Donald E. Smith (Interview)
PP: You started off working with Beatrix Farrand up at her place. Tell us what kind of chores you did up there and what she was like and how she would supervise you and everything.
DS: I worked for her one spring in the summer of 1951 just as a kind of chore boy–handyman. I was a horticulturist then, and there was three other people worked in the gardens, permanent people. And I was the one that got the wood for the fireplace and cleaned the birdbaths and checked the fox traps every morning, catch the skunks that during the night had been tearing up the lawns, and did the mowing, turned the compost pile, all those good things and gardening and helped plant. I did about everything that was going on.
PP: Would she come out every day?
DS: She’d come out every morning around 10:30 or so and walk over the whole garden, and stop and talk with this one or that one. But she’d come out and make kind of a circle through the whole garden and maybe she’d walk the whole thing two or three times for exercise and to look around and see what’s going on.
PP: Were there similarities between this garden and hers up there?
DS: Yes, except of course every garden she did was different. But that one was more or less flat where this one is built on the side of a hill. That was only eight acres up there including the house area and all, but it was a gardener’s garden, everything was – there was a bog area and a perennial area and the small rose garden and lots of vines tied like we tie here on small panels. There was a big planting of heath and heathers and big azalea beds, lots of evergreens, just a little bit of everything and a nice vegetable garden and small greenhouse. But you’ve got to remember too that up there the growing season is from mid-May to mid-September when the frost came. So, you only had to really worry about one season as far as growing goes. But down here you almost have three seasons and then the winter.
A lot of the big herbaceous borders went deep, deep, but there’s a lot of green in them and phlox, lots of phlox. One of the big things I know she used to grow – the big, what we call the giant parsnip; it gets about eight feet in the air. And this past summer my daughter was cleaning up the old garden up on the garland path, and there tucked in the back of that garden was some of the old parsnip that had come out of the repoint garden. They also had some up there in the trash pile that was growing about eight foot high. When I get back up there I’d like to get hold of a couple of those just for old times’ sake. They grow as big as our big thistles.
PP: Do you grow any of those here?
DS: No, they take up a lot of room. We had it growing at the edge. It’s pretty hard to grow that kind of stuff here because we’d disturb our flower border so much. That flower border is changed a couple of times a year, and you’re rototilling in there. And the only way that will miss them is if they’re staked up or if the plant is there. They’ll see it then, and they won’t hit it with the rototiller. So, that’s one of the things, it has to get established, maybe the first year or two I wouldn’t do a darn thing and then – it’s not the prettiest thing in the world but it’s different.
PP: What was she like as a person?
DS: I got along with her real fine. She stood very straight, just as straight as a die and at that time she’d have a walking stick, but she walked right along. Always came out with a Harris tweed suit and usually a shawl over her shoulders and her big hat and she’d walk right along all over the gardens. Usually Mrs. Garland – the English lady who was hired as a cook and Mrs. Farrand turned her into a horticulturist until after many years she was self-taught and what she got from Mrs. Farrand – they’d go walk all around the grounds. And another woman, a French lady, they used to call her Clemmie, I think her name was Clementine, she’d come out and walk with her sometimes. Sometimes Mrs. Farrand would come out on her own. But I got along with her fine. She was always very pleasant with me and asked me – always wanted to know how you’re doing.
PP: Did she have favorite parts of the garden?
DS: I don’t know if she had favorite parts, I really don’t think she had a favorite part. One of her passions though was the single roses, like Irish Flame and some of those kind of things. She liked those and there was always five, six, or even a dozen or two bud vases with those roses in the house. And even when I saw her last, before she died in the late ‘50s, in her house up – where they built on the Garland farm, even in her bedroom, in there was a big table with rosebuds with all the different varieties of the single roses that she had. She had a passion for those.
And I think she liked the heaths and the heathers because she had quite a planting of that there. Of course they had to be covered up there in the wintertime, but there was a quite a show with that all in bloom. She had a little bit of everything actually, anything that would grow up there.
PP: How did you come to find out about Dumbarton Oaks and make the move from Mrs. Farrand’s garden to here?
DS: Mr. Patterson, who was a consultant here, was doing a lot of things for Mrs. Farrand when I was down there working, and I talked to him one day at Reed Point and told him I was going to be graduating and was looking for a job, to get some experience. And I knew he had a lot of connections around and he told me that he could probably get me a job at Dumbarton Oaks. I figured if I had to take a low paying job I could do that right at home, but if I could get away from there it might help me get a better paying job because most of the jobs up there were seasonal. There’s not much going on up there in the dead of winter, and he told me that he could probably get me on here at Dumbarton Oaks and he did. So, I came down in July ‘52 and I’m here in July ‘92.
PP: Had you heard about Dumbarton Oaks while you were up there working?
DS: Not really. In fact I didn’t know, other than hearing about the Dumbarton Oaks conference in school and all that – but as far the garden and all that sort of thing, I didn’t realize what was down here. I knew there was a garden here, and I knew she had done it, but I didn’t realize it was as extensive as it is. So, I was quite overwhelmed that first day when I came here and I took a walk in the garden. In fact, I got lost, I couldn’t find my way out.
PP: That happened to me too. Did you see Mrs. Farrand after you came down here?
DS: I saw her twice. I saw her about a year before she died, after she moved up at Garland Farm and I was back at Reed Point, the second summer. I stopped by, in the summer, when I went back. In fact she didn’t even know I had come down here after I left there. But I had a nice talk with her a couple of years there before she died because I went up to see her up at the Garland Farm. She asked all sorts of questions about Dumbarton Oaks and who the gardeners were, a lot of them she mentioned – a lot of names – and wanted to know if they were still here and what did I think of the gardens and what were we doing now – just was very interested in the gardens.
PP: She wasn’t very happy when it was conveyed to Harvard? Can you tell me about that?
DS: All I have heard, I don’t know, that once Harvard took over I don’t think she wanted much to do with it then, and that’s when Mr. Patterson had become the garden consultant. This is just what I’ve heard, and, of course, once Harvard took over Mrs. Bliss was still very much attached to Dumbarton Oaks and doing a lot of things. But those were more gifts, they didn’t come out of the endowment. Of course, at that time, by the late forties, Mrs. Farrand was getting pretty much up in age. She died in ‘59.
PP: Was she much older than Mrs. Bliss?
DS: Yes, because I knew Mrs. Bliss from ‘52 to ‘69 and that’s seventeen years right there. Mrs. Farrand died in ’59; I think she was like eighty, something like that. Mrs. Bliss was almost ninety-one when she died, but I don’t know how much difference there was in their age. I don’t think there was a great big difference in their age. What else can I tell you about Mrs. Farrand other than I think she’s become more famous the last twenty years than she was back when she was alive, because an awful lot of women are going into landscape architecture now. After all, she was one of the founding – I don’t want to say founding fathers – of the American, the landscape architects.
PP: And Mrs. Havey was her draftsman?
DS: Miss Havey.
PP: Miss Havey, Ruth Havey.
DS: Ruth Havey was her draftsperson for her and worked for her and then when Mrs. Farrand stopped working or retired or whatever, Mrs. Bliss hired Miss Havey to carry on some of the new changes. We changed B Terrace, we did the Arbor Terrace, the Pebble Garden was changed. Havey didn’t do the Ellipse.
PP: Who did that?
DS: The garden committee did that, that’s when –
PP: They designed it?
DS: Yes, who was on it, Alden Hopkins and Robert Griswold and a few of those people were, they were in on that. Havey did around the Garden Library after they built that building; she did a lot of that. You can see some of the Farrand in Havey in the little ribbony things that Farrand did, that Havey did.
PP: Is there a distinction between their styles that you could make?
DS: Of Havey and Farrand?
DS: Oh yes, yes, yes. I think the big thing is that Havey had the same tendency that Farrand does to make everything with a flow and with a ribbony thing like the brick walk that’s around the Garden Library. It’s not just a brick walk, it’s kind of a ribbon that comes out, ends here and starts in again, and Farrand did a lot of that too. Like the stones by the front door up there, the big heavy stones, and then cut it up with a big ribbony Belgian box in through there. Havey was great for that and doing a lot of curves. Like in the Pebble Garden, there’s all those nice curves. The B Terrace of course already had curves in it, but Havey, when we changed that over and put the ivy in and put the brick beds in, there were still those little curves with little curlicues, that type of thing. And even in the Arbor Terrace, when we put the travertine stone in there, that has kind of little scrolls and swirls, and I think you can see that in a lot of the places where, some of the work Mrs. Farrand’s done. At Rockefeller’s you’ll see some of that type of thing in some of those places in Maine.
PP: Did you see Miss Havey a lot; was she out here a lot?
DS: Miss Havey used to come down, and when she came down she came down and stayed for about a month and Mrs. Bliss put her up in the Mayflower Hotel. She used what was the old laundry back in the Fellows Building. They had a big laundry and a bookbinding over there in the basement of that building, and Havey took over part of the old laundry and used that for her drafting. She’d come over there and she’d come down and stay a month or something like then when she came. She had a pair of old fur lined overshoes that she kept right down here. She wore them winter and summer. A great one for smoking cigarettes, she was always smoking cigarettes. A very nice lady, I got along with her real well.
The last time I saw her they had – the Garden Library had a big symposium like they do every spring – and the last time I saw Miss Havey was the symposium on Beatrix Farrand. After the symposium on that Saturday evening I was going to take Miss Havey out to look at the Pebble Garden and go through the gardens, and we did. But we did it with about fifty other people, the two of us were going. She wanted to go out and I told her I was more than delighted, and we ended with about fifty people from the symposium. This is 5:30–6:00 o’clock at night when we started, we went all through the gardens.
PP: What year was that again?
DS: It had to be in the ‘70s I guess. I think it was about the mid-’70s. We can tell when we go up in the house where they have all the books for sale. There’s a green one there; I don’t have one here, I have one at home. They had a symposium on Beatrix Farrand, I think it was mid-’70s, somewhere in there. I don’t know, one year runs in the other anymore, there’s too many years.
PP: A lot happened.
DS: That’s right.
PP: What was the first change that Bliss and Havey worked on?
DS: While I was here, probably was B Terrace, the Urn Terrace. I think that was about the first thing that I could remember. When I first came here I worked down in a little garden most of the time so I wasn’t up around where things were going on up here, but I think B Terrace was probably the first thing that –
PP: Has it always been divided into the sections that it’s in now?
DS: Where the urn and all was?
PP: Where you sort of have three areas.
DS: Oh, the gardens. No, no. We did that in the early ‘80s. When I first came I had myself and two other fellows, and we had from the Urn Terrace – the Urn Terrace, Rose Garden, the Fountain Terrace, and all of that area down, the Herbaceous Border, the Growing Garden. I had that for twenty-one years, and Mr. Kearney and the rest of the whole crew went everywhere up here. Then, in the mid-’80s or early ‘80s we split it up into sections and hired two new crew leaders and split it up into crews that way. I think it’s worked out much better and the only difference we did there, we took B Terrace or the Urn Terrace away from the group down below and gave those to one of the other groups.
There was a lot of lawns, and there still is a heck of a lot of small detail work down in that little garden. You can spend all kinds of time in practically every section. Taking that Urn Terrace away, that helped them down there. We did that, I would say ‘82-’83 when we went into that section. It’s about the same time that we started opening up late, an hour later and longer in the day. It’s when Giles Constable was Director, there were a lot of changes made.
PP: After they did the pebble work in the Urn Terrace, that gave them the idea to do the Pebble Garden? How did that work?
DS: No. She let him do that to see if he knew what he was talking about, because that’s some of the same pebbles. He did that first and then they did the Pebble Garden.
PP: What was that like? You were here when that went –
DS: The Pebble Garden? Oh, yes.
PP: Tell me about that.
DS: That started about 1959 and went on for about three years. I say three years, three growing seasons, like March through to October, before they got that done. In fact, the first year it was mostly just getting it laid out to where the –
PP: Do you remember the contractor who was doing the Pebble Garden?
DS: Yes, it was McLeod and Romborg, and at that time Charlie McLeod was still there and a fellow by the name of Dave McLeish was the big man at that time. Dave is the one that kept Havey straight. Havey wasn’t too – Havey could draw well but to get it down from the paper to the ground was a little hard, so Dave McLeish did a lot of that work.
PP: Did they always intend to have the water in the Pebble Garden?
DS: No, from what I understand the water was originally not planned, but they saw the pebbles piled up before they even laid any of them. After a rain it brought the color out, and then Mrs. Bliss put the water in and it worked out fairly well. A great big birdbath, that’s all, but it worked out.
PP: I wonder where she got the idea for that whole thing, it’s so unique.
DS: I don’t know. She and Farrand both, they traveled an awful lot and they would get all these ideas about this and that, and they’d put this idea with that idea and then some of their own, and that’s where it all came from. I don’t know why she – probably somewhere in her travels she has seen a garden done with these pebbles. Of course, if Harvard had not closed the tennis court, there probably would have still been a tennis court there, but I think she just got tired of it just setting there, all that space, and she probably thought about something to go in there from day one.
PP: Was she a tennis player?
DS: I know Mr. Bliss was, and I think she probably was too. I’ve met some people here over the years that used to play or they claimed they played tennis with Mr. Bliss.
PP: Was he in the gardens much?
DS: Yes, not like she was, but he would be out there. She was here a lot more than he was, I thought. She was – I saw her more, let’s say, because he was probably in the house more.
PP: Would she come out and talk with the gardeners?
DS: Yes. She’d always come out and talk with them but a lot of times when she came it was about the time everybody else was going home, but she talked to us.
PP: Was she concerned about the details in the gardens?
DS: Very much so. Detail is what built the whole garden – just a twist here or a twist there, a half-inch off there. That’s why there was always so many changes, I mean, in whatever she was doing. She’d look at clay models of something, full scale models and change them and then look at that and she might change that again, instead of a little turn here, make it turn that way. I think that – and Farrand both – I think paying attention to the detail is what made the garden what it is.
PP: What would Mrs. Bliss think to be the greatest change in the garden since her death if she were to see it?
DS: Since her death there hasn’t been any changes. We’ve replaced – we ‘ve redone the latticework and we’ve redone the Pebble Garden, we’ve redone some of the iron railings but there hasn’t been any change. Well, of course the addition to the new gallery – that was just done recently and the renovation of the library upstairs, those kind of things. But as far as in the garden itself, there hasn’t been any big major changes. There are changes, the hours have extended and we charge admission now, but as far as the garden itself, there’s not been any big change. There might be a change of this tree dying and another one not being put in because others around it were big enough to fill the void, that type of thing, but there’s not been any big, big changes. We’ve replaced some of the cherries down there, they got old and died. We’ve replaced them with more cherries, that type of thing. No big changes.
PP: Were the gardens open to the public before they were conveyed to Harvard?
DS: I don’t know. I think she used to have – you mean in the early ‘40s? I don’t think they were open to the public then except for special occasions like the Georgetown Garden Tour or something special. I don’t think it was open to the public probably until after Harvard took over.
PP: Did she always have it in mind that it would be a public garden one day?
DS: I think so. Yes. Even the Rockefeller Garden in Maine that Farrand did – it’s a privately owned garden there now and it has been all these years. But I think one day that will be open as a public garden once probably David and Peggy Rockefeller, who are running it now, I think once they die I think it will be made into a public garden.
PP: Has the staff always been the same size?
DS: As far as I know we’ve always had twelve. But it seems to me back when I first came here there was like thirteen or fourteen, but we didn’t get the summer casual things that we do now. We used to work five and a half days a week when I first came here. I thought we worked six days when I came here, it was only five and a half and then that was changed to five days. People kept moving out further away and further away, and I don’t know why they changed it other than nobody wanted to drive way in here to work a half a day, that type of thing. What we really did on Saturday mornings was sweep all the walks and clean it up on the weekend, that type of thing.
PP: Tell me about Mr. Coles, the stone man.
DS: Didn’t we talk about that before?
PP: I don’t think so.
DS: He was a pretty old man when I came here but he was still working. He did most of the carvings around on the grounds. And while I was here he didn’t do the new carvings right here at the end of the North Vista when that was changed. They were just finishing that when I first came here in ‘52, but he didn’t do that. He did most of the urns and things around. While I’ve been here he’s done those two big pineapples down on the Ellipse, he had done those. There’s four or five finials up on the north vista on those walls, he’s done a lot of those. There are two or three other things – he’d work on the Perspective down there, he redid all of that at one time, it’s been redone since then but he did that.
He was a very nice man, never drank anything but water. He used to come in, when I was here, he came in in a lime green Thunderbird with a straw hat on. Very quiet but we got along fine with him. I don’t know how many years he’d worked here for Mrs. Bliss but I know that he and his brother, I forget his brother’s name now, but Mr. Coles was Fred Coles, I forget his brother’s name, but they both had done a lot of work here.
But like I say, when I came Mr. Coles, he was up in his seventies then, he was a pretty old man. But he was still carving. He was over in what is the Orchid House now, there was no heat in there at that time, that was his studio, that’s where he did a lot of – he’d come in the middle of winter and work and it would be nice and warm when the sun beamed. I understand he did a lot of the lettering down on the Lincoln Memorial when that was done too – he and his brother both and I’m sure there’s other things about him.
PP: Do you remember any other craftsmen of note that you could tell us about?
DS: I don’t remember the man’s name that did this up here, but I’ve got it written down. There’s a number of people – Kirchner, the Kirchner metal people did a lot of work here, and I think Mr. Kirchner, the ironworker, I think he worked with or for Sam Yellin. One time quite a few years ago this old man wanted to see me, and I went up into the garden to see him. And it was old Mr. Kirchner himself, and he raised heck about the way the iron work looked up there where the red roof is and the trees and the birds on the branches. And apparently from what he told me, he put that in there when it was first put in, so that must have been back when he was working for Sam Yellin who did all the other iron work on the place. Who else do we have here – somewhere in here we’ve got the –
PP: What was his complaint about the ironwork, rusting or something?
DS: Yes. That was just before we had planned to have it all sandblasted and redone, that was just before that. He didn’t tell me anything we didn’t already know. I was trying to see if I couldn’t find that man’s name but it’s in that book there. I’m trying to think who else has come in.
PP: What about some of the guys that did the teak wood, anybody, any stories about that?
DS: I don’t know who did the original ones but most of the teak that was here – not most of it but a lot of it that was here was – that was bought, that was not made. Custom made was some that came off the wooden English ships, and they had little metal tags on telling what ship they came off. And a lot of the other ones, I don’t know who did that teak wood and all the benches like the four down at the end of the pool and a lot of the fanbacks, I don’t know who did those originally, but they’re all Farrand designs. We had all of those redone, renovated I guess you’d call it, back maybe fifteen years ago, all of them – not the ones you can buy but all the custom ones – by Charlie Appleton up in Massachusetts. He redid those for us and he redid the Perspective for us too. We’d haul some up there and he’d redo them, and I’d go up and haul them back down, the weirdest looking truckload of furniture you ever saw coming down the road.
Brick work – when I first came there was a fellow by the name of Hughes Company that did the brick work here, and since then we’ve had a lot more, a lot of different ones come in and do different jobs. And the stone work, for many years the Louis Prenner Stone people did that, most of the stone work, and then when they retired, when Joe Prenner retired, he sold his company to two of the men that worked for him, two fellows called Volpe and Mussolini and they did some stone work around here. They did the staircase and the Director’s yard. They did the walls in the Herbaceous Border, and they hung Mr. Kearney’s plaque for us. They’d done quite a lot of little things, but we haven’t had much stonework done. The Pebble Garden and that type of work has been done by Harold Fogel in stone, the carving restoration people and they’ve been doing some of our other pool work too. Along with the cathedral stone, they’ve done some work in here. Who else – stone, brick.
PP: Who was the greenhouse manager before Franco?
DS: Had a young fellow that worked down in the garden with me, Mr. Kearney put in there. When I first came there was a fellow there by the name of Frank Crampton was in the greenhouse, he was out of the old crew when the Blisses were here. If you look in the index cards up there I think there are five or six Cramptons worked there at that time, but Frank was a young fellow out of the old crew, that’s why he was still here when I came. He ran the greenhouses and then he came down with diabetes or something like that, he had a terrible time and he retired. There was a young fellow working in the gardens called Billy Rector and Matt put Billy in the greenhouse, and then Billy left to go into business for himself, and we hired Franco and Franco’s been here about twenty-four years. Franco, as far as I’m concerned, is the only true greenhouse man that I’ve seen here since I’ve been. I know Billy Rector wasn’t a greenhouse man.
PP: Has the use of the greenhouse changed or evolved over the years? Tell us how it’s changed.
DS: Yes, there’s a lot more plant material they use now. Since I’ve been here they’ve added the Garden Library, they’ve added the Pre-Columbian, and now we’ve got another gallery up there and all of those need to have flowers, and there’s also a lot more plants used in the offices. Before the only thing up there that got any flowers at all in any office was the Director’s office had something on the desk and maybe Miss Carpenter’s office had something on her desk. And now just in the Director’s office is cut flowers and plants and in where the secretaries there’s five plants in there. The Assistant Director gets a plant and the Director of Studies gets a plant. Counting all, we have probably three hundred fifty plants moving all the time – the Director’s house, there’s plants up there. When I’m talking about moving I mean if you’ve got forty plants up in the house you’ve got to have forty more to replace with. You’ve got to have something coming and going and some in there because they don’t do that well up there. The Music Room alone, that’s got about ten plants, more than that really when we put ferns in, and we don’t put the ferns in there in the summer because –
PP: What kind of plants in the house would you recommend growing or that do well?
DS: The best ones we like up there are orchids because especially in the summertime the air conditioning is fine for them and especially in the Garden Library or the Pre-Columbian, those two areas get plenty of light. The Music Room and all the offices, they don’t get much light at all and if they do it’s artificial light. And then, of course, on weekends that’s all closed down and it’s dark. But we like the orchids especially in the Pre-Columbian and the Garden Library. They last a long time up there and we don’t have to change so much.
Another thing we try to do during the Christmas season, we try to have poinsettias in the hall there, up on the steps by the Music Room and that sort of thing. Poinsettias usually – we’ll use maybe white poinsettias on the cabriolets at Christmas time and then mix the reds in. And for the concerts which takes more plants, we have the eight ferns but we always add eight more plants in with the ferns. So, depending on the season we’ll use poinsettias if there’s a concert in December, we’ll use lilies in the spring, we use a lot of mums, we use freesias in there, depends on what we have.
You have to kind of keep a close eye over on the greenhouse if you’ve got a concert coming up. So, you go over there and you kind of set eight of this aside for the concert and you’d better hang a label on them “for concert” then they’re not used for something else. Some of them have ways of walking to go other places. So, we mark them for concerts. If we’re planning on eight yellow mums, these eight lilies or these eight poinsettias for the steps or something we usually have matched them up so they look for the concerts and all. We usually decorate the steps just for special occasions like concerts, maybe the Christmas party or something special. We don’t put anything special for lectures, we’ll say or that type of thing, not even the symposiums. We do have the ferns on the steps but we don’t put a lot of – eight plants in with the ferns.
We use a lot of foliage plants up there, especially in the summertime because it’s pretty hard to grow blooming plants in the greenhouse in the summer. Take like an afternoon like today, it’s probably 110–115 in that greenhouse. It’s a hard thing to do is get stuff to bloom, so we use a lot of foliage, we use a lot of coleus, caladiums and things like that. We use some begonias – begonias are not the best thing in the world up there because they drop all the time but they are alright for a couple three days. We just have to work with what we’ve got and constantly keep them changed. Usually on Mondays we change quite a lot of the things, but it is better in the summer with the air conditioner on because plants seem to stay up because they like it up there a lot better than they do down here. And it’s better with the air condition than it is with the heat on in the winter, especially in the Pre-Columbian. Sometimes that Pre-Columbian is like a steam bath in there. Something’s happened to the controls and if you open the door. It’s like walking into a steam bath.
We have to work it out as we go along, that’s the only thing I can say. That’s the only way you’re going to learn. I can tell you all you want to know about all we’ve done about it. But we know that we have no place for hanging baskets. We do do two or three hanging baskets of poinsettias, but when it comes time for Christmas time, we take the handles off of them and put them in the plant that’s in the Pre-Colombian, raise them up on blocks so actually it’s looking down on us, it’s a hanging basket. But as far as begonias and all that kind of stuff and the big ferns and hanging baskets, there’s just no place up there to use them.
PP: Where do you get your orchids? Where do you buy them or where do you get them?
