Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown

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The Ellipse at Dumbarton Oaks

Sometimes you really don’t appreciate things you grew up with until you’re older. I grew up in a family when before it was the “thing” to do, we ate homemade wheat bread, had very few sweets, grew a huge garden and canned the bounty. My mother loved her garden (she still does) and although we didn’t grow flowers, she really loved flower gardens too. She could walk through a flower garden, admiring and enjoying it, but as a kid, I just didn’t really enjoy them.

It took me a while to appreciate walks through flower gardens. I remember well when that happened. We were visiting Seattle and Vancouver, and my mother strongly encouraged us to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria. I was almost not going to include a visit there in our trip. But I decided I would. They were the first formal gardens that I had willingly visited on my own—that is, without being dragged along. I am so glad that we went because I really liked the gardens. My kids and Sterling really liked them too. We had a great visit—and I would recommend that anyone on a trip close to there visit those gardens.

Since then, we have tried to include gardens in our trips when possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work—but all of us now have a greater appreciation for their beauty.

For years, whenever I’ve thought about Georgetown, I’ve thought, “I’ve got to get to the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.” But I wanted to go in the spring, and it seems like spring is always so busy. So each spring would come and go, and I’d miss going yet again.

But this year I was determined to get there, and although I missed spring, I made it there in early summer.

Dumbarton Oaks is in the residential part of Georgetown. It’s open everyday, except Mondays, but only in the afternoon. Check out their website for up to date info: http://www.doaks.org/visit. There is 2-hour parking on the streets throughout the nearby neighborhoods. We were there on a Saturday, and there were plenty of spots. The gardens took us about an hour and a half to wander through.

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Walking under an arbor to the Kitchen Garden

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The Pebble Garden–we couldn’t help doing one of our jumping pictures there

We had Natalie, who is 12, with us; a 12-year old cousin who lives in Georgetown; and Kara, 18. We gave Natalie and her cousin the map so they could lead us around—giving them a job to do. There are lots of different gardens to wander through—a rose garden, a kitchen garden, a pebble garden and others.

The grounds and the gardens were very pretty and peaceful, and just the perfect size and amount of walking for our group. By the end Natalie and her cousin were dragging, but still happy about being there.

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Natalie checking out the map in the middle of the Rose Garden

After the gardens, we briefly toured the museum in the mansion, where we spent about 20 minutes before being done for the day. I left Dumbarton Oaks happy I finally made it there, and determined to make it back. I really want to see it in early spring sometime—there is a Forsythia Dell that I’m sure is lovely when it’s in bloom. Also I want to make it back to the mansion for another reason. Right now they offer one tour of the mansion every Saturday at about 3:00. The tour is on a first-come basis for about 15 people. They recommend signing up for the tour around 2:00 at the museum front desk. The tour is called the Selected Historic Rooms Tour and takes you through the non-public historic rooms in the main house. Here’s a link for the mansion tour as well as other tours: http://www.doaks.org/visit/guided-tours/join.

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Inside Museum at Dumbarton Oaks–the Rare Book Reading Room

With a little luck and a little less busy schedule, maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually make it to the gardens again next year, but in the spring. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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