank you all for your support of the garden, and Katie darlin, I am totally humbled… thank you.
    I really am entering unknown territory with the garden — yes, the few winter annuals that were there(pansies, parsley) vanished — not a biggie, but when evergreen perennials look like a steam roller sat on them and 5′ shrubs are reduced to nubbins, well, that is a different story. Mother Nature is resilient, but just how much is too much? How much compaction was sustained? I won’t know until spring thaw, perhaps not much since the ground was frozen.
    However, I am just grateful that no one got hurt in the stampede, and this was NOT an intentionally malicious act — there were just too many very excited people in a VERY small confined area (less that 1/3 of an acre)…. I cannot be angry at anyone. sad? absolutely. But what is so absolutely heartwarming is the outpouring of support of the garden (and me).
    Yes, this is an unfortunate situation, but the silver lining is that I finally realise how much this garden means to so many people and how much my efforts are appreciated.

  5. Janet, I am so sad to hear about Mrs. Ripley’s garden being so damaged. I worked for many years at the Smithsonian, and it was a favourite place for me to sit at lunch time (with a smuggled sandwich, but I always took my trash away), to enjoy your beautiful plantings. Of all the gardens in and around DC, I honestly think this is the most beautiful. HeeHee! Joyriding in the Cushman, indeed!

  6. I remember the original post & was impressed by all the hard work. I guess this sort of thing kind of goes with the territory of a public garden. It’s very disappointing that the security measures failed so completely.

  7. Why wasn’t proper security thought of?

    Well, looks as if an encompassing (lockable and high enough not to scale over) fence should be the first project of the year so this never happens again. They are lucky to have an endowment fund to tap into. I’ll never forget the heartbreak in seeing planters full of carefully-tended perennials totally destroyed by idiots who stood right on them to get a better view of a Hawaiian boat race just off a NYC pier. Sea Holly and fairy Roses were intermingled from then on!

  8. I think this all comes down to respect — a fence was there –whether just a token piece of string or razor-edge barbwire, it should have been respected. Period.

    Janet, it was wonderful having you at our Seed Exchange on Saturday and you are an inspiration as always.

  9. The tree huggers who voted for Obama trampled someones garden? How could this be?

    SIMPLE: They are all a bunch of hypocrites just along for the ride.
    The (told ya So) TROLL

Comments are closed.