DS: We haven’t bought orchids for I don’t know how long. The last ones we’ve bought, we didn’t really buy them, we have a lot given to us. The Kensington orchid people are about the only ones around. The ones – a lot that we’ve had given to us like the group that Mr. Baird gave us, he bought those all out there. And we’ve had a lot of orchids given to us that the Smithsonian have when they’re culling out theirs over there. They give us some of them and we’ll use those. What they do if they’re going to throw them out, they’ll bring them over here and we pick what we want and then we throw them out. Some that we’ve been successful with that they throw out mainly because it gets a lot of scale but they have a whole lot more of that variety than we’ve got, we’ve only got maybe two or three. So, we can keep the scale off of those. But we put them up in the museum and some of them last about six weeks up there which is good. That way you don’t have to keep moving them around. Do you want to talk about outside plants?
PP: Yes. What plant materials, cultivars, do you recommend that do well in this area or are your favorites?
DS: I don’t know about favorites because a lot of my favorites don’t do well here. A lot of the – until it gets real hot in the summertime most of the perennials do well. We still use coreopsis and gladia, foxglove and sweet William and a lot of those biennials, they do well for us through May and June and they’re over with by then.
In the last few years since we’ve been open in the summer we’ve gone into some that bloom a little bit later like that [inaudible] and some of the [inaudible] and some of the salvias, we’re using that. The snow on the mountain we put that in and of course we’ve had lans here and there which doesn’t give us much bloom, some of it we have the foliage.
This year we put in a lot of the annuals that bloom a little ‘later for us like one little sunflower that gets about three foot high, that’s worked out well. And we’ve been using the Mexican sunflower, that goldfinger and the yellow one, and then there’s another gets a little bit taller – an orange one. We usually stick that back in the borders somewhere near where the foxglove were and where maybe the hollyhock – because once those things grow you’ve got to have a big hole in there. So, we put those things in there to fill those holes, like this time of the year, until it comes time to put the mums in.
A lot of annuals, we’ve gone over and we’ve found a venus – they’ve done well for us in the hot summer time. The little cosmos that’s out now, that Klondike, the little short one, it only gets about eighteen inches high – they’ve done well for us and they seed pretty well too and they’ve got some nice colors on those. Then a little later on we have the big hardy aster – that’s been in the borders, that and the Japanese anemone, they were in the borders when I came here and we still have those, we keep those. They bloom usually in September during the mum season. We do put some of the false salvia in just to give us a little blue in especially around with the yellow mums in that area.
Every year, really, as we go around the city I look and see what other gardens have got in bloom in the middle of summer and we try them the next year, sometimes they work for us, sometimes they don’t. You can always put begonias and marigolds, impatiens, even I think a lot of people are using caladiums and cannas, and that type of thing. We’ve never had many canna; we don’t use any cannas at all other than we put a few up around the swimming pool and we tub up a few. We don’t put any in the borders, and the tub terraces we put some in there.
PP: Tell me some of the plants that were growing in the borders when you came here that are still growing here.
DS: The michaelmas daisy I was just talking about, the Japanese anemone, that’s still there. This is a pure white one. The lignum, the ornamental flax, we still grow that, coreopsis, gladius, foxglove, sweet William, hollyhocks. We don’t grow as many pansies now as we used to. Years ago we used to grow a lot of pansies and they did well up until about the Fourth of July and then they got ratty so now where we have to have a summer garden I just don’t even bother with pansies.
PP: Did Mrs. Bliss have a color scheme in the borders?
DS: No, not really. She liked a lot of pink, apple blossom pink and white, that type of thing. She didn’t like any magenta colors, and we’ve kept away from those pretty much. We have a lot of those colors now, but some of our problems have been that years ago you used to be able to buy separate colors of plants and now the only thing you can buy is in a seed mix so you don’t know which colors you’re going to get. We used to buy foxgloves, white ones and then some of the apricots, so when we put them in we had a clump of apricot or a clump of white, but now you can’t buy the separate seed.
PP: You grow almost all of yours, don’t you?
DS: We grow everything from the seed to cuttings here, and once in a while we have a plant given to us. We divide that, but we grow all our own stuff. We do buy in a few mum cuttings to go along with the ones that are oversized that we save and we buy the bulbs. But all the poinsettia cuttings, all that kind of stuff we take from our own stuff. At that rate you can almost get what you want, and if you go out here to the grower you have to kind of buy what he’s got, and he’s only going to grow what everybody else wants and sometimes those aren’t varieties of things that we want. Or he’ll just grow eight varieties of pansies and so many petunias and not lignum or that type of thing.
We grow a lot of those perennials because it’s cheaper for us to grow a hundred lignum than it is to go out here and pay $2.50 a piece for them, so we usually sow those kind of seeds in April, and they’re planted out down in the garden towards the end of June, and they grow in there until November when we move them into [inaudible]. But some of them, like lignum, that type of thing, if you keep pinching the heck out of it when it’s just that little fine hair, by November you’ve got a nice big clump and you’ve got what you want. It isn’t what they’re selling at the garden center or something like that. I suppose you could special order somebody to grow them for you but most of those guys want to grow a thousand of this and a thousand of that and we only need maybe a hundred.
PP: Tell us about your favorite roses that you grow here.
DS: About the favorite ones, we have a whole lot of hybrid teas, and we’ve had some success with some of the floribundas, like scarlet money and some of those and we changed some beds in the last few years and we put a few more of the floribundas in because they seem to do better than the hybrid teas although the Rose Garden doesn’t show it right now. But I think the problems we’ve got up there now in those new beds is the only think I can think of is the soil is not always tested and all that. I just think that we double dug it and they just don’t stay as moist, they drain too quick now, and now John’s watering them a lot more and it seems like it’s helping them. I think what they need – I think come next spring you should go in and give them a good layer of cow manure and work that in with peat moss. Peat moss was worked into that bed when we turned them over and all.
PP: Would that Zoo Doo be bad to use?
DS: I don’t know, you could bring it over and turn it in as long as it’s clean. The difference between the Zoo Doo or the Zoo Poo as they call it is because Zoo Doo now is turned and I assume it’s clean. Years ago we could get about a truckload, but there was everything in it, peanut shells, beer cans, paper cups and it wasn’t composted, it was a pile and there was a lot of straw and all that kind of stuff. From what Chuck was saying, I’d take it over to Soldier’s Home and they’d turn it. They say they turned it with a front end loader in there, how often they turned it I don’t know. Because the more you turn it, the more it’s going to cook and the better it’s going to break a lot of that stuff down.
The only problem with a lot of that straw and all it’s like the horse manure that they used to get here from Meadowbrook. We’re still pulling clover out of the ground, the clover would come in with that straw and the feed and all from the horse manure and we’re still pulling clover. We are ending up pulling big tufts of clover, not so much now. But after the first couple of years, gosh, in the flower borders, in the Rose Garden, all those beds and even today we still see some of that big – all you got to do is pull it up and say, Larry, what’s this, and he’ll tell you right where it come, but we don’t have as much. That’s the only problem with using that. Some of these places that have a lot of this compost that gets steamed and the weeds get killed, that’s fine. But like I say, I don’t know too much about this new Zoo Doo.
You’re going to get help from it, there’s no question about that, organic matter is one of the best things in the world, but then again, are you bringing in a lot of weed seed that you don’t have the weed problem now but will you have the weed problem if you bring that in? That’s one reason why I like to do, when I buy the cow manure I don’t buy the compost, I try to buy the dehydrated, a straight cow manure. We buy it by the bag and then you can just take the bags down, it’s easier to haul it in here, it’s much easier to spread it out and get rid of the bags and you’re done with it. The other way you’ve got to go load the truck with – they probably load it when you buy it – but the Zoo Doo, I don’t know. But then you’ve got to haul it back down loose. I’d try it. I don’t know how much he’s going to charge you for it but he probably won’t give it to you.
That’s something you could do in the winter. Those kinds of jobs you want to do in the winter when you’ve got the time. You don’t have time in the end of February and March and April to go over there and haul a truckload out to truck over here. During the wintertime when things are quiet, go over there and work it out with Chuck and get two or three truckloads and go up there and cover all the beds and just let it lay there in the winter and then in the spring once you get through pruning you get your bushes out of there, work it in there and some of it is going to break down in the wintertime. But those are the kinds of jobs you want to do in the winter when things are slack because you don’t have time to do that in the hot summertime and nobody wants to pull a lot of cow manure and that kind of stuff when it’s hot either. But they don’t mind going up there and wheeling it down with wheelbarrows, they got four or five wheelbarrows and go right up there and just have a couple of guys loading and the rest wheeling, maybe one down in the Rose Garden spreading and then have somebody who knows where the place is and how to get it, go over and get an order, do it that way.
What I’m trying to say is don’t get it so you’ve got to handle it five times. You’ve got to handle it to load it and you got to handle it to unload it, so if you’re going to unload it, go down there where you can dump the wheelbarrow and spread it out as you dump, and then one man will be down there spreading it out. Don’t have it so large you go in and dump a pile here and dump a pile there, then somebody’s got to turn around and spread each one of those piles. But a guy with a wheelbarrow can come down and dump a little bit here and turn it that way and over here, then all you do, one man can go whoosh and it’s all done. But when you’ve got to handle those piles three or four times that gets to be a pain in the neck then. And some guys want to come down and dump the whole load right there. Hell, you only want three or four inches there and you’re setting there with a pile like that, you’ve got to spread that out.
Probably up in some of those rose beds it will take maybe six wheelbarrow loads, some of them might take more than that. I don’t remember how many bags we used up there, but the bags were quite small; the cow manure is small. They were only like forty-pound bags and it took quite a few of those. But you don’t want a great big thing like this, a couple three inches and work it in, just cultivate it in, lay it on there in the winter and while it’s on in the winter and it’s breaking down, if it rains and all, all of that goodness is going down in the ground. Then, when you get ready you can just cultivate it right in, they have to be in deep. And also that stuff does not smell so bad in the cold winter as it does in the hot summertime either.
PP: Can you give us some other gardening tips?
DS: I don’t know if they’re tips or not. The things that helped us here –
PP: Things that people can use in their own homes that you think that you’d know, that if you think back.
DS: I don’t know if they’re tips or not but each garden has its own little thing. Some of the things we do here wouldn’t work worth a darn we’ll say in Hillwood or over at [inaudible], that type of thing. And some of the things they use and do over there wouldn’t help us any here. All these people in most places got a way they can get around with a truck or a Cushman or some might get along in one of those places, but that doesn’t help us. It would be great if we could, especially moving mums and hauling stuff in and out there. We’re kind of hindered on how we can get around here, back down the hill here, drive up front. That’s it, and that’s why we have a lot of problems, not a lot of problems but why some of the tree pruning, something like that, they can’t get the bucket truck in to use it so they have to climb and if they could get a bucket truck in there, get it in there and prune a tree, they’d be out of there by the time some guy is getting his ropes up in the tree and getting up there to get two or three limbs off. So, we’re kind of hindered that way.
We use a bucket truck every place we can, but very few places we can use it right out here. We could use it along this edge here and the maples over in the parking lot by the Boys Club which we prune those out maybe every three or four years. If you don’t prune them out, open those up, and you get a bad wind, it’s going to snap some of that silver maple off and you’ve got nothing but automobiles down there, and it’s too late when some of those branches land down there. So, we cut those back every – I think we cut them back maybe twice in the last eight years or something like that.
I think every garden is unique and everybody has what you call garden tips, but a lot of it is commonsense. And I guess the biggest tip I could give anybody that’s getting tied up in gardening, you’ve got to have a lot of patience, a lot of patience. And if gardening doesn’t teach you anything, one thing it has taught me is patience. Most people that aren’t into gardening don’t know that—it’s easy, you put the roses in and they bloom, but you don’t realize—or the mums, the flower borders – they don’t realize. Like, I’ve already ordered the lily bulbs for next Easter. You have to plan it practically a year ahead, that type of thing. Like the perennials for next spring, I ordered those back last April, but everybody thinks for right now, not yesterday or tomorrow. But they think, “I’m going to have some azaleas in my garden; I’d like to have a bed of tulips,” and they think about that in February. They should have been thinking about that back in September. But it’s been fun, it really has.
PP: Do you feel that pollution has had an effect on the garden?
DS: I don’t really think so. I think we have enough trees here I don’t really think we’ve had that much problem with that. I think it’s because we do have a lot of trees. And the city streets are really only on this one side, R Street and 32nd Street, but down back we have twenty-seven acres of parkland. I think the more trees you have, the much better you are. I don’t think you have any more problems with pollution now than they had a long time ago, especially in the city of Washington. I think the pollutants here are automobiles. We don’t have the big factories and all of that kind of stuff, you can’t even buy bottled gas in this city; you’ve got to go outside of the city to get a tank of propane gas. But there’s no big factories here and pollution is the biggest thing and we do that to ourselves. Everybody’s got to have one or two, three, four automobiles. Everybody’s got to have a lawn mower that’s got a motor on it with a muffler and a gas pedal, everybody’s got to have the blowers, the backpack blowers, that type of thing.
Of course the subway has helped; they’ve done away with a lot of buses – using subways and that’s helped. Of course, the street cars, back we had those all electric until they got up to P Street and then they went over here but they were still electric, we didn’t get all the diesel smoke. The beltway has helped, that’s taken a lot of that big heavy truck traffic out of downtown. When I first came here Wisconsin Avenue was the truck route west. You could go out here and stand on Wisconsin Avenue when I first came here and there would be a steady stream of trucks that came in Lee Highway across Key Bridge up Wisconsin Avenue on out to Rockville, over the Cabin John Bridge. The beltway wasn’t there; now everything is outside. I think that’s helped. A lot more traffic out there, but think of what the beltway traffic would be if it was in town here, how many people would live in Maryland and work in Virginia if they didn’t have the beltway to go back and forth to work. People live where they work and now with the beltway and subway and all that there’s a lot of people that work in town that live outside. Years ago most people worked where they walked to work.
Pollution? No, I don’t think we’ve had that much problem with it here. Some of these humid afternoons like this might be or maybe tomorrow might be, you feel it a whole lot but I don’t think it’s from the air pollution so much here in town. We have a lot of traffic, but I don’t think we have the problem that some cities do. Look at the city of Pittsburgh, all those steel mills years ago. Those people up there used to have to wash their greenhouse plants once a week just to get the soot off and now they don’t have to do it hardly at all, it’s just from the big chimneys. Doing away with a lot of the big incinerators I think has helped.
When I first came we used to have a lot of open air burning, we used to burn all our trash right over there where the leaf mulch pile is, take it over there and burn it. In the wintertime, any pruning that we did, all the shrubs and all that, we’d take the brush over there and stack it up. On cold days we’d put a bunch of men over there and they’d do nothing but burn brush. But you can’t do that anymore, and then we built an incinerator over there to take care of the trash. It had a gas burner in there that heats up to about two thousand degrees. And we had that for a few years, and then they outlawed that so we had to tear that down. I think we paid thirteen thousand dollars for that. It worked well; it got rid of the trash, the trash wasn’t out in the open, the engineers ran that.
PP: Can you tell us about some of the interesting people who have worked for you over the years?
DS: We’ve had some characters, if that’s what you’re talking about; we’ve had all sorts – I don’t know how interesting. We’ve had every kind of person I guess you can think of from drunks to rummies, to drug addicts, to gays, to women, men, black, white, green, yellow.
PP: What about that guy with the motorcycle you told me about?
DS: Old Red, yes. He was about five foot high and weighed about 200 pounds. He had one of those little tiny motorcycles and would get up the driveway here and he’d have to go around the circle three times before he could get up there with it. Then he bought himself one of those big Harley Davidsons, and he wasn’t strong enough to handle that and he run into his own house with that because he couldn’t hold the darn motorcycle back. He almost got killed one day out here. He come over Lee Highway, got on a train track or something there and skidded, fell over and some guy almost ran over him over there.
I’m trying to think of some of the other characters. A lot of them that has left here, there’s always some stories about this one or that one. We were talking about something here, I think this morning, about some guy who used to work – I know, we were talking about how well some people like to eat. And we had a fellow named – a friend of Glenn’s that worked here – and he could eat a whole half a side of beef, all you had to do was put it down in front of him. I think we were comparing him to you – not that you eat that much – but Larry was making fun of you talking about dieting and then what you eat, a big breakfast and no lunch.
We’ve had people that will eat poison ivy and we’ve had a lot of the flower children. We had one guy, in fact he’s in business for himself around Georgetown now. We’d be out here sweeping walks and he’d stop and pick up a narcissus or anything and put it in his buttonhole and sweep for two or three minutes. And he’d stop and he’d smell that and smell it and smell it for five minutes and then he’d sweep a little more and stop and smell it some more.
PP: He worked on flower power.
DS: Flower power, yes. We’ve had people that come here and they’re here a week and they’re going to change the whole world with their brilliant ideas. And most of us have been around here long enough now so that everything comes full cycle. Their brilliant ideas of how doing things, most of them are things that we’ve done and found out that they don’t work. Like I said earlier, a lot of things that we do that work for us might not work for the other fellow, and we’ve had some of the consultants come here and say, “Yes, we’ve got to put the tulips in drifts.” We’d go down and we’d line out where all the yellows go and where all the reds go and all the whites go and we’d put them in that way and we would all just shake our heads because we know that when it comes in bloom they’re going to say, “No, you better go back to your old way of mixing them.” Then a few years later we’d get a new consultant, and the only way to plant them is put them in drifts, so we’d do it again and the same thing again, we’d go back to mixing them.
I don’t know that the way we’re doing things is the right way or not, but nobody’s complained. We find a lot of mistakes that we make and we correct them. I might have – you have to be careful when you buy tulips so you don’t buy too many yellows or too many reds and you don’t need too many whites and that type of thing. Try to get a mix of breeders and [inaudible] and some of the darwins. We keep away from the giant darwins because they’ll last two or three years – they’re a little more expensive – but we rototill these beds up twice a year, so most of those bulbs that are left in there get damaged. So, we keep away from the darwins. We put some in there, there’s that one variety [inaudible], it still pops its head up on the backside of the [inaudible] and get plowed up, but if you’re going to put something in to stay and not go in and disturb it, I think your giant hybrids or darwin hybrids are the things to do it with.
Some of the little botanical tulips, the little two-colored ones, not species, but we’ve got some green ones, hummingbird is one, and some of those. We’ve stuck those around and you’ll see them next spring. They come up there underneath the beech tree, places where we don’t disturb them, they come up for years.
PP: Tell me about your friendship with Fred Garrett and how you got hooked up with him.
DS: Fred Garrett – we go back a long way. Back before Sandhill even started, I think, Fred worked for Fred Heutte down in Norfolk Botanical, and then they established Sandhill and Fred went up there to run that school. And Fred Heutte at that time was tied up with what was then the old National Association of Gardeners, which is a professional grounds management society now. And at that time Mr. Kearney was tied up with it; we were all tied up with it and then they started the school and we started having second-year students come here. We’ve had quite a few, they don’t come every year. A couple of years we’ve had two come but over the years we’ve probably averaged one every year. The problem with the students coming up here is they have to find a place to live unless they have relatives.
PP: So Fred would come visit you before he was Director of Sandhill?
DS: I don’t know whether Fred came. I don’t remember knowing Fred when he worked at the Norfolk Botanical. Back then I wasn’t – Mr. Kearney was here then and he and Fred Heutte knew each other real well through the national association because Matt was a national president and Fred Heutte was. I think they both were directors and they got to know each other real well then. But I met Fred Garrett after Sandhill, and there’s still a lot of the Sandhill students up here now from that school, up around this way in the Washington area. I think it’s a good school, and I think they get a lot of the training. They don’t get a whole lot of this but they get enough of each thing so they have an idea what’s going on. I think it’s been a great thing for a lot of them. I think a lot of them – not a lot of them, I can’t tell that – but some of those people that started out in a different profession and it didn’t seem to work for them and they got into this and it’s, I won’t say straightened them out, but it’s given them a new outlook on life, and I think Fred Garrett has been very good for a lot of them. I think he’s helped a lot of them out and everybody’s different, thank God, everybody has a different personality. There’s probably some that are not any better off now than when they first got into the program, but they are really better off because they at least got into the program and maybe they weren’t a success in it but it’s something that they’ve tried. I think Fred – he’s probably got the patience of Job, he’s got to have. He’s had all sorts of types of people and I think he handles it very well.
PP: Do you accept interns from any other programs?
DS: No, that’s the only program we’ve done except a few years back we had a four-year thing tied up with the Stanley Smith Horticulturist Trust and that went for four years. But those college students came here and spent a year with us. They stayed here a whole year usually from September through September. There was fifty thousand dollars put in by – they had their transportation paid and they got a salary and of course the holidays, that type of thing. And they worked here, and they just worked as part of the crew. I don’t know how much those people actually got out of it, now that we’ve gone through it, I think that kind of a program would have been better for people in the two year program like Sandhill than it was – most of those students were four year horticulture students.
I think four years is a little bit too long for that type. Now people in the two-year program – I think it would have been much better because most of the two-year program people stay in the hands-on part of the business where a lot of the four years go on to graduate school and into the administrative end of it and they weren’t getting that type of training here. They were getting just hands-on, what is the day-to-day procedure in a private place like this, working just as one of the crew. And most of them were a lot more educated than the people they were working with, except the people they were working with had a lot of the practical experience and this is something that they learned. And if they didn’t learn anything else they learned how to get along with people. If you can get along with people you can do about anything you want if you really want to do it, but being able to get along with people nowadays. There are a couple of them there that I don’t think got along too well with we’ll say the whole crew here. I think they had a feeling that this crew was beneath them and once you get a crew like we have here and that feeling gets—they feel the same way with them. Or these people come in, like I said before, after a couple of weeks and want to turn it all around and do it this way and that way and that way – an old crew resents it.
If they come in here and work with them for six months and work along with them and saw and just eased into changing things, I think they’ll accept it a lot more than they will having Joe Blow who’s never been through the wringer, so to speak, let them go through there one time and then the next time they’ll accept him a little better. You can usually tell with this crew after a month or two if they’re going to accept you or not. I don’t know what kind of things some of these fellows have but some of them in two-weeks’ time, they can tell just like that, just by all you have to do is work with them, that’s what you have to do. It’s like anything else, you’ve got to get to know the people and what you read in resumes and do this and do that, that’s one thing. But you get that person who works more than two weeks, three weeks, a month, two months, two years, that makes a big difference.
This stuff of coming in and thinking that they’re better than this one and that one and all that kind of stuff, that’s a bunch of bullshit, and it hurts them a lot of times. This is, I think, some of the problems that we had back in the mid-‘80s when we hired two new crew leaders. They were new to the place and they just came in and downrated everybody that was here – that we were ruining the gardens and all that kind of stuff. The gardens are still here and they’re gone, we haven’t changed much, we just changed with the times which you have to do.
Fred and Elizabeth, this is the end of the tape so Philip says, but I do want to thank you both and Sandhill for the nice gift to L.L. Bean and I will use it. In fact I’ve got my eye on helping to buy a scope for bird watching – help buy with it. But I think it will come out real good and hopefully I’ll see you again and maybe we’ll get together in Maine. Thanks again.
[end of tape 1]
DS: I moved in the house which was called the Acorn which ten or twelve years before that when somebody [inaudible] place, it was a dog kennel. That’s where they kept the watchdogs, Doberman pinchers. Then when Harvard took over they made it into a residence, and in 1948 they added the three front rooms: a living room, kitchen, and a small bedroom. In 1963, after they had built the Garden Library and the Pre-Columbian Museum, we added two more big bedrooms and another bath and took two small rooms and made a living room out of it. So, I’ve actually lived in the doghouse for over forty years, but when I first moved in there in 1952, it was down in the woods, dark and dreary, nobody wanted to live in the woods and all that, because it is three hundred and fifty feet from the street, and then you have the parkway on the back side. Now everybody and his mother wants to move in. When you live isolated like that it seems everybody would like to do that now because it’s so congested everywhere else. Even like where you’re living now, after living where you’ve been living and then growing up in a row house, it’s like living in the other guy’s house actually.
PP: Were you the first gardener that had been college educated?
DS: No, Don Samson, the man that I replaced that went to Williamsburg – Don had gone through the program in New York, the Taft. He was in fact a classmate of Bob Fisher, who was the horticulturist that [inaudible], Bob Fischer and Charlie [inaudible], and those fellows had gone through that program. I don’t know, but I think Don – I don’t know for sure – but I think he went to the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst or something like that. I think he had some of that education [inaudible].
We’ve lost seven elms from Dutch elm and we lost another elm, and it wasn’t from Dutch elm so much as wetwood. It never had any flagging or anything, it was just wetwood, and that one actually blew over in a storm down in the lower end of the lawn. Four of them that we lost were on the R Street border right in front of the house, only right next to the street, and while we still had ours, the city had lost a whole bunch of them right along the street around this area. And then the four that we lost, plus their roots were grafted together because they were quite close, and we eventually lost those. And then there were two a little further in on the grass that one of those in there was mostly from storm damage. We had an awful lot of storm damage. It seemed like every time we had a bad winter we lost a limb off that, then it just got so bad we took that down.
