Garden Bloggers take DC (area)

Outside the Hirshhorn in DC (by Jimmie Durham)

First, it must be stressed that I am not a good tour taker. I love looking at gardens, but I can enjoy a smaller garden pretty quickly, and then I’m done. I’m better in big public gardens, where you can keep moving and there’s always something different around the corner. That said, I found plenty to absorb my attention during the recent DC-area garden bloggers get-together, which was packed with really cool gardens, small and large. Organizer Tammy Schmitt did a great job. However, I was not able to see all the gardens on the schedule, as it was my first trip to DC and I had to take time out to see all the iconic sights that are probably old news to most of you.


And finally, just one more caveat. I was probably the only person there shooting with an iphone. One blogger had three cameras with her, two hung around her neck at all times, and everybody else also had professional SLR equipment. Click here, which has the posts from the event,  to view the superior results.

Without further ado, here are my Fling takeaways.

Capitol area gardens include many of the same plants as WNY gardens. I was pleased to see extensive use of plants that have long been mainstays for me, as with this hakonechloa/hollow log array above. This was a minimalist space in Bethesda; I say minimalist because just a few plants (including my other favorites, Verbena bonariensis and tall rudbeckia) were used in profusion.

Dumbarton Oaks

I must be harboring a lot of 1 percenter envy because I really do love the large estate gardens, such as Hillwood (former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post) and Dumbarton Oaks (historic gardens designed by Beatrice Ferrand). Highlights of Dumbarton include a large pebble garden and many traditional water features, including a big stagnant pool/amphitheater I kind of liked. Hillwood had beautifully divided areas; you were always discovering different little garden rooms.

My favorite private garden (though I missed some great ones on Sunday) was a lush, layered space in Bethesda (2 views above) that was relatively small with an elevated back garden. As you can see, this elevation was used to create a wonderful waterfall/pond. There were also great combos of perennials and annuals in the beds. That’s really something I should do more often.

National Arboretum
MLK memorial

The best day was spent with fellow Ranter Susan Harris, who graciously took me around the major DC sites, as well as Dumbarton Oaks, the National Arboretum, and Tudor Place (another estate garden). We caught up over a fun lunch in Georgetown, and I’m looking forward to more catching up with Susan and other Flingers when the GWA takes place in Buffalo next month.

Susan in DC

I leave you with words from the FDR memorial, kind of sad to read, these days.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. It was a super day for me, too, showing you the city I love and catching up over lunch.

    I esp love taking people to the FDR Memorial, the favorite of so many local gardeners. Though I agree the contrast with today is sad. Make that sickening.

  2. Hope you enjoyed DC. Come back in the spring for the Azaleas at the Arboretum, and of course cherry blossoms. Hopefully you also got to see the Capital Grounds, which were designed by Olmstead.
    I wish we had a flower show like Philly, but we do have several regional flower-specific shows (like Chrysanthemums, orchids, and roses).

  3. I so would have loved to explore D.C. with you and Susan! But I’m so fed up with heat and humidity that I would have been a very wilting, grumpy companion. And your iPhone pics and your personal perspectives are really great! I can’t wait for cool Buffalo and hope to run into you there.

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