But the only elm we really – and we lost a nice one down at the bottom of Box Walk – and about the only elm we had left and why it grows – the one at the top of Box Walk – is it overhangs the Pebble Garden and I don’t know why that tree stays up there because there’s no place for it to grow on now, two-thirds of one side of it, the rest is just up from the Pebble Garden up towards the B Terrace. And we had two nice elms up in the front up here, in front of 3201 and 3203, and we lost both of those to Dutch elm and they were never put back. We don’t really have that many elms, there are two or three seedling elms still on the place but probably in years to come they’ll lose them.
PP: Can you tell us a little bit about the daily schedule for the work crew and for yourself? I know there’s no such thing as an average day because they’re all different, but if there is any routine, how does it work, what time do you come in?
DS: We start at 7:00 and work until 3:30 and the garden is divided up into three sections. Each section has a crew leader and two permanent people and they’re responsible for their sections. Once a week – and we alternate it – once a week one crew will pick up the trash here and the greenhouse and the Director’s house, then the next week another crew will do that – that’s on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that’s kind of a set routine. Another kind of set routine is the swimming pool in season to be vacuumed and filled and cleaned up usually on Monday or Tuesday and again on Friday. Friday – all of the whole garden is kind of a cleanup day. We trim all the vines and just get the place to look good for the weekends, clean pools and things like that.
A lot of times when we have rainy weather they’ll do the vines and the Orangery, something under cover. Or drain – if it’s just a bad day so you can’t get in the flower borders, they’ll clean a lot of the pools like the Ellipse Pool and things like that. The Pebble Garden, that gets cleaned maybe once every three weeks depending on – the warmer the summer, the more often you have to do it because the algae comes in. A lot of those kind of things, so much as maybe weekly or biweekly. There’s not a daily routine. We try to spray the roses every two weeks down in that one section. A lot of it is seasonal, of course. In the wintertime, if we get locked inside, so to speak, in the winter, after three or four days you pretty well get caught up on what you’re doing in there like changing oil and overhauling the machinery, that type of thing, or doing some of the work in the greenhouse, some of that. Usually after being inside for four or five days, they’re all anxious for a snowstorm just so they can get out and get separated from everybody. They get kind of cabin fever in the wintertime.
PP: They all know each other pretty well by this point?
DS: They know each other, the good things and the bad things because it’s seven hours they spend together here for twenty-five years or more. Everybody’s a different personality and everybody knows when the other one is having a bad day, but they get along remarkably well. We don’t have any drug problem; we don’t have any drinking problem. We haven’t had any of that for quite a while now. They get along pretty well, sometimes they can’t stand each other but you separate them for a day or two and then when they’ll go back together and they’ll work something new out. They tolerate each other, that’s it, but they’ll work pretty well together and it’s hard to do, especially when you’ve got a crew of twelve of us; we’re all different, we all have different personalities. We all have likes and dislikes.
PP: And they have a little break at 8:00 in the morning?
DS: They take a break in the morning at 8 o’clock, it sounds like a weird hour for a coffee break. When we first started out, one of the roach wagons, one of these catering trucks, used to be in the area at 8 o’clock, and he stopped in here and the only time he’s in the area was 8 o’clock. And we got used to that, and he did it for about fifteen years and everybody got in the habit, and then that guy sold his business and another fellow took it over and he started coming in and he’d come in today and maybe not tomorrow. He didn’t have the things on the truck that the crew was used to. So, they decided to heck with him. So, they all started bringing their own things for the break.
We never changed; they liked the hour so we never changed it. And also in the morning if they take it [inaudible] starting at 10 o’clock, usually at 8 o’clock the little things have to be done like the trash has to be picked up three days a week and that usually takes them until 7:45 or so, so they’re right in the area. And the people going up to the house to water, the greenhouse people, that’s a daily routine for them, to water and check the plants up there. So, by 8 o’clock people have really got scattered out all over the gardens, and then by 8:30 then they go out and they go to wherever they’re working and that’s where they spend the morning.
PP: And then lunch time?
DS: Lunch time they usually come in about 11:45 to 12:30.
PP: And then quitting time?
DS: Quitting time is 3:30. We used to work from 7:30 to 4 o’clock and then in the hot summertime a few years ago, some of the fellows – most of them live at least two hours traveling everyday – so most of them wanted to come in, in the summer when it got hot, they wanted to come in early so they could go home early. Then everybody started doing it and everybody seemed to like the idea, but it gets them out of the city.
PP: Some of them drive two hours or more?
DS: Yes, some of them spend two hours a day just on the road. Some of them spend three hours a day because when they all started most of them lived quite close like just out at Tyson’s or right up here. Larry lives at Chevy Chase and all of that, but over the years when they got married they moved from where they were and they bought houses further away. So, they like coming to work at 7:00 in the morning because that gets them in time before all the traffic and they like leaving at 3:30 because they can get over the bridge or get out of town by 4 o’clock when the rush hour traffic goes on. So, they like that.
And they stayed right here. Sometimes I wondered with all the expansion out in the suburbs, with all the – if they wanted to stay in this business, all the big – IBM and all those places with their big complex – why they didn’t look around for a job closer to home, but none of them did, they like this place. I guess they’ve gotten used to it and they like the way we’ve been treating them. We haven’t hit them with a bullwhip yet. It’s a family kind of affair, really. I’ve seen these fellows, some of them weren’t even married and now they’re grandfathers. Some of them, their kids have worked here in the summertime and I’m sure there will be some more when they – like Glenn’s got two boys – probably when they get old enough to work in the summer. Even John, he’s got a couple there over the years. It makes a good summer job for them and it also gives these kids a chance to see what in heck their father does for a living and I think that gives them a little more respect because they can see the results. It’s a little different than going and working in a factory where you’re pushing a button and stand in one spot, and the weather doesn’t have any problem [inaudible]. But out here you can deal with the weather, the weather sometimes is your biggest enemy.
I think it gives them a new outlook on life. I’ve had a lot of the young people that’s worked here over the years that’s gone on to – there’s one guy who’s a surgeon here in town now. He wasn’t worth a damn as summer help here, and he told me a few years ago it was the first summer job he had ever had. We had his brother work here, and his brother was a damn good helper, good man. He graduated from Brown and now he paints houses. But they all come back and say this was one of the best summer jobs they ever had. But they don’t realize it until they get a little older and they’ve seen some of the other things.
And then, too, it’s not a profit-making thing. It’s not where you’ve got to get out and sell two hundred [inaudible] or sell fifty thousand books a day, as long as the place looks nice. But that’s the way Mrs. Bliss set it up, and that’s all we’ve been trying to do. I’m sure there’s lots of improvements and I’ve made some changes that’s helped us because Mr. Kearney wasn’t too much for mechanized equipment. We had a lot of hand push mowers and things like that when he was here, and there was no such thing as a grass trimmer. You did it with hand shears and hedge shears. We didn’t have too many electric hedge shears at that time.
PP: So, it was a lot more labor intensive then, wasn’t it?
DS: A lot of it was done by hand. Still an awful lot of handwork out here you’ve seen just since you’ve been here. There’s an awful lot of hand pruning just to keep it up, places where you can’t use electric shears or things, just the pruning of the vines, the ivy, that kind of stuff.
PP: Do you keep any kind of a journal, or tell us a little bit about record keeping here.
DS: I’ve probably been real lax on that. I did start some of that years and years ago and then I’ve just been here so long I’ve got most of it in my head. Yes, I keep little notations, that’s kind of a daily thing, my calendar there of appointments, that kind of stuff. When I get ready to do the annual report or biannual report, which ever way they’re doing it today, that’s a good thing to go back over just to get dates and that sort of thing.
PP: Do you keep good records about all your expenditures, don’t you?
DS: Yes. I keep all that, and we turn all that – okay the bills and all that goes in and they keep those things up there. But I’ve always kept a record of my own of what I spend, what month, and how much and who I spend it with because come November, comes budget time, you’ll get a printout up until November, and then you’ve got to figure from November until the next July on just what you’ve got to have. And even past January the latest printout you’ll get is November and you’re always a month or a month and a half behind, so when you’re doing the budget, I use my up-to-date ones that I do daily. I can bring it right up almost into mid-January which helps do my budget. I know that come April, May, and June I’m going to have a big expenditure of [inaudible] because this is what I’ve had each year and that gives you some idea.
I know it’s not my money I’m spending, but I try to spend it like it’s mine. And I’ve been very careful not to go over the budget but sometimes you get storm damage or emergency type things, that puts it over. But I try very much to keep it as close as I can. We have increased it, some things have been increased a thousand dollars this year, two thousand dollars. But you’ve always got to be looking ahead to see what we’ve got to do. Like next year, if these people want uniforms, they’re going to have to budget for them, get it in your budget. Some things we only do like every two or three years, that type of thing.
Years ago, when I first came here, I don’t think Mr. Kearney even knew what his budget was. He’d okay the bills and turn it in and then when he died and I had a conference with the financial secretary she wanted to know why Mr. Kearney never spent any money. I said I didn’t know because I didn’t know anything about the budget. I don’t know if he even had a budget. I used to okay bills for him and that kind of stuff, but I never saw a budget. And then they changed the bookkeeping over and all that and we started getting printouts. I don’t think Mr. Kearney ever sat down at a budget meeting or anything like that. And then we started that back in the late ‘70s or somewhere in there and we do that, we have a budget meeting usually in January. We revise the old budget and submit the new one. That’s a process that takes you a couple of months getting bids and estimates and breaking up what you want to do and all that kind of stuff.
That’s something I’ll go over with you one day once we get some of these essential things done. We’ll go over that thing and there’s probably an easier way of doing it but this is the way I’ve done it just for my own benefit and my own understanding.
PP: Can you tell us about fertilization, fertilizing practices?
DS: I try not to fertilize any grass in the spring. If we’re going to fertilize in the spring, we do it real early, but I try to fertilize kind of a half feed in September and then give it a kind of a full feed in November. I try to keep away from spring feeding of the grass.
PP: Because it doesn’t need it or –?
DS: I don’t know that it doesn’t need it, but it just seems like we get such hot weather so darn early, this year being a big exception, but usually if they come out here and feed that grass in March and April and then in May you get this big flurry of growth and then you get the hot weather, that’s not helping the grass any. We feed a little bit in September and then again in November and then it’s going into the root growth all winter long, it’s cool enough and I think that’s much better for the grass. Grass when I first came here was the biggest problem we had. We were using a lot of bluegrasses, all that sort of thing, and come Memorial Day when the humidity was high and the low in the temperature – it never went below 70 – the fungus would just eat us right up.
We used to spray, spray, spray the grass and every time we sprayed it was practically a hundred dollars or so and you’re doing it like twice a month and all that sort of thing. And then we switched over to the – the perennial rye grass came in at that time – we started using those and those are much better because they are more disease resistant. And then we started using the mixtures, and then they started picking up a little bit of diseases, and then when the tall fescues come out, the turf type, I started using those. I think we started out with falcon at the time and now I use a mixture of three of them, and we don’t have all the big problems. We used to spend six – eight weeks in the fall of the year just seeding grass, digging it up and seeding it because this was before the days of roundup. Roundup is probably one of the best things in the world because you can go in there and kill that whole thing off and seed it within a week.
I also bought an air rake which will go in and really churns it up, we were digging it all up by hand, going in and digging everything all up by hand, digging the old roots out and all of that. That took a lot of time, we used to go out on that front lawn and just rope off sections, clean one section and seed it and move down ten or twelve feet and do it. We just were putting an awful lot of time in with grass and we haven’t been doing that in the last year either. Also we had a big Westpoint aerifier. I want to say it had about a four foot spread on it but it wasn’t quite that big, but it was so darn big you couldn’t get it through some of the gates and all that kind of stuff, and you couldn’t use it many places, and the teeth kept breaking off, and the springs were breaking, and all that sort of thing. We did that where we could and then – when I first came we had a spiker, pulled by hand, it just had spikes on it, it didn’t take a plug. We’d fill it up with two sandbags and two guys would pull it one way and two guys would pull it the other and all it was doing actually was packing the inside of the hole, it wasn’t taking anything out, it was going down making a hole but it was packing this tight. But that really didn’t work too well.
But then I bought a little Ryan, the little aerifier, that’s one that one man can use that thing with one hand. You can get it into the Rose Garden. It doesn’t have the wide swath but it does a lot better. And we don’t have any problems with breaking the teeth off that thing. It works out real good and that’s helped, especially in places like the Fountain Terrace and the Rose Garden where we couldn’t get the aerifiers in the pool and that to where it was getting a lot of compactness in there.
PP: Tell us how you dealt with the compaction in the Fountain Terrace?
DS: You’re talking about that part, but we’ve aerified up there first and then a couple of years ago I found those little PVC inch rings that goes onto a nylon netting. We just dug out – especially from the Arbor Terrace gate over around both sides of that pool that’s on that end – and we just trenched that all out and laid that netting down, spread it wide with nails and put the rings on the up side and then just went over and sodded and seeded on there. And it’s worked out, you can still see some of the white rings but it’s not a mud hole anymore. It’s working real good.
PP: Did it get to be real muddy there?
DS: If you had a wet spring you would slosh through mud like that. The same way down in the herbaceous border, that crosswalk, you couldn’t keep grass in there if you had a wet season, and that’s why the flagstone has been put in there. And that’s why the flagstones on the north and the south end of the Fountain Terrace, those little narrow strips of grass, and that’s where you’re getting all the foot traffic. If it got real wet it would get mud and it would get packed and just couldn’t get any grass on there. But the flagstone helped but these plastic PVC rings on the nylon netting, that’s been a big help to us there because you step on them, you’re stepping on the rings, you’re not packing the soil down.
PP: Tell us about the fertilization of shrubs and trees.
DS: Some of the newer trees that we’ve put in like the deodars, we fed those for the last couple of years and we’ve also used [inaudible] proof on them the first couple of winters. The azaleas, we feed those with Holly-tone usually after they bloom and after we prune them a little bit. A lot of the other shrubs and things that are well established, we haven’t fed any of those in a long time, unless we have something that’s a little on the decline and we’ll feed that.
This past winter we fed a lot of the – we went around and fed all the hollies with Holly-tone. We also went around and pruned a lot of them and reshaped those, so we gave them a feed which has helped them a whole lot because once their new growth had come along like gangbusters. A lot of the box – we trimmed a lot of that back. Some of it got real big and was kind of taking over the area, we pruned a lot of that back.
PP: Can you tell us a little bit about fertilizing in the herbaceous beds, the Cutting Garden, the Green Garden?
DS: We’ve been doing that. We’ve limed it, that type of thing. When we rototill, we rototill that and end up putting peat moss or cow manure in. When we rototill usually in September or even November we put that in and turn it in and every couple of years we’ve limed them. Down in the big growing garden, we’ve put peat moss in there at times and every year we mow our leaves and take them down there and once we get that covered we mow them again and set them more apart, mow them again and cut them out and then we lime that and turn them in and by spring that’s all rotted down. But when we get ready to plant out our mums and the perennials in the Cutting Garden we usually use [inaudible] or some slow release and that usually will take them through the summertime.
But the borders – the first thing in the spring, once it dries out enough and we can get in, we go in and clean all the dead out and then we’ll feed that. The borders will be fed and we’ve been using [inaudible] or some slow release on that. That works out fairly well. Roses, this year we fed the originals with Rose-tone and about two months later we went in and gave it a feed of a slow release which should take it through this fall. We were using the six to nine months one and they’ve worked out pretty well for us. The same way with the Cutting Garden. Usually when we plant out seedlings like the mums or the perennials and all, when we plant them out we give them a scoop of a slow release right in the hole and work it in and that seemed to work out a lot better.
The slow releases lasts us a lot longer, and then you don’t feel so bad if you don’t get in and get that second feed. Sometimes in the hot summertime if you go in with a fast acting fertilizer on there you’re going to get some burn around there. A slow release, it’s in there and it works slow and they’re getting something all through the season. It’s labor saving too. If you got to go in and feed roses once a month and you’ve got a thousand roses, that’s quite a lot of labor.
PP: Do you fertilize the tub terrace and the Green Garden?
DS: Yes. The tub terrace and the Green Garden, we usually do that once a month with Peter’s liquid. That doesn’t last as long, it just gives them a nice quick shot, about once a month. In fact, we try to do it around the first of the month and that kind of sets the thing for you.
PP: And what fertilizer do you use on the turf again?
DS: We’ve used – in some areas we’ve been using some weed and feed, which has helped us. The biggest weed we seem to be getting is – for crabgrass we put pre-emergence down, early in the spring, we’ve always done it, especially the earth – frame yards, Crab Hill, the Ellipse and the kidney down there we’ve used – and up on this Crab Hill here we’ve used pre-emergence for crabgrass. We don’t really have as much problem with the weeds now that we’ve used that. I’ve used some pre-emergence and we’ve used the weed and feed. I think the one we’ve got now is [inaudible], something like that, I forget just what the thing is, in with the fertilizer and that helped. I don’t like to use that in the Rose Garden area because if they use the drop spreader they’re all right, but the rotary spreader spreads it too much in the beds and I don’t want any of that stuff in the beds.
PP: Fertilizing the trees, is that done by yourself or by the tree company?
DS: We do the ironwoods ourselves and the only time the tree companies come in is if we’ve got – like the big white oak outside the Music Room – we pruned that all back here a few years ago and they come in and fed that. They fed the black oak one time when they were in here at the same time.
PP: Do they do an injection feed or –?
DS: An injection.
PP: Right into the trunk?
DS: No, into the ground. You could tell right where they’ve been, the grass grew like hell that time.
PP: Tell us about pruning, does everybody have their own pruners – and that seems to be the number one activity.
DS: That’s the number one activity. As soon as we hire somebody, the first thing he gets is a pair of pruners they guard with their life.
PP: What kind of pruners do you recommend?
DS: We’ve been using the Falcon Two’s. I know there’s better pruners but you have to use what you can afford. You don’t want to give these guys a fifty dollar pair of pruners and they lose them next week because they don’t know what they’ve got. So, I just buy the Falcon Two’s and I try to buy them on sale, that’s twenty-five – thirty dollars right there, so you have to be careful that way. Most of them, they take care of the pruners pretty much, especially the permanent people.
PP: What’s the most difficult plant material to prune?
DS: I don’t really know.
PP: The Ellipse?
DS: Yes, but that comes with practice. The three fellows that are pruning the Ellipse now have done it for years and years and we do have – Rigo has started helping them. Since Donald had problems with his eyes he’s not supposed to get any dust or dirt in looking up. Donald’s all right in doing the tops because he’s looking down. I’ve let Rigo go up there and help him to do that and he’s really good, he’s got a good eye.
PP: He does the yew at the herbaceous borders?
DS: That’s right. He’s only been here, I think this is his fourth year, but he has a good eye. Some people have a natural talent for really pruning and some people, they could take a pair of pruners and do a hedge a million times and it still would be wavy and crooked and everything else. But Rigo’s got a good eye and that’s what you look for. Some guys are a lot better than others. The other thing pruning – I think most people, not so much this crew now that they’ve been around here with me so long – most people don’t prune heavy enough. When Donald and I started pruning, we got rid of some of this old dead stuff, the old wood and get that out of there and get this new wood coming up. Some of the lilacs around here, that stuff was as big around as my [inaudible] in there, and we just went in there and cleaned half of it out one year, went back the next year.
The same way with climbing roses. You don’t get good bloom on old, old canes, get those things out of there and get some two- or three-year old canes in there and you’re going to get a lot better pruning. You’ll go see in a yard that’s not been pruned, the roses, it would fill this room up but it’s all up on the top and you look down underneath and there’s cane a foot thick down in there. Get rid of that stuff and rejuvenate it and get the young stuff in there. It doesn’t take long. You’re not going to have any bloom next year, not next year for the next year. But the second year you’re going to have a heck of a lot of pruning and a lot of the pruning of that kind of stuff we don’t do it. Of course, we do it in the wintertime when we have the time but a lot of that should be pruned right after it blooms to encourage the new growth. Don’t do it late in the year because anything that blooms in the spring, if you do it after say July, it’s too late because that’s already setting its buds for the next spring.
Like those azaleas up there, if there’s any pruning – we’re not going to do any this year – but if there was then we go in right after it blooms and prune it and feed it and the new growth comes on. Whereas if you went in there in July and August you’re going to cut off all those buds that are set for next year. But most people don’t prune heavy enough, they’ll go in and just nip the tops a little bit and you’ve got nothing but old dead wood down underneath. If they just went in and cleaned the dead wood out of them they’d make them look a lot better, I think. This is my own philosophy. Now, what the experts do and know might be different, but it seems to work for us. Maybe it’s because it’s right here, but I don’t know.
PP: You have such beautiful wisteria, how do you prune it?
DS: Carefully. During the growing season like right now that’s something we do usually on Friday, like I said in the beginning. We trim all the vines, all that new growth coming out of the wisteria that’s kept cut back every Friday. Usually in February or early March – February or even January if you have nice warm days – we go in and cut the wisteria back, cut all the dead out of them, get all the old seed pods out, all that kind of stuff and clean it up, get it back in bounds. If you look all over this place, everything is put on a small panel so if you don’t prune it, it’s going to get overrun. Like the Rose Garden wisteria that’s on those little columns, we have to keep it in bounds. What I’ve done with it sometimes if it doesn’t get pruned and those long shoots corning up, I go up there and tie the two of them together with a knot so they know that they missed this one.
But usually in January or February, if we’ve got good weather, we go in and go over all of the vines, trim them and retie them and replace the wires if they have to be done, cut out the old dead canes, tie in the new ones. We do that with the climbers, the [inaudible] out by the Orangery, all the wisteria along the north vista on the chains, they’re taken down off of the chains, pruned out and retied again making sure that none of it goes into the links because that’s one vine that will actually bust that chain, that’s how strong it is, one vine that will curl itself, not kill itself. But all the clematis is pruned, the grape arbor is pruned, all the vines, the porcelain berry up on the walls, that’s all pruned. That’s usually in the wintertime, especially in the afternoons you get some nice weather, they don’t mind going out there. The climbing roses, they do the same thing in there, take out the old canes, tie in the new ones, put new wires in and put new ties on.
The green string that we’re using lasts usually about a year and the wires that go across that we tie it to, after a few years some of those have to be replaced. I tell them to take out the worse ones this year and put in the new ones and then you’re not taking them all down at once. It works out that way and they usually find a sunny little niche up against the wall even, if it’s cold and, it’s sunny in there – or a little wind—the more of that kind of stuff you can get done during the quiet time of the year like January and February, it’s better off than you’re going to be in the spring.
Later in the spring, this coming March, all hell breaks loose then. Everything starts to grow but you’ve got all those things behind you. Like pruning the box in the Rose Garden, we’ve done that in February the last couple of years. Years ago we were doing that the end of March or something like that and everything else was coming, but we’ve had two nice winters, so the more of that kind of stuff you can get done early the better off you’re going to be because once that little green pokes out everything starts growing, grass included, weeds. When all that starts I think you got to start getting that lawnmower out and that’s time consuming.
You have to kind of – you’re going to be new here – I think the next year you’re just going to have to kind of grow with it just to see. I can sit here and tell you all these things, but a lot of that are things you’re going to see for yourself and you’ve got to have a full year to see, come full cycle, the four seasons. It’s going to be an experience; I enjoyed it. It’s not really a job, it’s been kind of a lot of fun, a lot of memories – I a lot of heartache, a lot of headaches too at time – but it works out, just don’t let it get to you.
PP: Today is August 5th and we’re continuing with our interview with Don Smith and talk about pruning. Let’s talk about herbicides and pesticides a little bit and tell us what kinds of chemicals you use.
DS: All right. Mostly in the spring we’ve been using Roundup on the walks and sometimes it takes two applications and then they stay pretty clean. We have been using [inaudible] in the daylily beds and places like that early, early in the spring before the weeds come up and that’s kept those pretty clean.
PP: Does the daylily beds – do you use them in the Fountain Terrace borders?
DS: We haven’t used it in there lately because we’ve got the weeds pretty well cleaned out there, but if you’re going to use those things in [inaudible] like the Fountain Terrace and—[inaudible] for to use it in the spring but don’t put it – what happened to us, one year I was on vacation and they put some in the Fountain Terrace in August, which is way, way too late and that fall we planted tulips in there and the next spring the tulips came up all stunted, mainly from the herbicide. [inaudible] will usually last maybe three-four months and if you use it in the spring, by the time you put tulips in in October, November, that’s gone, but they put some in there while I was gone thinking they were doing the right thing and that stunted them.
PP: Tell us about Surflan.
DS: First I’ll finish that [inaudible] because I didn’t say when they put it in when I was gone, but they put it in there when I was on vacation in August, that was too late in the season [inaudible]. Surflan, when we clean the big gardens out down below in the spring before we plant it up, we take the six gallon hose on it and spray that whole thing with Surflan and that’s kept the weeds down pretty much, that and any of the open ground that’s up in the Cutting Garden, that’s helped a lot with the weeds there. Years ago when we didn’t have that kind of stuff, we spent the summer pulling weeds mostly, cultivating beds and pulling weeds. We’ve used Treflan in the flower borders and when they’re in there deadheading, if they’d see a weed – you’ve watched me go up there now, there’s a weed this high that somebody’s left and it’s ready to go to seed – if they can get those things pulled out of there they don’t have any problem. It’s like the Rose Garden, every time they go up there and they’re going to cut the deadhead, the roses, if there’s weeds in the bed pull them out now and you don’t have that trouble weeding.
PP: Are there other herbicides that you use?
DS: That’s all the herbicides, we use Roundup and Treflan and Surflan. Pesticides are about the only thing we – most spraying we do is in the Rose Garden and we use a fungicide and we’ve been using Funginex. This year we’re using Banner. We have used Maverick and like I say, we’re using Banner this year, it’s systemic, I think that’s working better than the Funginex. We try to alternate them and then every once in a while, last year we had an infestation of red spider got in there. In May we had about eleven days in the month of May a year ago when it was in the nineties. The red spider came right in there and we used some Maverick in there mainly just to get rid of them.
The only other spraying other than the herbicides and the Rose Garden, most of the other big spraying is done by the tree crew. The tree company does the big trees, the azaleas, the boxwoods, and the hollies usually in the first part of the spring with a dormant oil, and they’ll come back in later, May, for leaf [inaudible] and that sort of thing or box and hollies and then again in the summer they’ll come in, they should be in here probably this month sometime for foliage spray. We also have been the last few years – about five years ago we had a big infestation that got on the hemlocks, woolly adelgid got on there and we sprayed and sprayed and sprayed for that and then we started using the dormant oil in the spring of the year and that’s really cut that right down so we don’t really have that much problem with that.
The greenhouse – Frank sprays over there. The biggest thing in the greenhouse is – a little later on there’s that little green caterpillar will come in but we keep that pretty well hand picked and we do get the white fly in there. Last fall we had – Christmas time – I think everybody had problems with poinsettia white fly, and then we got a little bit of [inaudible] come in but we’ve got that pretty well under control now. That’s one reason why we’re kind of careful about people bringing plants, there are sick plants here. A lot of times we’ll leave them out on the porch and spray them before we take them in the house. I just junk them anyway because they’re so filthy.
But that’s about all the spraying we do. We don’t spray that much. I don’t think we sprayed that greenhouse since you’ve been here. You’re been here over a month and I don’t think – other than if we had one little plant here or there – I don’t think we sprayed it at all. You and I went up with the aerosol and sprayed one plant or two plants up in the house.
PP: What was that called?
DS: That was that PT-13, it’s [inaudible] with some other thing. There’s a PT-13, 100, and a PT-1200 and a PT-1300. They’re aerosol cans and we just close the greenhouse up and we usually do it late in the afternoon and just keep it closed up all night long and the fans will circulate around a little bit and it’s worked. Pesticide I can’t think of anything other than what we’ve talked about. Like I say, roses are the big thing, and they sprayed yesterday with Safari for that azalea bark scale. That should take care of that thing hopefully. In fact, that’s the first time that I think that Donald has used that spray on them probably in two years. What little bit he does spray up there he’ll mix up with a bottle – a hose on sprayer – but he did mix that.
PP: What about the rose maintenance? Do they spray after every rain?
DS: Most of those, unless you’ve got a lot of heavy rain, once they get it on, we use the spreader stick and that spreads it and holds it on there more, and Banner is a systemic, so once you spray with that two or three times the plant takes it up, where Funginex isn’t as good that way. But I think John – once he gets started on it – I think he sprays like twice a month. But in the beginning we didn’t spray – May, the weather is wet, it rains all the time. But other than that, that’s about all the spraying that we’ve done. The big trees, all the oaks and the hollies, all that kind of stuff, the tree company does that.
PP: What kind of spraying equipment do you use?
DS: We’ve got that fifty-gallon Mighty Mac, and then we’ve got the little two-gallon handheld, the pump sprayer that we use on the walks and then we have some of the six- gallon hose-on sprayers and mix up a batch of six gallons at a time.
PP: It hooks on the hose with a glass jar?
DS: Yes, that type and then those few aerosols that we use in the greenhouse.
PP: Do you have problems with animals getting in the garden. I noted Larry saw a deer last week?
DS: Not last week, last year.
PP: He said he saw one last week.
DS: In here?
PP: When you were gone.
DS: Larry wasn’t even here all last week.
PP: Somebody saw one. Okay, let’s talk some more about animals.
DS: Dogs, we were talking about dogs. Many years ago there was five dogs came in here one July, stray dogs in a pack, four of them left and one stayed here. That dog lived out here in the woods for eighteen months, and my wife finally coaxed him in the house and we had Rusty for ten years, I guess.
PP: What kind of a dog was it?
DS: It was kind of an Irish Setter coloring, but built more like an English Setter, a little heavier build than the regular Irish Setter, but it had the Irish Setter coloring. A very nice dog, you couldn’t get him in an automobile and whoever owned that dog, somebody, a male, had beat that dog. He wouldn’t go to a male. And my daughter Ann was the first one – he’d come down by the house and she would feed him and I’d go out in the yard and he’d take right off. It took a long while and Joan finally got the dog in the house and that was her dog. And then she’d go to work in the morning and zoom, he’d come right up here and he’d chase me around all day long. About four o’clock when he knew she was supposed to be home, zoom, he’d go home.
PP: What happened to him?
DS: One day he was sitting in the house all day and we thought he was sick, he wasn’t like his normal self. I let him out at five o’clock in the morning which I’d done before and he barks to come back in. This one morning he didn’t come back, it was winter, there was a little bit of snow on the ground and I went around looking for him, I was all over everywhere, this whole area. I went through the park looking for tracks and we never found him. I’m sure he had to be dead because nobody could pick him up and put him in a car, but he crawled off somewhere and died. He walked in and he walked out, but he was with us like twelve years. I finally grew on him. If it rained we could coax him to come in here or he’d go over and sit underneath this beech tree. If I was in here, he’d find a shady spot.
When we were working up in the Rose Garden in the winter, especially when he was just a stray, we hadn’t even got him in the house, he’d come up in the Rose Garden and lay way over on this way where he could get out and we’d be working over the other way. Wherever we were he’d come but he’d keep his distance.
PP: Mr. Kearney had dogs, didn’t he?
DS: When I came Mr. Kearney had two Schipperkes. Mr. Thacher, the director upstairs here, he had two Schipperkes. Mrs. Bliss had two Schipperkes, not on the property but Mrs. Bliss always had an animal. Back at the old animal cemetery up in Dumbarton Oaks Park, it’s got a lot of her animals including a horse or two up there and a little pet cemetery down here in back of the greenhouse, that’s got the last of her dogs. Mr. Kearney’s got dogs there, Mr. Thacher’s got dogs down there. I’ve got a dog down there and cat, birds, everything down there.
PP: We saw a parrot the other week out in the gardens.
DS: I didn’t see it, the rest of the crew have seen it. I think it’s gone now. But in fact the day that Mr. Kearney died in November 1973, there was Guy Greenwald from the National Zoo and one of the girls over there and myself and my wife were down – we had a [inaudible] down in the [inaudible]. There had been a couple of big – not parrots but the little one, the smaller parrot, but whatever. They’d been in here quite a while and we were trying to catch them the day he died but we never did catch them. They were in here for three or four weeks. They stayed in one of those old stumps up there, the Silver Maples on the [inaudible], then they left. I can’t think of any other – we did see a woodcock in here last spring down in Lovers’ Lane. We haven’t seen those. We had mallards, hatched out of the brood on the Ellipse pond sitting on one of those tubs a couple of times. We had a pair of wood ducks kind of nesting up in a big oak tree that was up in the bamboo. The tree’s gone now, we’ve got some little trees taking its place but the big oak is gone, we’ve had that up there.
PP: Did you ever have guard dogs here?
DS: The Blisses had guard dogs when they lived on the property and in fact the house I live in was a dog kennel. They had Dobermans and at night after the Blisses went upstairs they just turned the dogs loose on the grounds. In fact I did hear a story one time, Mr. Bliss came downstairs and got bit, that’s just a story, I don’t know, but it’s what I heard.
Before we had a big company like we have now, the International Security, we had another company, the U.S. Security, I think, consisted of two guys, but they kept bringing a dog in and that dog was mean. Even we couldn’t get near this place in the morning, that dog was barking at everything. We finally got rid of that company and then we had – before we even had a professional company we had our own watchmen. That worked out fairly well except somebody had to come up here every night and check to see if they were on their job and then if somebody – Mr. Kearney took care of the dog, he’d have to feed it up every night, he had a big dog pen up in his backyard because he was feeding his own dogs at the same time, and that meant that somebody had to feed the dogs every night.
And then when we did away with that, we had the police dog that we had. Mr. Tyler who was the director took Mike, the police dog, up as his house dog for quite a few years and then he died. In fact the dog – when we got hold of the police dog, he was the – I can’t think of the man’s name now but he was the Majority Whip of the House many years ago, and he moved from a house into an apartment and he had to give the dog up. Mr. Kearney, where he took his dogs to the vet, this fellow took that Mike and in fact told me that’s how he got hold of the dog.
And then we did away with the dogs and got the professional people in and we haven’t had dogs and we don’t like to have anybody in with guns because there’s too many crazy people working these guard shifts. They get what they pay for like everywhere. But there were people that came into this pool at night probably back when the Blisses owned the property and there have been people ever since, and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a way you can stop them completely. When I came this pool was here and the Georgetown playground pool was here in Georgetown and now there’s nine pools right within a block around Dumbarton Oaks that are much easier to get into than Dumbarton Oaks, but they still climb over the wall and come all the way through the garden just to go into Dumbarton Oaks pool. Kind of a ritual.
PP: A tradition.
DS: Yes. It isn’t so bad. The last few years have not been bad. Back in the sixties when we had a lot of problems when the whole country was hippiefied, I guess, they were all over Montrose Park and down back here and we were forever finding trashcans full of ice and beer kegs and all that kind of stuff and a lot of damage, but we don’t find much. We find traces where people have been in there, clothes, that type of thing but we don’t see the damage that we used to see. Some of the places where they were coming in we put a lot more barbed wire. Down back of the greenhouse there was a little tiny fence down there and we ended up putting one 6 or 8 foot high, so that slowed them. But there’s so many other places all they got to do is jump over the wall, the Director’s yard, there’s nothing to stop them there. Once they get to the north vista wall, there’s what, 3-foot, 4-foot, so there’s really nothing to stop them.
If they would just come in and swim and go out – you’re not going to stop it and you’re glad that’s all they do do. I don’t think we found the damage as much in the last few years that we did back in the late sixties, and the middle sixties was a rough time around. Back in those days or the early ‘60s we didn’t have that fencing around the pool and we had problems with them during the public hours, you couldn’t keep people out of the swimming pool, that type of thing. But once that era was over, right after the riots after ‘68 a lot of things calmed down quite a bit there, but you’re forever going to have people come in. A lot of people that was coming in here back in the early days were friends and neighbors of the Blisses who lived across the street. Some of the busiest time as far as people coming in here was once it warmed up in late May, mid-May, until the colleges closed. We used to have quite a lot of college students, and after the first of June, the tenth of June, that tapered out and now most of our problem comes from midnight on when a lot of these bars close—midnight to four-five-six o’clock in the morning, especially Friday and Saturday nights. But you’re always going to have that and all we got to do – you and I can come up here and go swimming and then tomorrow night you might be at this bar and I’ll be at this one, someone will say would I like to go swimming, well, I’m going to take four more people and you’re going to take four more from wherever you are, they’re going to come and then the next week some of those are going to take them so it builds, builds, builds. A lot of times the ones you catch, you might find one that’s been in it before but there’s a lot of them that it’s the first time they’ve been in. And the next time you catch them, one of those have been in. I know it’s a hard thing to do but we don’t want big incidents with guns like some people have in this town. Look at the newsman, he shot that guy, maybe because he’s having the same problems with his pool. He just got tired of it. I hardly blame him but he had the gun really because you don’t know what these guys are carrying either, you don’t know how much dope they’ve got in them or anything else. You don’t know what they’re going to do.
Years ago I’d go up to that pool alone at eleven or twelve o’clock at night and think nothing of it. I wouldn’t walk up there alone today at night around here, no way. I used to be able to go up there and sit down by the pool and sit there very quiet, in five minutes the tree frogs would be croaking and everything else and you’d sit there and they’d croak away, ten minutes later there would be a dead silence, you’d just sit there in the shadows and keep quiet and five minutes later here comes somebody through the woods. It’s just like turning a light on, those tree frogs would shut up and you’d know something was going to come around and then whoever was in there if they disappeared, you’d just sit there a few minutes, it gets noisy again and pretty soon they quiet down again.
But they don’t give much problem early in the evening, it’s usually right after midnight, from then on. It’s like I say, when these people go down here, there’s a lot more bias in Georgetown now too. Most of the people who you catch, they come from everywhere. I don’t know how many driver’s licenses and stuff like that that we confiscated and that kind of stuff, identifications and all of that and they come from everywhere. Somebody comes to town to visit and their friends bring them in here, they get caught, that doesn’t matter, but Dumbarton Oaks never arrested anybody and they don’t want to arrest anybody. When we had a watchman up there, he was catching ten or twelve a night all the time and he just got tired of catching them because they weren’t doing anything about it. They didn’t want to cause any stir and have people arrested. The police just got tired of coming down, if they’d call the police they’d come down and two hours later they’d call them again because there would be another group come in.
The barbed wire down along Lovers’ Lane, I think that has slowed them down. It’s not stopped them, you’re not going to stop them. I don’t care if you put a guy with a machine gun down there, you’re not going to stop them and you just get kind of tired after a while messing with them. I’d just get to sleep at night, eleven-twelve o’clock and the watchman calls: I’ve got five people in the pool and the police are coming. You’d have to go up there. All they’d do is take their names and identification, that’s all they did and most of those people had false identification anyway. I’d hold it for a while thinking they might want it back and if they wanted it back bad enough they’d come and get it and they wouldn’t, they’d just go get another license somewhere.
We’ve had a little vandalism. In the wintertime like on Sundays there’s not much doing, especially if they come up over the fence down below, come up here right now down on the lower side of the garden there’s nobody around. But we don’t have much of that anymore. If somebody is coming in to steal something they’ve got it all picked out and know right where they’re going and right how they’re going to get out of here. We’ve had quite a few things stolen, we haven’t had much lately, and some things we’ll never get back, some things we’ve gotten back.
We’ve had that table and chairs, two chairs and the table there at the Pebble Garden, they’ve been there as long as I’ve been here. Someone stole both the chairs here two years ago and we found one down on the van roof or we’d never gotten that back. We kept it locked up for a while after that happened thinking they’re going to come back and get that, then we put it back out and so far it’s still here. What can you do, can you chain that stuff down? What do you do with it, you can’t chain it down, most of those benches and chairs, we’ve even had the fountains in the Fountain Terrace stolen and they weighed 235 or 238 pounds and they’re all lead. They dragged them from the Fountain Terrace pools out to the R Street wall and put them over the wall. One we got back, they brought it back and tried to get it up over the wall up here on 32nd Street and they couldn’t lift it up so they left it on the sidewalk. But the second one we never did get back. Who knows where it went?
PP: And they stole the statue of Pan and the bamboo?
DS: Pan has been stolen twice. We got it back once and then the next time it was stolen we never did get that back. And the goose on top of the weather vane on top of the Cutting Garden roof, that was stolen and we found it all in pieces down in Lover’s Lane pool and we got that fixed and put it back up and they come back in and got it again. We’ve had the little mask up there underneath the Arbor Terrace, that fountain, we’ve had that taken twice but we always found that around the property, it was up on Box Walk one time, they got tired of lugging it.
We’ve had the squirrel down on the Catalog House, one of those lead squirrels, that disappeared and we got that back. Through some stroke of luck one of the men that worked here went to help a friend of his move one day and he saw this squirrel and he asked him where he got it and he said some guy he knew had stolen it from Dumbarton Oaks and wanted to give it to his girlfriend and the girlfriend didn’t want it. So, the guy gave it to him and Joe got it back and brought it back and we put it back up. They’re just screwed in with a brass bolt on a little plate, that’s all. If you want to get that stuff it’s easy enough. Like the Pan is gone. I still got the hoof and part of one finger that they broke off getting it out, that type of thing. I don’t think we’ll ever get that back.
Signs, we’ve had quite a few signs stolen. We put a sign right up here this spring to keep people from coming into the end of the north vista, telling them to keep out because they wearing a path in there. Had a little sign even disappeared after two or three weeks. We’ll find it, it will be thrown in the bushes here somewhere. We’ve had people come over this wall here to go up into the pool. Most of the places where you’ll find, we’ve got a little barbed wire tucked up on top of the walls. The only good thing about right through there, if they go through there and they don’t know, there’s a lot of poison ivy right in there. I came through the woods one night from my house over here and I knew there was somebody over in there. They were laying down in the bushes and they heard me coming and I heard them, it was a guy and a gal, I said you better get out of here and go home and take a shower because you both were laying right down in poison ivy. That girl ran right out of here, she was going to get home, that they were laying in all that poison ivy. There wasn’t any right there but I told them that.
PP: Tell me about some unusual requests. Do you have people ask for crazy things or any strange – we’ve been talking some pretty unusual things just now – any strange occurrences, visitors come in and do some crazy things?
DS: We’ve had some things I don’t think we could put on the tape. I can’t think of any strange requests. I can’t think of anything.
PP: Do you have a lot of people call and ask for plants and stuff like that?
DS: They want to know if we sell plants or where can I get them, what sources do we use, where can I get thus and so plant like you have there. A lot of times I don’t really know because a lot of them, especially the things in tubs, we’ve had for years and years and years and they were given to us. It depends on what it is or if it’s, sometimes they want a cutting of something, I don’t mind that, I let them come in and give them a cutting or something like that, we’re going to be pruning it back anyway, that type of thing. We’ve had a few plants taken. When the New Guinea impatience first come out years ago we planted those tubs up like we have right now and they hadn’t been in there a week and they lifted them out of there.
PP: A lot of people ask about those.
DS: The New Guineas?
DS: I’m surprised. We had planted a whole group or two groups actually of the hardy cyclamen one fall and when they came in bloom in the spring we were watching them and watching them and once they got in full bloom they all disappeared. Somebody came right in and went off with them. So, if you put them right back in there, they’re going to be watching that and they’re going to get some more.
[interruption in tape] – off from the walls and moved it inside of this upright that they put up on the roof. And we tied those all in there, and they were in there for – it was supposed to take them four months and it took them sixteen months. And we’d lift plywood up on the roof to let light down in there hoping the vine was going to live. And there was comments that we’d killed the vine, we’ve killed it. But it stayed underneath the plank for over sixteen months. We hung it back up and it didn’t take long, two more months, and it hooked right back on. So, we haven’t really had any problems.
PP: Do you know when that vine was planted or any of the history about it?
DS: The history I know about that vine is what I’ve heard or read that it was planted in here when Lincoln was president. The original building was built probably in 1810 and the vine is said to have been put in there in the 1860’s.
PP: How often does that have to be pruned, or what do you do to make…?
DS: Now we prune it three to five times a year, usually the first thing in the spring as soon as we get the plants out, and we’ll do it again probably this month or depending on how much it grows, July or August, some rainy day we’ll go up there and prune and then again in the fall before we put a lot of the plants back in there.
PP: Tell me about the changes down in the Cutting Garden where the peonies are now.
DS: That’s the peony garden now. Years ago it was what’s called cold frame, that was another change, or frame yard. If you look on all the old prints it was called the frame yard. Back in those days the big garden which we use now as a growing garden was a vegetable garden and over in the cold frame yard where the peonies are now, there were all kinds of cold frames and an underground greenhouse in there that they grew a lot of the seedlings in. And then again when Harvard took over in 1940, they did away with that cold frame and the greenhouse down there completely and it just kind of laid there and then when Tom Baird was Assistant Director here back in the early sixties, I think maybe ‘63, we bought a collection of thirty-eight different varieties of Japanese single peonies. We bought ten of each variety and put them in there and it’s worked out very well. I think there’s thirty-eight different varieties, from whites, pinks to almost blacks, that sort of thing.
PP: When Harvard was given the gardens, the area that is now Dumbarton Oaks Park was given to the National Park Service?
PP: Can you tell us a little bit about that garden on the other side of the fence there and what it was and what’s happening to it now?
DS: When the Blisses bought the property they had fifty-four acres here and in 1940 they gave it to Harvard, they gave sixteen acres to Harvard, there’s a little over twenty-seven acres down in the back which is now Dumbarton Oaks Park, and they gave it to the Park Service with the stipulation that no highways ever be built in it and it runs from the bottom of Lovers’ Lane all the way up to Observatory Circle. And then over on the other hillside where the Danish Embassy is today, there’s ten acres over there that comes off at the end of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and up Whitehaven, the Blisses owned that and that belonged to Harvard and then it was sold to the Danish Embassy. I can’t tell you the date but I would say early sixties, somewhere in there, when they built that over there.
PP: When they built the additions onto the house, and the museums and everything, some changes were made. What garden areas were there that had to be changed?
DS: You’re talking about where the Garden Library is now, in fact the Music Room was added on. The Blisses bought the property in 1920 and remodeled the house and all and they actually only lived in the house from 1933 to 1940 and that thirteen years in between is when they were doing all the renovating. In 1929 they built the Music Room on and then in 1940 when they had given it to Harvard they built what is now the front entrance on 32nd Street and the Byzantine Museum was built. And then where the Garden Library and the Pre-Columbian Museum, that was built in the early sixties, I think that was over May 1962–63, that was just kind of a wooded area where the Pre-Columbian is, it was kind of the woodland area and there was the fountain that’s on the Ellipse set up there. There was just kind of a woodland planting in there.
Over on the other side where the Garden Library was, was the service entrance that drove up to what is now the mailroom, and the public entrance to the gardens was at that end of the garden. Then when they built the Garden Library they had the garden entrance down at 31st and R Street. One time before the Garden Library was built we had a turnstile on the driveway up there and things like that and we had a turnstile at the 32nd Street gate and there was a counter in there too so you could keep track, but we did find out that the kids were getting on it and riding the turnstile like a merry-go-round so every time it went around it was recording one fare, a person. And then the gravel from the driveway started getting into the mechanisms of it, so we had to take that out of there.
PP: Were some of the fountains moved?
DS: The only fountain that’s been removed since I’ve been here we’ve lost one fountain, not a fountain so much, a pool—we lost the pool that was in the museum court, and when I first came there was not a pool in there at all, that was just a grassed area edged with boxwood with the stone walks in there. It was kind of an open courtyard. And then they went in there, I can’t tell you the date now but it’s got to be in the sixties and put a mosaic pool in there and that stayed there quite a while. And then when they got ready to build the gallery that’s there now here a few years ago, the pool was taken out and stored over on the property yard and I believe now it’s in the Harvard Business School, a new building that they built at Cambridge; I think it’s up there now.
PP: Was the pool that is in the Ellipse now, was that up there somewhere?
DS: No, the fountain was there, just the fountain, not the pool. The coping on the little pool where the fountain is, that was up there but the fountain and the coping was up in the Copse just above the Director’s house right where the Pre-Colombian is now.
PP: What’s the history of the little statue of Diana with the Unicorn?
DS: That was first done from what Mr. Kearney told me, the man that did that his wife modeled for it up at the swimming pool. He made the clay model up there, but when it was first done it sat up in Dumbarton Oaks Park, up at the head of the meadow and it kept getting destroyed up there, pushed over and pulled over and broken and all. So, they brought it down and we put it down at the bottom of Lovers’ Lane inside on Dumbarton Oaks property in right near where the Perspective is. And they did the same thing there, it was vandalized, the horn was broken off, the tail, the arms and it was all scratched up. So, we took it out of there and we put in the basement of the Greenhouse for quite a few years. Then we moved it during the time that Mr. Thomson was the director here, we moved it and put it outside the Music Room where you can see it from the Music Room and the Pre-Columbian, but the public can’t get at it and it’s done very well there.
PP: We’re familiar with Beatrix Farrand’s Plant Book, and we know that you’ve had to make some substitutions – that things have changed. How have you deviated or made substitutions from the plants set out originally?
DS: A lot of the changes that we’ve made that we just discussed about the Pebble Garden and all these kind of places, that’s changed a whole lot. The Arbor Terrace, there was just herbs in there in the Plant Book, and then Mrs. Bliss made it into a pot garden, that type of thing. Also we’re open now through the summer, before we didn’t have hardly anything for summer bloom. We’ve had to change it and get in a lot of summer blooming perennials, that type of thing. A lot of the trees from the plant book and a lot of the understory of those trees was fine back in those days but the trees have survived and got bigger and bigger and bigger and a lot of those shrubs and things don’t do very well in the shade. A lot of the bigger trees that have died – I think in the Plant Book it tells about the three copper beeches, one on the Fountain Terrace, one outside the Rose Garden, and one outside the Orangery. The one outside the Orangery is now not a Copper Beech, it’s American – it’s a grandiflora and that was changed I think in 1948. The copper beech died, and Mrs. Bliss, I assume, put the American beech in there.
PP: Are you growing the same perennials and annuals that Mrs. Farrand grew and have grown before now?
DS: Yes, most of the perennials and annuals now are the same ones that were growing when I came here. We’ve added a lot of the summer blooming annuals and summer blooming perennials because we’re open in the summertime.
PP: So, they continue to be plants of the period, you don’t grow hybrids and new hybrids?
DS: Some we do but most of them – it’s a lot of the perennials, the foxgloves and delphiniums, the hollyhocks, [inaudible] and all those things are the same ones that we used back many years ago. We’re even still using some of the stock plants of the mums that a lot of those are varieties that they were using when I came here and we’ve kept them. Hopefully they’ll go on forever.
PP: Tell me a little bit about security problems that you might have.
DS: I think you’re always going to have security problems in the garden. Not so much when it’s open to the public, at least now. When it was open to the public back in the worst time that I’ve spent here was in the mid-sixties, in through the early sixties up until the mid-sixties when there was quite a hippie revolution going on. Montrose Park next door, Dumbarton Oaks Park down below, there was a lot of those people around. The admission to the gardens at those times was free, we had two gates that we opened up in the Dumbarton Oaks Park so people could go back and forth. Those gates were destroyed and we replaced them and they destroyed them again. We’ve just taken them out completely and fenced it all in there, so we don’t have that big worry.
At one time we had in-house security, that never seemed to work very well and then we started having professional people. Of course the big draw with security is the swimming pool. When I first came to Dumbarton Oaks we had this swimming pool and there was another down near Tudor Place, about ten blocks away from here. And now there’s nine pools right within one block here and we still get people climbing over the barbed wire and walking all the way in to use the pool [inaudible].
PP: Coming in and swimming and [inaudible] professionals.
DS: Yes. Back when I first came here they’d come in at night and throw the chairs in. At that time we had a lot of wicker chairs with cushions and everything up around, in the loggia, and we’d find them in the pools. We had a lot of tubbed azaleas up there, they’d throw those in the pool and it was a mess. Then we started getting professional security come, and we still have a lot of problems with – the sixties, the hippie time, was when we were having the biggest problems. It’s not quite as bad now, we’ve had things stolen out of the gardens.
PP: What’s been stolen?
DS: Both of the fountains in the Fountain Terrace have been stolen and we got one back and the other one was stolen and we got that back and then it was stolen again and we never did get it back. We had a mold made and we have the mold and we had another one made. There was a big goose weather vane on top of the tool house in the Cutting Garden, that was stolen. We found it down in the park and we put it back up but that was stolen again and we’ve never gotten that back. There’s two little lead squirrels down on the Catalog House, one of those was stolen and we luckily got that back, why, I don’t know.
PP: How did it come back?
DS: One of the men that worked up here in the house went to help a friend of his move one day and he spotted this squirrel and Joe had seen these squirrels around here. He asked the guy where did this come from and he said that came from Dumbarton Oaks, a friend of mine stole it over there and he was going to give it to his girlfriend, his girlfriend didn’t want it, so he gave it to me. Joe took it away from him and brought it back and we put it back up there.
PP: Is it still there?
DS: Yes, or it was the last time I looked last week. The Pan that you and I were talking about up by the bamboo, that was stolen once, we got that back and it was stolen a second time and we’ve never gotten it back.
PP: And you’ve lost the jabberwockies, they were stolen?
DS: We had two little jabberwockies, one coming in and one going out of the pool underneath Wisteria Arbor. They were doweled right down into the stone and they were stolen out of there. The Lion Fountain down there, which just kind of lifts up or did at that time, we found that gone a couple of times but they never lugged that very far, it’s always been –
PP: Is that Neptune in the Arbor Terrace?
DS: Yes. We’ve always found it. We found it one time laying up on the Box Walk. But the ones in the Fountain Terrace, those fountains weighed two hundred thirty-eight pounds. A couple of times they dragged them over and out over the wall, that type of thing.
PP: Tell about the little box that’s in the blank space under that arch.
DS: In that little alcove, not where the Neptune Fountain, but in the other alcove, was a lead box with a little cubbyhole and a door on it and underneath was a little lead drawer. They always told Mrs. Bliss kept her books in it, but it’s hard for me to believe that they would keep books in a place as humid as that is. That was destroyed, the door was tore off it and the drawer was thrown away and when that was replaced and put back up they destroyed it again. So, we took that down and just stuccoed the whole area. Another thing that was vandalized – up underneath the lead roof which is what we call B Terrace right near the beech outside of the Orangery – was a big upholstered swing. That was all cut up with a knife and destroyed. We redid that, we put it back up there again and they destroyed it again so we took it down. I think I showed it to you down underneath the Greenhouse. We have lots of little treasures down there. What else have we had taken? There’s got to be some other things, I can’t just think of more now.
PP: Do people walk off with the pots of flowers?
DS: Not pots so much. We had one of the biggest thing that kind of made me mad. We planted a lot of the hardy cyclamen going down near the persimmons outside the Rose Garden down there – a woody walk down in there. The next year, the first year they were going to bloom, they just came in bloom, somebody went in there and helped themselves to all of those. We have had begonias and stuff like that stolen out of the tubs on the Fountain Terrace at one time. Most plants – one time the Garden Librarian, the lady we saw this morning there, Linda, called me up and said there was a man and a woman outside the Garden Library and she could see them through the window with a shopping bag digging up plants out there. By the time I got up to the Garden Library and we went up there, they had gotten what they wanted and went on out and this was during public hours. That was just a couple of years ago.
PP: You used to be in charge of security? How did that change over and –
DS: Yes. It changed over because they had to go up in the main house anyway because that’s where the charges for the walkie-talkies were and the keys and all that sort of thing. It worked out better because by the time they came on and went off there was nobody down here and up there there’s a man on duty all the time. So, they report up there, they sign in, they sign the keys out, they sign the radio out and all that sort of thing. Before we’d had a few misplacements of one thousand dollar walkie-talkies and all that sort of thing. So, now when they leave or when they report to work, they’re logged in, the keys are logged in and they sign for them and the walkie-talkie and the clock, the punch clock goes out with them and when they go off duty they have to sign those things out. It works much better. And of course they’re here on the weekends and none of us are down in the gardens on the weekends. So, they can control it better up there, plus they had security in the house too so it kind of all fit together.
PP: Do you have a favorite section of the garden?
DS: Probably the perennial borders. I worked down in there, down near the earth for twenty-one years so that’s probably my favorite.
PP: When you walk through the garden at night or in the evening, is that the area you walk through first?
DS: Yes. I always walk through there. I like the whole gardens but the perennial borders and the Fountain Terrace area are kind of favorites for me because I like perennials and that sort of thing. I think one of the nicest times of the year around here is spring, not so much when it’s all in full bloom but when it’s kind of getting the spring greens on, all the different shades of green, kind of the garden coming to life. But all four seasons are nice in the gardens, even in the dead of winter. It’s a whole new garden in the dead of winter, some snow or just plain wintertime, but all four seasons are nice; but I think spring is one of the nicest. Everything is kind of waking up for the year and all that sort of thing.
PP: Was it a good spring this year?
DS: I think we’ve had better springs.
PP: What would you consider the outstanding specimen plant of the garden?
DS: The plants themselves, like the trees, like the Black Oak and the Jap Maples? They’re all nice trees.
PP: Just tell us a little bit about the maples.
DS: I think the black oak is an outstanding one. It’s said to be three hundred years old. Probably the garden up around there was built around that tree, it had to be in those times because it all started in 1702, so that’s been there a little while. I think the copper beeches that we have, especially the big copper beech down at the bottom of Lovers’ Lane pool, they’re nice trees. We do have some big tulip poplars that have been here quite a few years. The katsura and the big jap maple that’s down along the R Street border on the east lawn, those are two nice specimens of trees. I’m trying to think of some of the newer things that have been put in that have turned out to be pretty good specimens. I think that styrax obassia that has been put down near Forsythia Hill, that’s turned out to be probably a nice tree. That was an addition, that wasn’t in the original garden. We have the styrax japonica which Farrand put in, this obassia was put in probably the early sixties. That’s turned out to be a nice tree.
The oldest trees that we have are probably the jap maple and the big katsura on the R Street border and the black oak are probably three of them. One I’ve always liked is the red oak – that’s not liked but I associate with it because it’s the first tree I had planted – it’s that red oak coming up the drive on the south lawn on the left hand side. I could put my hands around it when we planted it April 1953, I can’t get my arms around it now. I’ve watched that one grow along with the others, but that was the first one.
Trees and some of the shrubs – of course the Forsythia Hill has always been nice, that’s been in there for quite a few years. It’s had many prunings, but it’s always been a nice way to take care of a big hillside like that, plus you’ve got the nice greens through the year and even the wintertime it’s not a bad sight down through there.
PP: Tell us a little bit about the hornbeams and how you take care of them.
DS: The hornbeams went in there in ’50–’60, in through that period. There was American boxwood all around, kind of a hidden garden type thing, and then Mrs. Bliss came up with the idea – it was on the Ellipse at that time – of making it a little more formal. So, we took all the box out and built the walks in there and put the double row of hornbeams in. They’ve been in there since the beginning, I think there’s seventy eight of them in there, and we’ve replaced three over the years. And we replaced three more this past winter and that’s all we’ve lost down there. They’re pruned twice a year and they’re kept at a height of sixteen feet and we keep eight feet open on the bottom and eight feet of hedge. And then usually about every three years we go up and prune the tops back to get the big, what we call crow’s nest, out of there. We go up and cut that out below where it’s pruned all these years, just to do away with that big knot up there. It’s worked out fairly well. They lose their leaves a little bit more in the fall than I think they should, except it could be because of the hot summer, but we keep them watered. It makes a nice tree, it’s twiggy, small leafed, and it will stand shearing. When we prune it, we’re pruning ten or twelve inches of new growth off there all the time, usually in June or the early part of July and we’ll do it again in September, the same amount of growth. We’ve been feeding them once every three years with a slow release fertilizer and the ones we’ve been using is Evergreen put out by the Doggett Company and that seems to work all right. My crew doesn’t like it after the first year of feeding because they seem like they grow too fast for them; that’s the way it goes. That’s about all we can do on the hornbeams, I guess.
PP: You had a little story about the yew trees down there in the Herbaceous Border. Is that a true story?
DS: That’s the story. You’re talking about the Irish yews, and if you look in the Plant Book it talks about the Madam and the Monsieur yews, one on either end of the Herbaceous Border. And when I came there was two huge ones there. Right now these are replacements there, but when I came the two huge ones were there and they were all wired up with piano wire and everything else because the snow keeps breaking them down, even the ones we have now. In the winter we put a wire in a hose around and close them in to keep them tight so the snow doesn’t break them down.
Mr. Kearney told me the one on the lower end of the lawn had been replaced before I came because the original one died and they found the one that’s in there when I came under the man’s yard. And they wanted to buy it and the man would not sell it to them. Six months later he called up and said yes, he’d sell it and I asked him why he changed his mind…
[end of tape 2]
PP: August 12, 1992, the North Vista.
DS: This is the North Vista, and we’re sitting on the north steps on the top terrace looking north. The terrace is just about what it was when I came except the cedars of Lebanon are both gone now. We put deodars in, and we’ve lost both of those. And then in 1990 we replaced the two deodars. They’re on the second terrace, one on the right near the swimming pool and one on the left near the Pre-Columbian. These are the regular deodar cedars and they were put in here in June 1990. They had fifty-inch balls on them and were brought into the gate on a forklift and then manhandled and planted in here to replace the other deodars that we lost.
Basically this terrace has not changed much except for those two trees, they’re a lot smaller than the ones that were here when I came. On the left hand side of the first terrace here where you come out from the Music Room gate, originally was a big chestnut tree. That was long gone when I came, but in a lot of the old photographs you’ll see the tree in there and that was never replaced. Up until the, for the first twenty years I was here you could see right where that tree sat. And if you look right now, right where those brown leaves are, there’s a still a little dip and that’s where that tree stood.
When the Blisses originally did this, those boxwood hedges where the stones are on both sides all the way down to the railing that’s there now, apparently they were having a lot of problems with boxwood. And in the late forties they took all that boxwood out – not late forties really because I have a collection of slides taken in ‘43 and ‘44 showing the wall and the last terrace on the right hand side from here with a fence in between the columns. So, it was the forties. However, the boxwood was taken out and the walls were put in and the fence was taken down and chains were put in where the wisteria is now tied.
The finials that are on all of the walls of the other terraces all the way down were done by Mr. Coles with the exceptions of the carvings that’s way down at the lower end down on that north end. When I came here in 1952, there was an Italian stone carver here working on that, his name I think is Gianetti I believe his name was, but he was still just carving all that. The railing hadn’t been put in or anything at that time. But the benches that are in the top terrace here, these rose marble benches which are in here and all of those that’s over around the Orangery now and over on the Beech Terrace, a lot of those originally sat in the same spot where the Music Room is now before they built the Music Room in the 1920s. If you look real close in some of the old, old pictures you can still see the curved benches and the round table over on that corner over there.
PP: The walks?
DS: The walks of course is the bluestone which is all over. It’s the same Pennsylvania bluestone that we’ve used all over the gardens, they haven’t been changed any in the while I’ve been here. We did add down there on the right hand side coming into the third terrace where that gate is, we did add some flagstone there because of the foot traffic and the grass kept wearing out, so we did put some small stepping stones in there. The staircases, the steps between the terraces, there’s a big cement trough in that filled with soil with drainage in it and then the sod was laid on top of that. That’s maintained mainly by how we used to do it with a little one-wheel Pennsylvania edger at one time, and now we do it with the weed whackers. It works out fairly well.
The grass is a lot nicer in the last ten or twelve years, mainly because I think because of the grass varieties we’re using now. In the beginning, when I first came and even before that, they used a bluegrass. The bluegrass were fine until the low for the night was seventy degrees and the humidity was just a little bit higher than now, then we used to get all kind of funguses here. We used to spend an awful lot of time just seeding lawns. I think grass has been one of the biggest problems we’ve had at Dumbarton Oaks over the years, but like I say, the last ten or twelve years it’s been fairly decent because we’ve had the mixtures of the ryes when they first came out and now we’re using the turf type [inaudible] and that’s really been a godsend, they’re more disease resistant. They’ll take a lot of the hot summer and they’ll take a lot of this foot traffic too we have here.
The weeping cherries on the outside of the wall off the second terrace by the deodars, those have been replaced with weeping cherries. The other ones were quite big trees when I came here and especially the one on the left. That died and looked pretty ratty so we took them both down and added two new ones a few years ago. And also on the outside of the wall on the third and fourth terrace, there was four more big crabapples and gave the azaleas a lot more shade than they’ve been getting the last few years. This last year we’ve added two more weeping cherries there.
If you read in the history especially of the building of the North Vista when it was first done, there was a boxwood where the boxwood hedge was, where the walls are now, but where the boxwood used to be there that went right down to the middle of where the railing is now and then it went straight down to the roadway. And there was box on both sides there and it kind of made a tunnel. That was taken out with the rest of the box. I’ve seen pictures of it but that was gone when I came here, but that’s what is referred to as the boxwood tunnel. And then the steps that you come up right now, those few steps where you come up right now to on the walk that comes around to the left of the North Vista, that walkway came straight up to the railing and that of course was done away with. Where all the jasmine and the ivy is planted now there was a walk to the boxwood tunnel right up through the middle of that. What else can we talk about in this little area?
PP: [inaudible] experience of this one area that gave her the most trouble.
DS: I think she felt that way because there was a such drop in elevations here, and she still wanted to connect that to the house and yet lead it away from the house. I think she’s done it in a fine fashion because those four terraces, each one is just a little different shape. Most of them are rectangular but this one, the first one we’re on here now, it’s a little bit deeper and it hooks into the house and it’s much better. And as you go down some of them are – the first three are quite wide, and then the last one is a lot longer than it is wide so you get kind of a spectrum. At that time, where we’re looking now beyond the railing, that’s pretty well filled in with trees now but many years ago you could stand down in there and look almost over it into the park because there’s kind of a vista cut through there. But the trees on the Dumbarton Oaks side and the trees in the park now have just overgrown that whole area so you don’t have one. But I think her problem that she was talking about was trying to break the sudden – all over the gardens – anyplace where there was a huge drop in elevation she tried to soften it with a planting of willows or something just so it was kind of a gradual drop instead of going out there and dropping down ten feet down.
Standing right at the top of the edge of the first terrace as you go down the steps to the second terrace and you look over to the right, many years ago we kept trees down in the [inaudible] low enough so you could stand there and there was a vista cut through so you could see the mosque on Massachusetts Avenue, you could see the Connecticut Avenue bridge over Rock Creek and the Calvert Street bridge and also the church spires that are over on 16th and [inaudible], 16th and Columbia Road. But the trees in Rock Creek Park now have gotten so high so we’ve lost that too.
PP: What about the yews that are planted here?
DS: The yews, these are the [inaudible], and they’ve always been in here, we’ve never had any problem with the yews on this first terrace on the left hand or the west side here at all and on the south side. But we’ve always had a problem of getting some to do real well here on the east side. You can see here we’ve replaced those three or four there, we just replaced those again. One time we thought we had weevil problems and we cleaned that all up and we’ve never had much chance to – this one here was one of the last ones we planted until we put these little ones, and that one there has finally taken off, but these little ones they haven’t been in there but two years now.
PP: The magnolias?
DS: Yes, the magnolias that are trained on the building here on the first terrace, those are the grandifloras and they are kind of unique because they’re actually specimen trees so speak, but Mrs. Farrand espaliered these, and we prune these once a year and usually in July. They look terrible for about three weeks until the new growth comes out, but we have to prune them to keep them in bounds. If you let them go it blocks up all the windows, and they get all out of scale, and they look just what they were, something nobody’s taken care of. If you look on the railings on the house here on this first terrace, the last railing, turning around now we’re facing the house now, the first railing on the right hand side of the grill work – not the railing on the staircase, but the grill work on the first window on the right hand side – if you look on the lower right-hand lower corner you’ll see Sam Yellin’s name. And I think it’s 1923 or 28 is when he did all the design. And, of course, Sam Yellin at that time was the guru of blacksmiths.
The scuppers up on the main building up at the top of the downspouts, each one has a different insignia on them and I’m told that each insignia represents one of the stations that Mr. Bliss had held while he was in the foreign service. There’s goats, there’s sailboats, there’s bunches of grapes, there’s pineapples, but each one is different. Which one goes for which station I don’t know, only he and Mrs. Bliss would know.
PP: The ivy?
DS: The ivy on the building, it used to go up above the second story windows and then we’ve taken it down to where we can manage it a little bit more. We had problems getting up there using forty-foot ladders and that sort of thing. It hasn’t really caused a lot of problems to the house because we don’t let it get thick, thick. And usually every year, or if it grows that way fast enough, at least every two years we just go in and take hedge shears and shear it right back usually in the spring because it looks terrible about three weeks until the new growth comes up.
PP: Pruned how often?
DS: It’s pruned but just to keep it from going in behind the shutters and all that, about once a month. Right now – this is August 1992 – right now I think the whole building is scheduled to be repointed and the ivy is all to come down. The magnolias have to be loosened away from the wall so they can get in and work on that. I think the ivy will grow back up and they’ll probably [inaudible]. I think the building will look terrible if they don’t put the ivy back up. It doesn’t have to be up thick, just something to break the big bareness of the walls, just like most of the walls all over the gardens, you’ll find very few walls that we’ve covered over completely, there’s little patches here and there of ivy and [inaudible], that sort of thing. Just mainly to break up that big, vast span of just the bare wall, but just a little break of ivy. You can look down through here now. If you took that ivy down it would all look like that, one pile of stone down there. The ivy kind of dresses it all up and yet it makes it a little more cozier, it ties all in together.
We’re sitting in what we call the Zodiac Garden. This is a little garden room that, they say, Mrs. Bliss and Mr. Bliss used to have their breakfast in here quite a bit or their lunch or something like that. And everything in here – it’s all azaleas with a few of the Japanese holly mixed in with the azaleas. This is the only azalea – other than four lavender ones that are planted down by the swimming pool – this is the only azalea they actually have in the garden, and they’re all white and this is mostly Indica alba. This is the same azalea that’s mixed in all the way along the outside of the east wall of the North Vista. Mrs. Bliss liked apple blossom pinks and whites, no magentas; she didn’t like magenta at all.
We kind of keep the azaleas a little bit – maybe four foot just enough so if you really want to see what’s in here you’ve got to come in here and that’s the way most of the garden is. It’s a little room, so to speak. If you want to see what’s there you have to kind of walk in there to see. I think it makes a better garden that way. You can’t stand in one place and look over the whole garden. I think the secrets of the gardens, you don’t see those down in one spot. There’s an awful lot of things in these little gardens that you don’t see until you go in, like the little zodiac in the corners – Aquarius and there’s Cancer over here and a phoenix and some of those on each of these four corners and of course the Aquarius Fountain – you wouldn’t even notice that if you just walked by outside. Paying attention to detail I think was one of Mrs. Bliss’s and Mrs. Farrand’s –
PP: Why did they pick Aquarius?
DS: I have no idea.
PP: And the pool had to be rebuilt?
DS: We had it [inaudible]. We had to renovate it, it was leaking quite bad here on the right hand side. We’ve redone that and had to do some patching inside over the years. For some reason this Italian marble, like a lot of the rose marble benches out here and this kind of stone, doesn’t weather very well. What we do in the wintertime, we have big plywood covers and plastic that we put right over them just to keep the moisture out, try to keep them halfway dry. I think that’s helped a whole lot. This area here, I think these pebbles have got to be – there’s not been anything done to these pebbles in this garden in all the years I’ve been here. So, one day I think they should look into having somebody come in and redo these pebbles, especially over here underneath the marble table, they’re pretty well broken up there.
PP: Have the azaleas been replanted in here?
DS: None of these have been replanted at all; they’re still the original ones. Some down on the lower side outside the North Vista wall between that and the swimming pool, they’re putting Indica alba that was hard to get. We used all we had in the nursery and we’re still trying to have cuttings of it. We ‘ve put in a white one that’s the same color, that’s half evergreen like the Indica alba; Wilhelmina vuyk is in there and that’s worked out fairly well, in fact you’ll probably have to buy some more and [inaudible] that’s on the market. I’ve been getting those from the Western Nursery. If you call them in the middle of winter and all they may send a truck from Massachusetts down this way in the spring, and order it and they’ll bring it right to you, pay for trucking them down but you’re getting real nice plants and the varieties you want.
PP: How do you fertilize these?
DS: These are fertilized. We’ve been using Holly-tone and usually right after they bloom in the spring if we’re going to do any pruning we do it then and then maybe a little later on we’ll give another light feed later on, but we do most of the pruning right after they bloom. We’re not cutting off the buds and things like that.
PP: Were these pruned heavily ever?
DS: Yes, they were pruned real heavy like down to about a foot high one time here, which I kind of objected to. I was kind of ordered to do it. They were trying to open the gardens up so you could look from everywhere, but they’ve always been, other than that time, they’ve always been kept at least this high or even a little bit higher.
PP: What about the clematis on the wall?
DS: That’s the fall blooming, August blooming, the Virginiana, and it decided to bloom right about now. That’s always been there, you don’t ever have to worry about losing it, that thing seeds itself. You have to have more worries keeping it under control. But we keep it on this wall here and on the Zodiac Garden on the west wall, and then on that little piece of the North Vista, across the way they’re on that wall. Then there’s some that’s up on the wall between the Rose Garden and the Urn Terrace too. It makes a nice – and then there’s some down on the Fountain Terrace – it makes a nice show this time. It’s hard to find blooming things in the hot summertime in the city of Washington.
PP: What’s this marble table?
DS: I don’t really know much about that, I just assume that was bought the same time that the rose marble and this fountain was bought; I don’t know much about it. It’s a little different color than the pools or the rose marble.
PP: Do you know anything about that lamp there?
DS: No, I don’t know much about that, that’s hung there and hung there. I know it doesn’t work. They were going to fix it one time and apparently they decided not to do anything with it. We have another one, it’s down in the Orchid House now underneath a bench all covered over with plastic that came off from – it’s an old one similar to that but it stood on top of a column, it stood on the wall of the old driveway before they built the Garden Library and that’s down in the greenhouse. Most of those that had to be – I don’t think you could really restore them, they’re too far gone and the light switch for that is in the [inaudible] room somewhere, on this, next to this wall.
It’s always amused me that that American holly was put in there, it’s a male of course and there’s never any berries on it and we just kept it shaped up so you can get in at it and I always thought it would have been nice if it had been a female because they have those berries on it, but it’s an old sterile male holly. But a lot of the evergreens, the hollies, the yews, even some of the evergreen azaleas and the box and all that stuff is used pretty extensively throughout the gardens mainly for the wintertime so people looking out from the building when it was a private home – looking out here – they’re not looking out a bunch of bare trees and all, there’s some green. The garden was built really for fall, winter and a spring garden, it wasn’t built for a summer garden, plus in those days a lot of people didn’t stay in Washington in the summertime.
We’re talking about the azalea here around the Zodiac and there are three or four spots where you’ll see a little bit of the Japanese holly in here. Why they were put in I have no idea. If you read in the Plant Book they were in here then and we just kept them in – whether to have a contrast in the greens, I don’t know. But they are mentioned in the Plant Book about the hollies intermixed with the azaleas. Now maybe there was more of them, but we have this group, one, two, I think there’s four groups of it in here plus back here against the wall too, and there’s some on either side of this railing here, on the east side of the Zodiac Garden. The reason I don’t know, but I can bet you one thing, Mrs. Farrand had a reason for doing it and if we find – and probably we could if we read far enough – there was a logical reason.
This pool was built in the mid-‘20s and it holds 85,000 gallons of water and it’s about 26 by 64 feet and it’s eight feet deep from the drain out to the west wall here. For years now we’ve taken a white paint and a black swimming pool paint and mixed them together, equal amounts – I think it’s six gallons of each to give it twelve gallons – and we mix that all out and then we just put it on and once you put the water in the nice grey turns into this nice quiet blue instead of the big old swimming pool lagoon blues that you see around with most pools. You have to be careful to get the regular pool paint. If you use any of the other paints the chlorine will eat the heck out of it, so make sure you get the regular pool paint. In the rolodex down there under swimming pools on the business card I think I even have the type of paint marked on there, so it’s there so you can look at it, it’s a Duron pool paint.
Every spring we try to get the water in, get the pool painted and get water in it by mid-March or the latter part of March. I try to do it to get the water in here before the weeping cherries come in bloom because it doesn’t look very good here with the pool empty and the cherries in bloom, it looks like an empty swimming pool. But with the water in it – and we usually keep the water in until after the first weekend in November. Not too many people swim in it after the first of October unless it gets really warm.
The plantings around there, we’ve used a number of plantings over towards the loggia there. We’ve used the fuchsias without any under planting. Years ago we started putting scented geraniums and that sort of thing in there to fill it up a little bit more so it doesn’t look so bare. The only azaleas that are in here, there’s four actually of azalea plantings over there and there’s the Poukhanense, the purple with the exception of the one on the east end, that was one called Lilac Lady. The bloom is the same, the bloom is just a little bit later but we do have some cuttings of the Poukhanense coming along now. The other azaleas up on the west side here under these weeping cherries, most of them are [inaudible] and not having any of those from the market anymore we’ve used up all we’ve got of our own plants and we have some more started now. But there’s another one now that’s in a mix with a Wilhelmina vuyk, and I’ve been buying them at the Western Nursery in Massachusetts and I’ve been getting like two dozen at a time, and if you check with them they send a truck down to Washington, at least one trip in the spring of the year, so you just order that stuff in the middle of the winter and then along in April or the first part of May when their truck comes down they’ll bring them down for you. Some of the other nurseries, I think Waynesboro has Wilhelmina vuyk now and some of the others have it, but Western has real good azaleas and they’re at a fair price. I’ve been buying two foot and thirty inch ones, not too much difference in the size but there’s a big difference in the price.
The weeping cherries, we have replaced these first two right at the very end of the pool, they were replaced a few years ago. The old ones died out and we’ve replaced those and then we’ve just planted this past spring, planted the two more to the right of the west end of the pool. We did that mainly to create a little more shade for those azaleas because over the years there was some of our big crabapples down on the other side which created some shade, but they died so we put those weeping cherries in there to create a little more shade for those azaleas because that does take a whole lot of sun in there, but the azaleas I think it will help.
The maple that is up to the right going up the horseshoe steps is a red maple. There was a big silver maple in there and it got pretty old and every time we had bad storms we were losing big leaders off of them and it busted some of the walls. We finally took that down; it took us over three days to take it down. It all had to be cut up in small pieces and lowered down. The one we have in there now is a red maple. What else can we tell you about this place?
PP: How were the azaleas pruned? Were they pruned to come down at one time?
DS: No, the azaleas, well, they come out, just not all over the thing here. What we try to do along this wall – and when they get a little bit bigger you can do it – but if you look up there on the right hand side of where the fountain, see where they started just to drift over? We just want to let them come and just kind of drift over. You don’t want to cover the whole wall up, but so that you can see the wall and yet break up the straight lines of the wall. These azaleas, we pruned them back real hard a couple of three years ago and they’ve started to come back out now. What we’ve been doing with them, as soon as they bloom and we’re here, if we’re going to do any pruning we go in there and prune them then and feed them and we’ve been feeding with Holly-tone, and they seem to have taken that up pretty good. A little later on if there some that we feel need another little feed, we give them another little feed. And, of course, we’ve been spraying them for the bugs in the spring and that’s worked out fairly well.
The boxwood has always been – the box that’s to the left where the round table is, that was coming out way over the wall and was kind of – more of it was almost down over the wall than what’s there now and we trimmed that all back and took it back up there, but that’s coming back out real nice now. The horseshoe steps, that’s not the original of the fountain. If you look back of some the old drawings and even some of the old pictures, the fountain was a lot wider than it is now and Mrs. Bliss changed that and it fit in there much better.
The jasmine that we have hanging down off above this loggia hangs down. We tried to run that out through the tiles and it looks kind of, not raggedy so much now, but in the dead of the winter of course the foliage is all gone and you got all this nice bright yellow up there and it’s really nice to come up here and sometimes around Christmas or even a little bit later, usually in January and February, that’s just a big mass of yellow. We have that in a number of places in the gardens and you’re going to hear people saying, see the forsythias already in bloom but it’s nothing but this jasmine.
The wisteria on the north side of the loggia never has bloomed very much. In fact, all the wisteria that’s on the north side all over the gardens has never bloomed much. It’s down on the garage; it’s never bloomed much. I don’t know why that is but the north side wisterias never seem to get much bloom on them. What else have we got up here? We just installed this new railing – this is September 3, this went in in August – the new railing replacing – originally there was nothing over in these alcoves, it was all open and then back in the ‘60s we had to put a fence around the pool because the gardens were open to the public at that time and you had to have a five foot fence around it. So, this latticework was put up with gates on either end of it so when the pool was open we could come in and come out of here. But the latticework has gotten pretty rickety now and we’ve just changed that and put a wrought iron fencing along there. Up on the east end at this point the latticework is still there but by next month there’s going to be three teak planters put up there and we’ll have a small planting of maybe four foot high of holly, Jap holly or even boxwood or something like that.
DS: The grass? The grass on the west end of the pool and the flagging on the west end of the pool – the two rows of flagging – the second row from the pool edge was put in mainly because the grass was getting worn all down in the wintertime with people walking – they wouldn’t walk on the edge of the pool, they’d walk on the grass so we put this second strip of stone in, sort of the same stone that’s around the edge of the pool. We went up and took all this soil up, took the sod all off in the early ‘70s and raised all this up. It was laid pretty wet in here, we put a lot of sand in there and since then we’ve had quite a lot of success with this grass here. The only problem it gets now, when the pool is heavily used and they keep coming out with their bathing suits and they lay in one spot or spread their towels out very long, you get a little bit of brown spots. But years ago the whole thing would be bare, so that’s worked out fairly well and the grass down on the south side of the pool, we’ve raised all that grade up too and that’s worked out much better. We’ve leveled it out and we put some flagstone down on the east end of it where they go into the dressing room. Years ago that was just kind of – you walked on the grass it was just kind of a mud hole there. I can’t think of anything else for the swimming pool.
PP: Are the gates locked in the wintertime, kept locked?
DS: We’ve been locking the gates up in the wintertime. What we’ve been doing too, we used to leave water in the pool but people were coming in here with their ice skates and they were cutting the grass all up and scratching the heck out of all this stone around here and especially the sandstone that’s in the pool itself. This pool, most pools should have water in them in the wintertime but most pools are under the ground all the way around. This pool is only under the ground on two sides and on the north and the east side it’s out of the ground pretty much. But we lock the gates – we used to put a rope railing around the pool and let people walk through here but a few years ago they decided that was kind of dangerous because somebody could fall in the pool with it empty. So, now we lock the gates and everybody goes up over the North Vista.
The North Vista in the wintertime with everybody walking up there, it takes a beating. It looks pretty bad especially if it gets frozen and they’ve walked on it, but it all comes right back out in the spring. I thought it was going to be bad after the first couple of winters and in the spring it comes right back up and it is much safer having people away from the pool with it empty.
PP: The willow trees?
DS: When I first came there was a row of willow, and if you look in the Plant Book there was a row of willow trees on the north side of the pool and they got pretty old. We had a couple of storms came and they blew the tops off and dumped them into the pool. And then we took them all out, and we replaced them with some more willows, the green stem willow, and we put them in there. And that was fine for a couple of three years and then we started losing those, and we checked it all out and there was a root rot come in there. So, we took the trees all out, we cleaned the holes all out, we went down three feet, we gassed the holes, we put all new soil back in there and we bought some new willows and that worked out fairly well for a couple of three years but we started losing those too. We had the people from Maryland come and they recommended leaving them out of there for at least ten years. Now the willows were put in there mainly to – the shrubs that are just north of the willows weren’t very high at that time and all over the garden you’ll see a place where Mrs. Farrand has put something in to break the sudden drops of a – a hydra – and the willows were put in there to do that. But the shrubs just north of that, they’ve gotten high enough so you don’t have that sudden drop that we had before.
The pool area is much, much cleaner now with the willow trees gone. The pool was always dirty with leaves; we spent an awful lot of time keeping the leaves out, keeping the drain unstopped and everything just from the willows. As far as I ‘m concerned, the only good place for the willows [inaudible] where you can see it and he has to clean up after it. They’ll probably want to put willows back in there sometime but that’s why the willows are not in there today.
PP: [inaudible] the round table [inaudible].
DS: The round table that’s over to the left of the west side was originally up right where the latticework is up on the east end of the loggia. The night that Mr. Bliss died somebody was in here and that table was pushed over and smashed and then when we had it all re-put back together and then when we had to put the latticework up we moved it up here to the left side of the west end of the pool and it’s been damaged twice since then. Hopefully this fall – and we had it repaired but it needs to be redone again, so hopefully this winter you should send it off and let the carving and restoration people put it in. Most of these things, we did the marble benches up on the Green Garden, they had those all redone, and the reinforcing bars underneath were steel and they were rusting out and caused a lot of problems up there. So, when we redid the benches up there we put stainless steel rods in and this is probably what should have to come into this when you redo this table.
The birdbath that sits in the little alcove here on the west end, this past winter we just had that all redone for the second time. We cover it in the winter to keep the moisture and the snow and all out of there, but over the years water gets in the cracks or condensation or something. And we just had that all redone last winter and it was in about three hundred pieces, and I think they did a real good job putting it back in there.
PP: That’s a fountain?
DS: That’s a fountain, the little birdbath sits in the fountain. Originally when this fountain with the red color wall was built and all, there was lights that sat down in the pool and they shown up on this. So, when Mr. Bliss came out in the evening, I think he’d turn the lights on. When I came, the light fixtures were there but they were inoperable and we finally just took them out of there. There was a lot of outside lighting back in those days, around this pool and down through the alley and places like that, and then when Havey took over that was just abandoned, so that’s all been discontinued now.
We do have lights up in the loggia mainly for the security people at night, and they’re all on electric eyes and they come on at dusk and go off at dawn and that’s helped somewhat. You’re not going to ever keep people from coming into the pool at night; they’ve been doing it probably since the 1920s. You can slow them down but you cannot keep them all out, they’re bound to some in. But most people in the last few years have been pretty good, they come in and they swim and they go out. But back in the ‘60s when there was kind of a hippie generation in this area all we got was damage: the chairs were in the pool, the tables, everything was thrown in the pool. There was trash around, beer kegs and all that sort of thing. We don’t seem to have much of that anymore. It’s just a new class of people, [inaudible] to come in terrorizing this place.
When I came here this pool was here and there was a pool down at the Georgetown playground when I first came, public pool and now there’s nine pools, private pools, just within one block of this area. Even the Boys’ Club pool wasn’t here when I came and now they still climb over the fence, through the barbed wire and come way in to come into this pool.
PP: Did anybody ever drown in the pool?
DS: Not that I know of there’s ever been anybody drown.
PP: You never had an accident?
DS: No. They tell me one time, many years ago when I first came here – they had a filter system in here back in the beginning. And then whether it was taken out when Harvard took over, I don’t know, but there was no filter system in here. When I first came we used to scrub the pool down every Wednesday or Thursday, drain it down, scrub it down and fill it, there was no filter system and by Saturday or Sunday it wasn’t fit to swim in again. Then in the early ‘60s – ‘61, ’62 – we put a new filter system back in so the pool stays pretty clean now. It costs money to run it and all, but it makes it a nicer pool, it’s clean. But before, by Saturday or Sunday, it was green with algae and you couldn’t even see into the pool, it looked just like what it was, a swamp that had to be cleaned.
As far as I know nobody’s ever drowned in the pool. There’s been lots of people learned to swim in this pool and somewhere in the photo archives there are two, I think one’s an eight millimeter and the other one’s a sixteen millimeter film, one in color and one in black and white. I think one of them was dated around like 1928 and the other one I think is ‘33 or so, of the gardens, and one of them shows Mrs. Bliss swimming up the pool with a big sunbonnet on, plus some other scenes in the gardens. They’re not very long but they were found in the archives quite a few years ago when Charlotte Burke was here and she had them redone and put on up to date film, which we showed for the fortieth anniversary of Dumbarton Oaks in Harvard; we showed it in the Music Room that time. But it’s there somewhere and people might be interested in seeing those again sometime.
We’re up at the end of the pool right now where we have the cannas. Many years ago we used to put the fuchsias up there like we do along this side of the pool, but we kept losing them up there because the tops kept breaking off. Then we opened the gardens up for the summertime – we used to be closed July and August – when we opened the gardens up in the summertime we started putting cannas up there with a little Dusty Miller in front of it because it gives you that nice color for the summertime and it will take the heat. Plus the cannas go, I think at least, that the cannas go well with the stucco wall, the wall kind of sets off the cannas.
We’re in the loggia where the Allyn Cox mosaic is and originally there was a painting of almost the exact same thing of Diana taking her maids to bathe, peeping Tom coming, and she turned him into a stag and sicced the dogs on him. The original one was a painting which had come off, by the time I came here it was gone then. Then Mrs. Bliss had Allyn Cox to do the same thing only using Portuguese tile and small granite blocks. A little story with this is once Mrs. Bliss died – Mr. Thacher never really liked this very good – and once Mrs. Bliss died we made a plywood cover to put over this in case Mr. Cox was ever going to come back to see it. Mr. Cox didn’t come back and the cover stayed on as long as Thacher was here, but he never told Mr. Tyler about it and Mr. Cox came, when Mr. Tyler came as the Director, Mr. Cox came and he found them covered up and Mr. Tyler had us take the covers down and burn them and not put them back up there again.
This is tile in here, this is handmade tile and a lot of it’s disintegrating and we can’t find this anywhere and the patches that are in here, that’s the only thing that we could find at that time and I forget who – I don’t even remember when we did this.
PP: The floor?
DS: This was the original, but these bright red ones are fill-ins and this group right here, right in front of the public dressing room, this in here. When we built these dressing rooms, this dressing room here facing us or facing on the right where the public bathrooms are now, that was all one great big room and we didn’t have any public bathrooms down here. So, in the ‘80s when I think Giles Constable was the Director we only had that one public toilet which is up by the Orangery and we decided to take a piece of the ladies’ room, this was all one big room, and we decided to take a piece of that and add these two public baths in. And the tile – all of this was – the baths were done, but this patch out here in the loggia that you can see right here, they had to dig down here to hook into the sewer line. The sewer line from this runs out here and over there and out, but this was all dug up and they did find some of this tile to put back in. It doesn’t match completely, but it’s better than that red that was put in many years ago.
We didn’t have a public drinking fountain, we only had that one public toilet up by the Orangery, and we just had so many people that we had to build public toilets. Then at one time they talked about building a gift shop, public toilets and security right down at the front gate, in fact, they drew up a plan and everything else and then they decided not to do it. Then they decided to build these two toilets here. I think a little building down there with a gift shop and public toilets at the gate would have been much better because there’s a whole lot of these people that come in here, especially a lot of those senior citizens who can’t walk all the way down here with these steps. Most places when these busses come and a lot of people come the first thing they want to know is where are the restrooms and then where is the gift shop. If they had built some sort of a building down there, I think it would have worked out much better and probably some day they will do it if the gardens keep growing in attendance.
PP: Can you tell me more about this area here?
DS: This is the base of the horseshoe steps and we’ve already discussed the horseshoe steps. And the urn that’s on here was kind of put in as a focal point – if you’re standing on the east end of the loggia and look all the way down this is kind of a focal point on the east end of the loggia. We’ve had that repaired a couple of times. We’ve had this wall around here redone too and at the time we redid the wall we put a lot of weep holes in because the water pressure and all was building up behind it. This bench has been repaired two or three times, [inaudible] lays water in there and then freezes and keeps popping it off, that’s been redone a couple of times.
The vase, we lost the – somebody broke it. They knocked the vase over, you can see on the bottom of the stem and the pineapple on the top, that’s been broken off and we’ve had those all put back. Most people, though, are pretty good. There’s always a certain few, all they want to do is do damage, that’s all they want to do.
PP: Anything about this tree?
DS: This is the same tree we’ve talked about over there. This is a silver maple, this was a red maple and replaced an old silver maple that was dying out and we were losing a lot of the big leaders on it, it got pretty old. Every time the wind was blowing – big storms – we’d lose more limbs on it so we took that out of there. This is the one I was telling you it took us three days to take down, lowering small blocks at a time just so we didn’t do any damage down here. And probably eventually, we’ve raised that up some and you might have to raise it up a little bit more, but the azaleas will go great in that little bit of shade. This is some of the problems we had with the azaleas after that big silver maple died because it filled in this whole area and these were a time in the shady area. Then that was gone and you get more light in here now. The azaleas I think will adjust to that but they’re coming back real good.
[inaudible] pool again and I think the shell has a bad leak in it, I think that shell has got to be taken off and the piping checked out there because it leaks right up the base of the shell. There is a small leak I think right here on the north end of the pool where the overflow is. I think that water leaks out there and comes out on the flagstone here. This will probably have to be dug out in front of the overflow out to the outside wall and re-mortared in all along in – this all re-mortared. And what might happen too, this overflow might leak down [inaudible]. But we haven’t done anything to this pool at all, it always is like that. We did have an awful time getting stuff to grow in there because people kept going in and getting the money out of this pool. We had a terrible time because this was always bare and when we put the ivy in, a little bit of [inaudible] and that worked out fairly well. It seemed to me there was honeysuckle and something like that in there and they just kept walking in it.
Mrs. Farrand did a lot with honeysuckle. That honeysuckle has only been around like a hundred years. I don’t think she knew that was going to be the scourge that it is when she started planting. We still have a lot, but we don’t have as much as we did. And a lot of places she put it, it had to be maintained and pruned real often and in this day and age with labor costing so much, we’ve got to change over onto something with a little lower maintenance. This fountain, we’ve replaced the valve that runs this fountain. We did this this past winter right here to the right [inaudible] right down in there. That was a project, there’s not too much room down here.
We’re in the Green Garden now and where the black oak is, that’s said to be three hundred years old, that was dying when I came in 1952, and it’s still dying, but I think it will be here forever. We had the cable there, put some more cables in. We’ve run some more rods in; the big rods that’s way up on the top, they were in here when I came here and the concrete, that was all done back in probably the ‘30s and we put this red oak that’s to the – where it’s standing – to the back of the swimming pool. But the red oak that’s on the right here, we put that in and we also put another oak up in that southwest corner by that bench because we expected to take this oak down, but the oak still lives on so we had to take one of those trees down, there’s just too many trees.
This is called the Green Garden, and when it was first designed it was set up that nearly everything in view was green and then when the Blisses had their garden parties in the spring and in the fall the color of the ladies’ dresses created the color for the party. There was tub things out here, but I don’t think as many back then as there is now, and we still put some out and we also put in the spring [inaudible] tulips and that sort of thing. And then some things got a little bloom in the summer, the fuchsias and those are gardenias all in there, there’s a few cannas, that kind of thing.
All these benches, these rose marble benches that are on the terrace here, we’ve had those all redone and the rods that were inside were steel, we had those all taken out and they’re all stainless steel rods put in there now. Hopefully they will last a while. And in the wintertime we do have covers, box covers, that we made that we put right over them just to keep the weather from setting on the tops all winter long, and that’s worked out fairly well. All the tub things go inside in the wintertime. It’s kind of bare out here in the wintertime, but we still have the jasmine and that sort of thing.
Most symposiums and luncheons and things like that I’ve seen out here, I’ve seen twenty-six tables set up for out this area here, that’s the most I’ve seen. I suppose they could put more if they scattered them around.
PP: The roses on the corners here?
DS: The roses on the corners have always been there, two red roses right there on these two corners. The one we have in here now is called pillow of fire, that’s the variety. They take a terrible beating with people walking up to look over the pool and that’s where their feet have stomped them all out. That’s why we put those little sharp pieces of pipe in there to keep them from breaking them off at ground level. A lot of these little pockets along the wall, there’s not much going in them now because people have just stomped them all out. They don’t really care; they come up and they put their foot here and they put it there and they stomp it down, so we just don’t put anything in. You could put stuff in but I’m sure it’s going to get walked out. All you have to do is have two tour buses come in of sixty-seventy people, they all come in here at once and they all want to look over here at once and they stomp it down.
We can go over on the B Terrace, or we can go in the Orangery if you want. This is on the left-hand side next to the grass nearest the house, it’s a ponderosa lemon. And then we have two tubs of bamboo and then there’s two tubs of the brunfelsia here and then two more tubs of bamboo. Over on the right hand side next to the building they have the little ornamental orange, then the Easter egg plant and three tubs of agapanthus and there’s a pot of cannas and the fuchsias and then this plumbago, Australian silky oak and the [inaudible]. This has pretty well gone by now, but this is the pineapple plant. When it’s in bloom it looks just like a pineapple. They’ve all gone by now, we should get those out of here. This is a hibiscus and then the [inaudible] and then we did say the plumbago and some geraniums. There’s two or three little – we’ve got two more little lemons, a big orange hibiscus, a gardenia, another egg plant and pineapple. This is a monkey apple, this I got over at the zoo. They were throwing it out, so I picked it out of the trash. Another orange, another scented geranium.
The Norfolk Island pine was – my wife bought for me. It was about three- or four-foot high, as a birthday present one time for five dollars, and we kept it in the house and put it out in the yard for years until it got so big that we couldn’t get it back in the house. So, [inaudible] and put it in here and it probably doesn’t belong here. [inaudible] and some lemon geranium, another hibiscus, this is Petra, the label’s right on here. [inaudible] get a nice purple flower on it and there’s a bud of one there, and I got this from Hillwood. They were throwing it out and I brought it back here because we were looking for something to bloom in the summertime and that’s when this blooms. There’s another brunfelsia, also the brunfelsias will bloom in the Orangery the first thing in the spring and then when we move the stuff out here usually the third week in April or just before – they usually have a symposium here about the third week in April – and that’s when we try to get everything out here.
Andromedas, this is another [inaudible], it’s just getting ready – they get pretty [inaudible] and then there’s a [inaudible], a breadfruit, a small one, that’s a piece off the one that’s in the corner in the Orangery. Then around the corner of the Orangery there’s a couple of lantanas and some clivia. The clivia and the brunfelsia bloom in the Orangery early in the spring – could come up in February and March or somewhere in there. By the time we move them all they’re pretty well done. Here’s some more agapanthus and then that was a standard geranium, which is not too [inaudible]. There’s a couple of andromedas, actually four andromedas, two big ones and then we replaced –
PP: In the ground.
DS: In the ground, planted behind the baptismal font here.
PP: Tell me about the font.
DS: That’s what I think it was and it’s just set there, we never put –
PP: It goes with this?
DS: Yes, all of this stuff here, these tables and that and I think the benches she got all at one place.
PP: Do you know where she got them?
DS: I have no idea, [inaudible] somebody could reach her if they have nothing else to do. That probably was a grant setting around somewhere that somebody will give out, maybe, for the [inaudible].
PP: The Orangery?
DS: At the Orangery, we’re going through the door towards the end of the main building, but this little room was a little hallway and where the little kitchenette is now, this was added on when the Blisses bought the property in the ‘20s. She added this little anteroom, this little section on because the Orangery was a freestanding building when she bought the property. And in where the kitchen is now, was set up as a flower room, there was a big deep sink in there which by the way, if you ever have to replace that sink, in the potting shed of the greenhouse there’s a big deep sink which would work great in the greenhouses, it is down underneath the greenhouse, you know, you could put that in there. Back in the early ‘80s again, we changed that little flower room over into a kind of a mini-kitchen, something for the caterers to use when they had the dinners and the luncheons. The only thing they didn’t put in there is a stove. There’s an icemaker, a dishwasher, a freezer, refrigerator, a sink, but there’s no stove. But usually when the caterers come they bring the stove, a little gas stove.
PP: What about the plants on the stairs?
DS: The plants on the stairs, we just put a conglomeration, about anything. We used to do that years ago and then they kept being stolen, so I stopped doing it for a while. People would come in with shopping bags and you’d come up here and there were big things like the ficus and the Swedish ivy that hung way down like that. They’d just plop them into a shopping bag and go out of here so we stopped putting them in there for a long while. About three or four years ago I started putting them back in here and it’s going to work fairly well, we haven’t had but a couple of plants taken out of there. But mostly we don’t put too many of the flowering things, it’s mostly just the vines, the foliage type of thing, just to break up the bareness of those brackets.
We’re sitting in the Orangery, and about ten years ago we redid this Orangery. The walls were all repainted on the outside, there were places out there you could take a full-length pencil and just shove it in a joint, it would disappear. This all was repainted, rebuilt, and the roof was removed completely and the first thing they did was shore up the sides of the walls all the way around from the outside. But the roof was taken off and that was replaced. And when they did take the roof off they built a big platform in here just the size of the room so they could have a place to work up there. After they built that we had to take the vine, literally take it off the wall, we took it off the wall and we moved it inside under this platform and tied it onto the uprights. They were supposed to have been done in four months and I think it was sixteen months.
The beams up here were of teak at that time and they were all rotting out on the walls, so that when they replaced them they had these beams cast with a conduit and everything cast right in them. If I remember right, they were supposed to be the color of the teak although it’s kind of a lot whiter than the teak was that was up there. The fans were added with this renovation, the track lights were added. The latticework was part of the Blisses first renovation when they first bought the property, but the fans and the track lights that’s up underneath the lattice was added in the ‘80s. The only problem with the fans and the track lights up there, if you’re out here at night – I’ve had meetings out here and people get up to give a paper or something with the fan going and the light going and it just flickers all the way around, so you have to kind of shut the fan off.
This room is still used for all the tub plants that are on the Green Garden patio and all of those that’s down on the Arbor Terrace, they all come in here for the winter. We use it for storage; it’s not a display room. We do arrange it so it looks halfway decent, but it’s used really as a storage room. Usually we move the plants out of here by mid-April and we move them in by the first or second week in November. A lot of the plants that have grown quite big out in the gardens through the summer we have to trim them back just to make some space in here. The vine is creeping fig and originates over there in the northwest corner, it’s the only place it’s in the ground, it goes over the whole building. When we were doing the renovations everybody thought we had killed the vine because we moved it. We didn’t move it out of the ground so much but we took it all off the wall and when we rehung it we put the stainless steel hooks that you see up on the top. We put those up and tied a vine on it and two months later after we put it out there the vine had already started to grow and was holding its own. We prune this vine three to five times a year depending on how fast it grows. We do it once again in the fall just before we move the plants in and in the wintertime sometimes if it’s grown quite a bit we’ll come up on a bad day and prune it then and then we have to prune it again in April.
The windows in the roof, the skylights in the roof, the original ones from the Blisses’ time was small panes, I’ll say six by eight inches, similar to custom frame glass, that type of thing. And they were done with cypress framing and that, over the years, with the heat and the moisture all up there, they started to rot out. So, when they replaced them they put – this is a type of Plexiglas that was put up there. They claim that it was strong enough so you could walk on it, I haven’t tried it yet. We have replaced two of them, one had what looked like a pellet gun hole in it and another one up over to the left of the north side door here, one of those just shattered one time and we don’t know why it shattered, but that’s the only ones that’s been replaced.
The two chandeliers in here are original from the Blisses’ original planning of the building and the four murals on the wall are lead on teak with winter, summer, spring and fall. Those were here when she first did that; those are about the only things that weren’t redone when they redid the building. There’s new doors and new windows in here. They’ve had a problem keeping the paint on the doors from the beginning, as soon as they brought them back. I don’t know how many times they’ve been painted, or whether the way the wood was treated before it came here or what, I don’t know, but they’ve had a terrible time keeping the paint on the doors.
The northwest corner and the southeast corner of the Orangery, the gutters are built in and they come inside there but before they redid the roof which was really leaky, leaky, it really leaked. Now we still have leaks in those corners and they’ve not been able to stop those leaks. It’s not anything like it was before but in the northwest corner and over here, the southeast corner; it still leaks right up in the corners. The tile I’ve been told it’s handmade Italian tile. We have heat in this building, there’s heat in the bottom of these grates and in the wintertime I keep it about forty-five and if we’re going to have a real cold spell I’ll come up and kick it up to fifty. You don’t want it too hot because a lot of the things that you want to bloom early in the spring can bloom in the dead of the winter.
There’s four vents up at the top of the latticework on the sides. The one on the west side does not work and they work off of the cranks that come down to the side of the walls. The crank is kept in the little kitchen in the drawer in there, but the one on the north side is closed and you can’t get that open. So, you have the two on the two long sides, on the north side and the south side and the one on the east side. The one on the west side is the one that doesn’t open. I usually open those up in the spring along about the first part of April, unless it’s real freezing weather. I usually open those up a week and cut the heat off in here and then I slowly will open the doors up just trying to acclimate these plants that’s in here so they’ll be ready when they go outside, there won’t be a big change in temperature.
When you move the plants outside in the spring there’s going to be a big change in the sun burning. You’re going to get some burn on the plants, especially some of the foliage is going to burn and it’s going to look like the devil for a couple-three weeks, but most times I leave that on until the leaves underneath there get used to the sunshine and then once they get used to it I cut the others off. The tops of the lantana, the clivia and a lot of those things will burn from the sun because they’ve been in here in kind of a partial shade and you’re moving them out so you’re going to burn on those.
We prune the vine and there’s no set pattern. We try to keep the new growth cut back and try to keep holes in it so the walls will show through and also just to lighten it up some, it gets pretty heavy, and most of the crew have done it over the years and they know that it takes them about a day to prune it and to clean it up. We usually do it on a wet, rainy day or something like that when they know they can’t get outside. In some of the places, especially the ones that hang down in the windows, we try to keep windows – cutting in there so there’s little holes like this one over here. Don’t let them grow up and fill it in, to keep them cut open. This one here, the next time, see, like up in those places, the next time those should be cut open to get a little more open. Sometimes you have to go in there and take a piece out of there. You don’t want it one big mess, you want it to have holes, but there’s no pattern.
I’ve been told that this was planted here back when Lincoln was president because this building was built about 1810 and the main building was built in 1800, so this building’s been here quite a while. And if you read in the book it tells about the flourishing of the full greenhouse and all back – I think it was the Lincoln time – and this is the building where the garden was so there was a lot of plant material back in here then. We use it now for meetings, cocktail parties, luncheons for the symposiums, and other special events, especially from April through November. It’s a nice room and they can put about eight tables in here for dinners and that sort of thing. But it’s a nice room and it’s big enough for – I’ve had meetings in here and we can seat about a hundred people. I think it’s one of the nicest rooms in Dumbarton Oaks. The Music Room is a nice room, but I think these two are two of the nicest rooms.
This corner up where the brunfelsia is, we keep that in there mostly to keep people off from – that’s the bed where the vine grows from – and we keep that mostly – that plant in there we’re letting it fill that whole corner mainly to keep people from walking on top of that vine. There’s two pedestals that we put right up there on purpose. They look kind of out of place, but it’s mostly to keep people off of the vine that’s up there. If you don’t put it up there, especially when they have parties and things like that, people are walking all over it and you don’t want them tramping that down.
And the Beech Terrace or B Terrace, if you go over some of the old plans, from the house out to the arbor, the Green Garden would be A terrace, this is B Terrace – I mean this was A Terrace, the Urn Terrace now was B Terrace, the Rose Garden was C Terrace, the Fountain Terrace was D Terrace and the Arbor Terrace was E Terrace. If you go over and look over small plants, they’ll be numbered A-B-C-D and E. But this is area right here was just east of the Orangery in what is called now the Beech Terrace.
We have a big American beech in here, originally there was a copper beech, a European copper beech was in here and that was replaced before I came. I think it was 1948 that the copper beech died and they put the American beech here. But if you read in the Plant Book, looking down towards the Rose Garden you’ll see the big copper beech down there beyond the Rose Garden and over to the right end of the Rose Garden there’s another copper beech and then there was a copper beech up here. But the Plant Book will tell you about the triangle of copper beeches, but this one has been replaced with the American beech. It was fine up until about ten years ago when it started growing, it’s grown like mad and about ten years ago it was just getting too big for the area so about every three years I’ve gone back in and had about three feet taken off all the way around just to keep it in scale with the area here.
And these are squill where all the roots are, that’s full of lots of squill, here and Mélisande’s Allée. There’s no way you can replace that anymore. I tried to put a few flowering, fall flowering crocus in there. I had four dozen of them I put in there and it took me over an hour just to put four dozen little plants in, and some of those have not made it, there’s just too much root growth down there now. This is one of the prettier places in the garden. In the dead of winter you come in, the leaves are all gone but the grey of the bark, the elephant skin bark of the beech really does show up here nice.
Over on the northeast side is the pagoda. It was done with a lead roof and the uprights are done as imitation trees. They’re all metal and if you look real close you’ll see where branches have been cut off and the branches with birds and leaves sitting on them. 1979 we had all the metal all over the whole place – all the garden gates, everything – sandblasted down to the bare wood, primed and painted, and the man told me when he was doing this place that it’s the first time he had ever sandblasted trees. But when he got through with it all the little markings and all, things that had been lost over the years from so many paint jobs have showed up now.
Originally there was sort of an upholstered swing in underneath this roof and it was destroyed by vandals and we replaced it, we put it back in, had it all reupholstered and put it back, and they destroyed it again and then we just took it out completely and put a bench in there. The swing is still here on the property, it’s in the basement of the greenhouse and if and when they will want to put it back the frame is still down there, so they can have it reupholstered and try again.
The round table and the two curved benches, if you look in some of the old photographs of the house before the Music Room was built, these tables and the table and the benches sat right on the corner of the Music Room, where the Music Room is now. The wing where the lounge and all is, that was added from the main building. The wing over what is now the reading room, that was part of the building when the Blisses bought it but the wing where the lounge and the projection room and all that is, that was the wing that the Blisses added on.
PP: What about that bench, where did that come from?
DS: That bench when I came sat down by the swimming pool. That’s one of the many custom-made benches that Mrs. Bliss had here.
PP: Where at the pool?
DS: Right along the railing there where those benches are now, it sat down there.
PP: Just one bench there?
DS: No, there was three benches.
PP: Were they all the same?
DS: No, they weren’t all the same.
PP: Are the other original ones the ones that are down there?
DS: No, the three of those have been replaced. When we brought this one, this was the nicest single one so we brought this one up and put it in here to replace that swing. All the benches when we’re talking about that bench, but that bench and all the custom-made benches all throughout the whole garden, all the fanbacks and even the four big benches down at the lower end of the borders, those have all been redone again, replaced; the wood’s been replaced. A number of years ago a fellow by the name of Charles Appleton right outside of Fall River, he replaced those and a lot of the wood that he replaced those pieces with is some of the wood that came out of the beams in the Orangery. But all of the custom – not the ones that we can go out and buy now, those three benches – but the ones like down below on the Fountain Terrace, under the lead roof and the fanback one in the Rose Garden, the one here on the Urn Terrace – all of those have been redone by Appleton.
We’re here, we might as well talk about the Urn Terrace. We’re talking about the Urn Terrace just below the Beech Terrace. The urn in the middle is of limestone and Mrs. Bliss – we have the original, it’s terra cotta and it’s in the basement of the Garden Library and it does not winter well – and Mrs. Bliss had one done of limestone and put it in here. On this terrace we have brick walls with a limestone cap and as you go down the steps towards the Rose Garden we start picking up stone, so going down those steps we have stone, limestone and brick and you have that until you get halfway out in the Rose Garden and then you lose all the brick, from the gates towards the Fountain Terrace, you lose all the brick. You have stone and limestone and then by the time you get to the balconies overlooking the Fountain Terrace you’ve lost all the limestone, it’s all stone. Every time you’re going around a little corner on a different level, there’s just a little something different.
The terrace on the Urn Terrace, the one to the right looking down the Rose Garden steps, the little terrace to the right is pretty much original of what it was when I came here with the exception of the brick walk. There was a grass walk in here at that time. On the big terrace where the urn itself is, that’s been changed, it’s still the basic design. But in where the ivy is there was all grass walks in here at that time. But in what we call the fiddleback terrace – because this ivy thing reminds everybody of a fiddle – but in where that is there was a double row of boxwood and in where the urn is now and where the pebbles are the urn was there but where the pebbles are, that was all grass; so you walked in here. And then when Mrs. Bliss was getting ready to do the Pebble Garden, she had a little Italian man named Jimmy Benedetto do these pebbles to see if he knew what he was talking about, and then she let him do the Pebble Garden.
When we first did this, where the grass is on this terrace we put white gravel and that lasted for about a month. The sun hit that gravel and hit you right in the eye so we took that out and we seeded it. When we first redid it, the boxwood that was around the outside edge we left that in, we just removed the double box that’s in the middle beds around where the grass is. We finally took that box out too and made the walks wider, and most of the walks we had to go from grass to brick mainly for the foot traffic and for the public, there’s so many people in the public coming in, it was almost impossible to keep a grass walk in here.
The wisteria is the same. That was there when I came. The forsythia that’s hanging down off of the wall down to the Rose Garden steps, that was there. The fall blooming clematis which is in bloom right now, that was in bloom, and the jasmine has always been there. We did, in the beds that were there, we used to put in a few columbine, something like that and on the wall, on this west wall where now there’s just a small planting bed, there’s still a few of the Japanese anemones. But on some of these posts, these columns that’s on this wall, there was a big bush kept pruned real tight, a pyracantha and the next one up there was a big bush of [inaudible] in there. But we had to keep them pruned real tight to keep them closed but when we redid the terrace and all we took those out.
The magnolias, they were here. We’ve had to raise them up and keep them trimmed and all. The ones on both ends of these is supposed to be [inaudible] which is similar to [inaudible] except one has more petals than the other. We’ve tried to and we’ve had quite a hard time doing it, especially on the Rose Garden steps, tried to keep some ivy behind the winter flowering jasmine because when that comes in bloom in the winter the foliage is all gone but if you can get some ivy hanging down there it gives you a nice dark green background and that helps to show off the jasmine.
The yellowing of the jasmine on the right hand side going down I assume is built in because that’s been there for years and years and years. It hasn’t spread, it’s always been there and it’s just built into the plant I guess. It was bred – there was a color somewhere and that came in and it’s still here. It’s kind of different and it does have people ask questions: what’s wrong with that. Nobody cares what it is until it’s in bloom or it’s turning brown and everybody wants to know what’s wrong with it. You can have four hundred plants and have one that’s in bloom and one that’s turning brown and they want to know about the one in bloom and why is that one bad. They don’t care about the others.
We sitting on the Rose Garden steps looking due east with the sun beating right in our eyes. The roses, about twenty-five to thirty plants per bed depending on the size of the bed. And from the west side we have the reds and the pinks and we go into the middle sections there’s some whites and peach color, that sort of thing, seashell and all those, and then over to the north side there’s a lot of the yellows. We’ve got a lot of hybrid [inaudible] and we put in some floribundas in the last two years, and the biggest problem we’ve had was raising those center beds to the north of the center boxwood. Those were the beds that were double dug a few years ago and I still think one of the problems is watering them. Over the years we’ve never had to water the Rose Garden much at all but in those sections there, we watered the heck out of them this summer and they started to come back and I still think it’s draining too much.
Underneath all these beds there’s all cinders, if you ever dig down in there sometime there’s a big bed of cinders in here. There’s good drainage in here. Many years ago we didn’t have any drainage at all to get it out of the beds, and we ran a drain from the center boxwood south towards the Rose Garden, the south gate, and took it across the centerpiece, and drained the two box on the two south sections here and ran the drain pipe out through the wall down to the Fountain Terrace and that’s taken a lot of water up here.
Before when we had ·a lot of storms and a lot of rain around the center of the box, the center box that’s in the middle, the water would just sit there and sit there. Every time you even watered the grass, the water sit there and sit there, it didn’t have any place to run off. Then we put that drain in and that helped out a whole lot. Actually there’s a drain from the center box and the two center boxes over here on the south side, these two south side sections, it drains out and goes on down and out to the wall in back of the holly on the south side of the Fountain Terrace, it comes out through the wall. There’s two holes through that wall that are over four-foot long just so that water will drain out of there, and sometimes when it’s really raining you can just go down to that wall and see what this drain actually takes out of this [inaudible].
The boxwood we shear once a year usually in February if the weather is decent. We try to get that kind of stuff done in January and February, if the weather is decent, so those jobs are done by the time we really get busy in the spring. I think we talked about this before. We’ve been feeding the box once a year either with Holly-tone or something similar to that. Usually in the spring of the year. We prune it early in the spring and then it doesn’t look like it’s been butchered to death for very long because the new growth comes out. Once the new growth comes out it looks fine. You can look at it now and just see the new growth coming in. You don’t want to feed your box in the late summer or the fall. If you’re going to do that you’re going to stir up some new growth and then the first frost is going to come and it’s going to kill that growth and then it’s going to be all brown and you’re going to have to take it off. So, if you’re going to feed them, I feed them right in the spring of the year. Then all the new growth for that season will harden up for the fall.
We’ve been spraying with – our biggest problems were in the Rose Garden, this is September now – there’s your first mildew and black spot and it’s the cucumber beetle this time of the year. Early in the spring it’s usually the mildew and the black spot and [inaudible] and [inaudible]. Cucumber beetles usually, once you get the cool nights and the warm days in the fall, you’ll start getting a little cucumber, a little green and not as yellow and black spotted beetle. This year they’ve been spraying about every ten days using a [inaudible] and an insecticide. You’ve been talking about using baking soda and oil, give it a try, but I don’t think you should do it this year, do it next year and get it right on the new growth as it comes along and see how it works out.
You want to make sure you get these beds darn clean this fall and get all those dead leaves out of there. We’ve been pruning the roses down to about knee high in the fall just so they don’t whip all winter long and then come back in usually in March or even earlier if the weather’s decent and prune them down to three to five eyes. But some of these you probably won’t have to prune at all this year. But if you get these tall ones, if you leave the tall ones up like that color right that, that’s six foot high now, if you leave those up in the wintertime the wind’s going to whip them and it’s going to loosen up all the ground’s going to be frozen and it’s going to break off a lot of your roots. So, we cut them all down. I tell them to cut them knee high and then the Rose Garden looks halfway decent all winter long; it’s all the same height and to rake it all. I’ll get all the bad leaves out, clear it out a lot of it.
PP: Tell me about replacing the boxwood borders.
DS: When I first came we had boxwood all around where the Pennsylvania bluestone is there. All these beds were outlined in boxwood and it was terrible, it was having black spot and mildew all the time, there just was no air, drainage at all getting in there and they never dried out. When it rained you had to come up and cultivate them, but those beds actually hardly ever dried out. In the wintertime we kept losing a lot of small box, especially these, the center section and over on the northeast section, mostly from the winter winds. They would burn like in February and a lot of springs we were bringing three and four hundred box up here just to replace all this boxwood that we were losing just in the winter.
So, we decided to take that out. The designs of the beds stayed exactly the same, we took the box right out and we put the perennial candytuft around the beds. That lasted for about three years, but that was a big maintenance problem. To make it look good you had to prune it every month and then after a couple of years, over here in this south section, especially in this southwest corner here, we kept losing them because it was awfully shady in here. Then they came up with the idea of using Pennsylvania bluestone around and these are up on the end and put in the ground there about fourteen inches deep.
PP: Whose idea was it?
DS: I assume Mr. Kearney and whoever the consultant was. And it’s worked out fairly well. It’s a lot easier.
[end of tape 3]
DS: We were talking about the edging around the flowerbed and I was telling about the changes made when we put in the bluestone, and I was saying that this is much easier maintenance than the Rose Garden. Years ago with the boxwood around, you had to be very careful going up and edging all around on each side – on edges of box – and a lot of times you were injuring them, the box roots came right out on the grass; and a lot of times you were doing a lot of injury there. But also, with the cost of labor today, with the bluestone and the weed whips, the weed eater machine, one man can come up here and do this whole thing in two hours time, where before three of us would come up and spend the whole darn afternoon doing it.
The biggest improvements we made with the Rose Garden, we’ve had one, two, three. We’ve had about ten hose beds in here and years ago you couldn’t put sprinklers or anything like that, you just had to come up here and hand water this grass. Then in about 1976 or somewhere right in through there, we put in an underground pop-up system in here, and that’s worked out real good. The grass has really improved a whole lot more in here and in the fall of the year, in September like this, we’d be seeding all over this Rose Garden. But, with this watering system it’s worked out much, much better.
Of course, it cost us a little money at that time and we’ve set it up so the pop-ups don’t spray into the rose beds, it just goes on the grass. I think there are a hundred and forty-five pop-ups in here. I know if you had pop-ups in an area like this on a lawn you could probably put one or two and do the whole thing, but by just putting them on the strips, we can control the water just to the grass area. The only other problem you have with that, if it’s a windy day you have to be pretty careful because sometimes it blows it back on the bed and that’s why your mildew starts.
We don’t have enough water pressure. We’ve got – each section has its own system but our water pressure here, we can’t turn all six of them on at once because we just don’t have enough water pressure. And, especially if they’re filling the swimming pool or something like that – this line comes off from the swimming pool, four inch line – so it takes a lot of that water pressure, but you can do it two sections or three sections at a time. A lot of times when I’m here on the weekend when nobody else is watering I can come up and I’ll turn on half of it for a couple of hours and later on come back and put the other half on and it gets pretty well watered. We haven’t had to do that this summer because it’s been pretty cool and we’ve had sufficient rain. And, the grass all over the place and in fact all over the city is probably the best grass any of us have had in probably thirty years. This year’s been exceptional with grass and I’m sure the guy that’s selling the grass seed doesn’t like it because he’s not going to sell all that grass seed that he used to.
But that was always one of the biggest projects in the fall was reseeding a lot of the places where the grass got burned out in the summertime, but this year I think fifty pounds is going to do the whole place, we really haven’t got too many spots. In some places, we’ll over seed the outside of the Orangery and the Green Garden. Mainly after a couple of parties up there we’ll have [inaudible] again and over seed, but that’s about all. There’s not a whole lot of big sections that’s going to be dug up and patched. We probably won’t even get our [inaudible] rake out this year because I think what few patches have got to be done can be done by hand. What else have we got in the Rose Garden?
PP: Can you tell me about the box in the middle?
DS: The box in the middle, that’s the second one. The first one that was there when I came got pretty big and it finally died out. And I think most of it was because of all that water, because that thing just was set right in water and we took that out and the one that’s sitting here now come out of the Harringwood Nursery, Admiral Phillips’ nursery up in Upperville, and actually we moved that right down these big steps. It took us all day to do it, but we couldn’t get it through the gates because the ball was too big and we actually planked these big steps and moved it down here with a come-along.
The first winter I was here, the boxwood in the Rose Garden, that’s one of the first projects I did in the wintertime. We moved some of these big box around, in fact the two that’s over here on the south side, they were small enough so they sat on the corner. If you look at some of the old, old pictures of the Rose Garden, right on the corner of the walk where we have a lot of small box now, there was some great big, huge box and it just couldn’t help [inaudible] so that first winter, one of the first things we did was move some of these big box around. These two that are over on the south section are two that came off from the crosswalk over there, not this walk going from the steps but from the crypt down right in that center over there. And a couple of them that’s in the center sections on the east side, those came out of some of the corners too. We had soil piled up on the middle of this walk six foot high where we was trenching out these holes and putting drains in and all that.
These big box right here at the bottom of the steps, these big tall box, we never had much problem with those. Years ago they weren’t pruned quite as tight as they are now, but every time we got a heavy snow we were getting a lot of breakage in there. But we pruned them back and now and we keep the dead cut out of them, and they’re pretty stiff now so they’ll hold a lot of the snow. One of the worst things you can do is to come up here and sweep the snow off the box. If you’re going to have to do it, do it when the snow first goes on when it’s light. Don’t ever let it set on there and freeze because all you do is break box, you’re better off leaving it alone, letting it come off by itself. We haven’t swept box snow, we haven’t had that much snow to sweep much the box, but years ago before we pruned all of these back they used to break it because they’d come up with five brooms and the weight of the snow would snap a lot of the box off.
The two obelisks that are on either side of the bench on the east side of the Rose Garden, those are not the originals. The originals are down underneath the Greenhouse and they may be six inches shorter. That was a change Mrs. Bliss did. She wanted a little more height.
PP: Were the dogs there when you came?
DS: The dogs, you’re talking about the pictures you’ve seen of the dogs, that was clay. That was just models that she built. Those dogs were never done. If you look real close at that picture you’ll see a burlap or a canvas on the ground, it’s got nothing but moist clay in it. You’re going to see a lot of pictures. If you look over a lot of the old pictures you’ll see full-scale models, there’s pictures of full-scale models of these gates on the north and south side of the Rose Garden, they were just full-scale dummies that she made. And the dogs are the clay model things, that’s all those were, those were never done. But you have to look close because that’s clay, but they were never done.
PP: How about the climbing roses here?
DS: The climbing roses on the wall are all—these were the same ones all along – we’re talking about the wall on the west side of the Rose Garden. The climbing roses that are on the left of the main step, that’s the same climbing rose that was here when I came and the climbing roses that’s on the right hand side of the steps, all of the crypt, those varieties were all here. There’s Dr. Huey from in there and over here I think it’s a Radiance and I forget what the other ones are in there, but some of the climbing roses to the right of the crypt, those were some that were put in here since then.
The rose that’s to the right of the North Gate is the New Dawn. That was put in here – that was here when I came. In fact, in 1967 or ‘68 when we did a lot of changing in the Rose Garden, all the pinks were taken out, but that one there got away. Nobody noticed that one, and I never said anything, so that one is still there – that’s a nice pink. But all of the other ones that’s on the walls, the Golden Chalice and Don Juan and some of those, those were all put in back in the late ’60s and ‘70s.
Many years ago before I even came, way over on the northwest corner of the Rose Garden there was a great big grandiflora magnolia in there and that was taken out and then just south of the wall where there’s some small oak, there was a big American Elm. That was one of the first American Elms that we lost on the property when the Dutch elm disease, and we replaced with this – that’s a willow leaf oak in there. We replaced that here just a few years ago, but we didn’t replace anything in the beginning because at that time there was still a couple of cherries and sophora and another elm in there, a small elm and then when those died, the cherry died and the other tree died, we put this little, this oak back in there.
We don’t have too many oaks on this side of the garden at all, but this one is one that Mr. Palmer wanted to put in there. Most of our oaks are to the west of Box Walk and over off the front lawn. There are a few down in the bamboo and down along in the cocky-locky here, but other than that there are hardly any oaks at all down over the hillside – the park down there but not on the hillside. There’s some in the park down there, but not on the hillside.
PP: You mentioned about watering the turf here, how did you water the roses?
DS: When we watered them we did them by hand. We were using hoses and all that, but the best way to do it is to get a couple of three guys up here with a water wand and flood the beds right down, keep the water off the foliage and everything else. The problem I think with the Rose Garden is they’re using oozing hoses. And then you come up and check on it a little while later, and all the water has run to one end or something like that and a lot of it comes right in these low spots like along here [inaudible] and the next thing you know it’s all run down over the hill. But you come in and flood this with your hand hose and then go back over, you got to do it twice, go back over and you should get a pretty good watering.
PP: Are these American boxwood here in the center?
DS: American box in the center, yes. The little box, the edging box is the English
PP: Tell me about the gates.
DS: We’ve had those redone, or the tops of them redone, by a fellow out in Tucson, Arizona, and also he was going to be doing a whole lot of the metal work but it just got to be quite a chore to ship stuff out there and ship it back. And then it would take him forever because he wasn’t getting on it, so we stopped using him and started using some of the metal people around here. The man who was doing it, his name slips my mind now but it’s in the Rolodex down here, but he was the one that did a lot of the gates and the big doors at the Cathedral. We got him down here because one of the men that used to work at the Cathedral, one of the architects, when they shut the Cathedral down he came down here to work with Bob Van Nice on the St. Sophia project, and he got that man to come down on the gate. But they all need to be repainted and cleaned up again; the little florets are all rusted on them now. He didn’t work on the gate. It’s just that top section where all the medallions and all the leaves are up in there. And he was supposed to do the balconies here on the Fountain Terrace, and we even sent a big piece of the railing from around the Pebble Garden all the way to Tucson for him to work on that, but he never got it done so he just shipped it back.
We finally got the balconies done just this year with the Black Rose Forge that – they’re the same ones who are doing the front gates right now.
PP: What can you tell me about the crypt and how that evolved?
DS: When I came there was the panel. The crypt was built there, and all and there was just an empty panel on there, just the same size. And at that time over to the left hand side there were two stones that were together but you could reach in and take them right out of the wall and expose a big bronze rod. We had a handle that fit on that, and when Mr. Bliss died, we just took that panel off and we took the stones out and rolled the panel out. It comes out on two bronze tracks. And we took that out and took the panel off and had the stone, the dates just carved on there when Mr. Bliss died. And then we put them back on there and cranked it back in and just sealed it up temporarily. And then when Mrs. Bliss died, we did the same thing again and had her name and dates put on there and then we sealed the cover and we sealed the – up on the top there’s a – you can’t see it from here but up on the very top is a big medallion up there with the motto on it and that was hung on there with a counterweight on the back. All you had to do was pick it up and it would come right out. So, once she went in there we poured a wet solution of concrete in there and we sealed to where the rocks come out to the handle, that’s sealed permanently. And they’re in a little bronze box about so big.
PP: Was there a ceremony or anything?
DS: There was just a small committal service for both of them. There were funeral services down at Christ Church down on 31st and O Street for both of them at the time of their deaths, and then they were cremated and their ashes committed to the crypt.
PP: Did you attend their services, do you remember events at the time?
DS: No, both of them were like one o’clock in the afternoon and it was the Director and a woman that the Blisses had brought up, she and her husband were here and just some of the – there weren’t too many people, close friends. Mr. Kearney was there. It was just really kind of a family affair. There wasn’t maybe fifteen people in all for both of them. No big fanfare or anything else. It was just quietly done in the afternoon, right at lunchtime, about one o’clock.
PP: Was Mrs. Bliss active up until her death?
DS: Yes, she didn’t get around quite as much. The last, she didn’t get around much at all, but even long after Mr. Bliss died she’d be roaming around down here in the garden. She’d come in about 3, 3:30 or 4 o’clock and say good morning. And you could come up here in nice weather and some nights at 8 or 8:30 she’d be up in here. When she broke her hip, I think it was her hip she broke down in Barbados one time, I know it wasn’t long, she was right back out here climbing up stepladders and everything else. Very nice – a nice, nice lady.
PP: Was this stone bench where we’re sitting now constructed while you were here?
DS: No, this was done way, way early. This is a Farrand, I think there are sketches of this.
PP: I think some of the lead has been missing here. Were they stolen? There’s a loose piece that’s now gone.
DS: Yes, somebody’s picked it up. But the sheaf of wheat here on the top, we’ve got two or three of these down there in the box. That needs to have some working all right. Anytime you got a thing loose like that, there are people going to take – they’ll sit there – you can take those things, just bend them right back and forth and they’ll come right up.
PP: And this is the coat of arms?
DS: These are the coat of arms, and for a long time I thought it was Mr. Bliss’s and Mrs. Bliss’s. But I understand now that one is Mr. Bliss’s and the other one is his mother’s. Which one is which, I don’t know. I did always think that it was the other way around but then I always wondered why the coat of arms would both have three sheaves of wheat on it, but it’s actually Mr. Bliss’s mother and him.
PP: Do you know which one is which?
DS: I don’t know which one is which.
PP: The bench itself looks very ancient and weathered. Was it intentionally done like that, or is it just an old bench?
DS: No, it was intentionally done. This is that travertine stone which looks old in a hurry. And you can see where we patched it where it stretched wide open with everything settling and all. Anytime you put like this kind of stuff on the top of a rigid thing and you’re going to get any settling, it’s like adding onto your house, a couple or three years there’s going to be a crack coming, a [inaudible] or something like that just from the add on, from the house settling.
PP: The beech over here in the corner has been pruned, right? Can you tell me about that?
DS: If you look in the plant book it tells about the three Copper Beeches, the one on the Beech Terrace right outside of the Orangery, the one outside of the southwest wall of the Rose Garden and the one on the southeast side outside of the Fountain Terrace. I remember when we had an architect back in the late ‘70s and in the ‘80s mostly, she made us prune. If you read in the plant book it tells about this particular beech, this one right outside of the Rose Garden should not be pruned at all and if the roses won’t grow there, take them out. We had an architect who came here, that was one of the first things she did was make us go in there and cut all of the limbs off from this one side and even some off the big one down here.
The one up at the Orangery end was replaced I believe in 1948. Right now that’s an American Beech up there, the grandiflora, and that was replaced in 1948. I don’t know why they didn’t put a Copper Beech back in, but when I came that was there. And that has been fine up until about ten years ago when it was kind of overgrowing the area, so about every three years I’ve gone around and just cut it and kept it in bounds just to keep it within the terrace. I’ve done the same thing with the Copper Beech down in front of the Greenhouse, about every three years we’ve gone in and sheared it back just to keep it within bounds.
PP: And when is it due for another pruning?
DS: That probably should be done next year or the next year. It depends on how much growth comes. You can tell because if it gets pretty – when you get a lot of new shoots coming out like that. But you want to do it soon enough so that you don’t have to cut it back real hard but you would still want to see the grass circle.
Also notice in the Rose Garden and I think we talked about it up on Urn Terrace where you’ve got limestone capping in brick and as you come down the brick steps in the Rose Garden you’re picking up stone. And then if you turn and look at the west wall of the Rose Garden, you’ve brick columns, limestone capping and stone in between the panels. Then come out to the two gates that’s midway on the north side and midway on the south side and that is where the brick ends. From the panels going east now you’re getting just stone and limestone here on the Rose Garden wall, and once we get outside of the Rose Garden and start down the steps to the Fountain Terrace, you’ve lost all the limestone, it’s all stone there. So, every time you’re going in a little different section, there’s something that’s just a little bit of a change.
It’s all tied in together but you just go a short ways and it changes a little. Nobody notices it really until you point it out and then you notice it all the time.
PP: The stone changes?
DS: Yes, if you’ve got stone and stones, but there’s a little tie here. Over there you’ve got the stone, brick and limestone and then you come here to limestone and stone and then from this it’s all stone.
PP: And what kind of stone is this here at the balconies?
DS: These all came out of, as far as I know, come out of the Stoneyhurst Quarry out on River Road.
PP: The top and the walls?
DS: Yes. Well, I don’t know about that top now because that’s a bluestone and it might have come out of there. I don’t know where that come, but this patch is the same as the other, probably that bluestone and this stone come out of Pennsylvania.
PP: When were the balconies added?
DS: In the beginning, you mean? I assume in the ‘20s, I don’t know when they were redoing this. I’ve never really researched it, and this is the first time we’ve actually taken them down and redone all the medallions that’s on here.
PP: And those are zinc, is that right?
DS: They’re zinc, some of the newer ones are zinc.
PP: The medallions?
DS: Yes. And then these, all of this was replaced and all of these little medallions, the little ribbons and all that kind of stuff. Hopefully, they won’t rust as much as they did before, once they got old.
PP: Can you tell me about the vines that are on the tops?
DS: The vines on these are all ampelopsis, the two on this side and we’re talking at the south side balcony, all of these two vines on these two plaques here is the porcelain vine, not ampelopsis, but this is porcelain vine here. It used to be called [inaudible], I forget what the name is now and the one on the wall is the Boston ivy, which is also on the back wall here, the Boston ivy, which is also an ampelopsis. The one going up the steps to the north side balcony is the aconitifolia ampelopsis, but the one over here gets the porcelain, the purples and the whites and the reds. That one over there, the berries are only yellow and then way over towards the wisteria, that plant up there, that’s another porcelain berry.
The wisteria was here when I came, on these walls; we have trained some new ones up on there over the years. What we do when they started getting real old was start training some new ones up to replace these old ones. This has been replaced completely and that’s a new one that started up there and even on that side over there. You just keep tying them and don’t prune it back and with all these vines, we’ve pruned all of the clematis and these vines here, during the growing season we prune them back once a week usually on Friday just to keep them in bounds. And if you don’t prune them back and you let them go, it’s a mess – or I think it’s a mess – a lot of people like it wild and wooly, but if you can prune once a week it makes the garden a much neater spot. The lead roof down at the bottom of the steps going into the Fountain Terrace – we just had that redone this last year. That was all taken down, and all new wood was replaced in there, and the lead was replaced. It took six people to get that thing down there, out from there and get it out of here. That winter we did this roof and we did the one over by the playground over there by the bamboo, that was taken and redone and then the one up by the American Beech by the Orangery – that was redone in place. We didn’t have to take that one out of here.
All the time there’s always something else that’s got to – there’s always a project going. Right now you can hear them down there drilling by the Lover’s Lane pool and that’s probably not helping the tape a whole lot, but there’s always something going. We’ve just redone the Pebble Garden, we put a new gallery in and we’ve just put new railings in for the swimming pool – the loggia – that’s been redone. There’s always a project going. We’ve had these two fountains or the two pools here, the Fountain Terrace, the one there on the Ellipse, that was all repainted and taken apart and repainted back here. So, there was always something going on.
PP: Can you tell us about the bench down here?
DS: This bench is down underneath the lead roof under the Kearney plaque, that’s one of the original custom benches that Mrs. Farrand had made for Mrs. Bliss. A few years ago we took all these custom made benches over the whole garden and had those all repaired and all new wood. And a lot of the wood that was used on these benches, it was taken out of some of the timbers and all that we salvaged when they redid the Orangery a few years ago. But all these benches – except for the ones that are on the market today – but all these custom benches have been redone. This one here has to be – it’s already fixed. What they do, they sand them and they break them. But these are all done by a fellow by the name of Charles Appleton up in – I think I’m probably wrong – but I think its South Westport, right outside of Fall River. He did a very good job on all of these benches. He redid all of these wooden benches and he redid the Perspective down there on the wall of Lover’s Lane. This was done back in the year ‘82.
PP: Tell me about the plaques here, the Kearney plaque.
DS: The plaque is in memory, and Mr. Tyler was a director here at that time, and he had that erected in memory of Mr. Kearney who came here in 1930 and was Superintendent from 1948 to 1973. And it’s done with West Virginia slate, and the carving was done by a stone carving company in Rhode Island. I have the name of the company in my rolodex.
PP: Was this Mr. Kearney’s favorite garden?
DS: Yes, he liked that [inaudible], he liked that Fountain Terrace and the border. When he first came here this is where he worked – down in the Fountain Terrace and the Herbaceous Borders and roses. This was his area. Just like when I started here, this is where I started and worked for twenty-one years in the roses and in the flowerbeds. Now it’s just down on this [inaudible].
PP: Tell me about the sedum and the phlox.
DS: I don’t know which variety that is but for years and years and years – the one over here – it was already here when I came. And this one was really slow getting started, and we couldn’t figure out why we weren’t having some of it start over there because it makes a nice thing. The only thing we could think of was this gets more sun every afternoon than this over here, but once this has gotten started it really has taken over. It’s a lot more over here on this side, on the north side now, than the one on the south side, but you got to remember, most of our traffic is down here so a lot of this gets walked out a lot quicker than this. But it makes a nice thing, it breaks up that flatness, and we just tried to keep it in bounds and kept it weeded. It gives it an old look.
PP: Let’s talk about the Fountain Terrace borders a little bit and start with these tubs here.
DS: These round tubs right here at the foot of the steps were made by a man called Soderholtz who had a pottery place in Maine right across from – I think it was Winter Harbor – but it’s right across the bay from Bar Harbor at that time. If you ever turn these tubs over you’ll see his name on there – Soderholtz, I believe. If you go – a lot of gardens, if the material is still around – but a lot of the gardens that Mrs. Farrand did, especially up those on Mountainside Island in Maine, a lot of the urns and things up there were done by Soderholtz.
PP: So, this came in with Farrand?
DS: Yes, this was Farrand’s thing here and on the bottom the Soderholtz name is on it, and these were sitting right here when I came. We took them down at one time, there were two pineapples down at the bottom of Box Walk by the Ellipse that Mrs. Bliss had done, and we brought them up here. We took these geraniums down and put them on the ground and we put the pineapples here just so she could look at them one day. It took us nearly all day to get them up here. She looked at them for about ten minutes and didn’t like them, so we took them back down and put these back up.
PP: What other features has Soderholtz worked on? Do you remember?
DS: These are the only two of them I definitely know that his name is on. But the two tubs that are on the east side, we haven’t had anything in those for years and years and years, and we had these tubs that were down underneath the Greenhouse and a few years ago we brought them up here and started using them over there.
PP: So, it’s been empty there, till when?
DS: Oh yes, it hasn’t been probably ten years. They were down underneath the Greenhouse. When we had a landscape architect, she made us go down and get a lot of that stuff that was sitting down there in storage, like the big tubs the bamboos were in which no three men can pick up empty. That’s why we used them, and she took some of the terra cotta pots that we had and put a lot of that stuff in there. But they’re not built for those big pots and they broke. So, that’s in there, they’re too fragile those – why we don’t use any of them terra cotta ones. The concrete ones like this, these are strong, they can take a beating, but some of those small terra cotta ones –
The Fountain Terrace – we just finished putting the mums in for this year. And what we’ve done over the years after the first weekend in November, we come up and select stock plants, maybe twelve of each of the old varieties – mostly the varieties that are in the back, the tall ones. Because you can’t find too many tall mums so you better save some stock plants because I don’t think you can go out and buy them. About the only things you can find are the little ones you see in the front and in there.
And then this is all torn out and worked up and new perennials are put in. We divide whatever we’ve got down there. We put them back in, and the tulips. They’ll be coming in probably in mid-October. And we count those all out and there’s about eighteen hundred go down on the big borders and maybe eleven hundred up here. We take fourteen varieties and we count out how many for each bed, like twenty-five of each variety. We mix that up on a burlap and put that all in one box and mark it for that particular bed. That way you’ve got twenty-five of everything for that one bed.
Over the years we’ve had architects who have been here – consultants – and they’ve determined to come in and drift the big yellow patch or white patch or something like that. And we keep telling them it doesn’t work, but it seems like nearly everybody we’ve had except Meade Palmer have had us do it. And then the next year, “No, you’d better go back to what you did before.” I’m sure it’s going to happen again. The only problem with the big drifts are once that drift, if you don’t get tulips that’s going to bloom all at once, that drift is going to go by, that’s going to look like heck and the next one is coming in. But by mixing them, you’ve got a little bit of tulips coming and going all the time, you have the tulip season last a little bit longer.
Then in the spring as the tulips go by and usually in May or so we’ll come in and put in snaps and pansies and a few of those things in. A little later on, later part in May, we’ve been coming in with annuals that I’ve been starting usually in February or March, but the pansies and the snaps are already down in the ground.
PP: Any more information on under planting the tulips with perennials or biennials?
DS: What we usually do is put the perennials and biennials in first when we’ve – all the new ones we’ve got down there. Bring those up and put those in and the last thing that goes in is the tulips. That way you’re not preparing what you’re going in and putting tulips in amongst. And even if you put them right in beside them, a lot of those perennials are not going to be in bloom and the tulips are going to be long gone. Over the years we used to put the pansies in here in the fall and the last couple of years we haven’t done it. And the last couple of years that probably would have worked fine because we’ve had two mild winters. But in other winters we’ve spent the winter going around and putting them back down in the ground again from the freeze and thaw. So all we do now is just keep them up in the cold frame, on the one on the right of the Greenhouse there with no heat or anything and put them out in the spring. You don’t lose as many and you’re not spending all winter coming up here pushing pansies down.
PP: And then you dig the tulips after they go by?
DS: As soon they get through blooming, they pull them out and throw them away. If you want to save them well and good, but it’s the biggest pain in the neck. You’ve got to dry them off, you’ve got to put them away every night. You’ve got to bring them out everyday and in the middle of June and July you might have a hot time and if the fungus gets in you’ve got to throw most of them away anyway. What I do, I buy Darwins and some breeders and cutters so they’re not all coming in at once and as they go by they just pull them up and throw them away.
PP: And they’ve all been ordered for this year?
DS: They’re all ordered. You have to order those things as soon as the other ones go by. The earlier you get your order in the better choice you get of what you want. And the Easter Lilies, they’ve been ordered by now. They’ll be coming probably the first of December, something like that. Also there will be two shipments of tulips and that’s on there. The big shipment for the flower borders and then there’s another smaller shipment of four or five of this or twelve of that from another company that I take and we pot up. We just pot them right out and label the pots, put them down in the pit house and forget about them. Then in the spring as they’re coming into bloom we bring them up and we put them over on the Tub Terrace, some of the little baskets, we put those all into those. There’s tulips, there’s some hyacinths and things like that that you just pot them up and put them down in the pit house, label them and just watch them. In the spring as they start showing color, bring them up and spot them around, that’s usually the first thing we have on the Tub Terrace, some of the early tulips and that usually might even be, depending on the spring, it might be the first part of March, it might be towards the end of March. As they go by, just get rid of them and use the [inaudible].
PP: Any old varieties of flowers that you’ve kind of always traditionally kept in these beds?
DS: You mean mums?
PP: Or of any kind. That you’ve kind of –
DS: Yes. We still have the salvias, not so much up here but down below. We’ve got some veronicas that’s there, that little herbaceous clematis is down there, that was there. The michaelmas daisies are down there, we don’t use any up here because they’re too tall for these small beds.
PP: What do you use in these beds here, we’ll get to the herbaceous next.
DMITH: What we use up here, there’s the foxgloves, gladia, columbine, forget-me-nots, sweet William, what else, hollyhock. Those are all things that we were using when I came. The only problem now is back then we used to buy separate – you used to be able to buy separate colors so you could get maybe a white, an apricot and a cream of foxgloves. And we can’t seem to find those things anymore and most of the stuff we’re getting now are mixes.
We do save some of our own seed. We’ve saved forget-me-not seeds and we’ve saved hollyhock seeds. You want to save the hollyhock seed because you can’t buy a single hollyhock in bloom anyways, so we usually save the seed and a lot of the perennials we use as biannuals and then some of the other ones that we use as perennials you can get maybe two years out of them and they get too big. What I’ve been doing with the hollyhocks I grow some each year and usually get two years out of them and then at the end of the second year if they’re too big just throw those out but you’ve got another one coming and just keep adding to it. And the michaelmas daisies down there, we’ll talk about those some other time.
PP: Yes. What about the fountains here, tell me some of the –
DS: The fountains, they both had been stolen or purloined as the man said. We got one back and then a few years later the other one was stolen and we never got it back, so we took –
PP: They were stolen at the same time?
DS: No, separate times. They weighed about two hundred thirty-eight pounds apiece. They actually dragged them out of here. I think they tried to carry them and they ending up dragging – both of them were dragged out the south gate and all along the R Street wall. And the one, the first time it was stolen we got it back in three or four days. They had brought it back out on 32nd Street and they tried to get it back up over the wall but they couldn’t lift it up, and they just left it on the sidewalk. But this one here on the south side we never did get back. So, we took the one off from the north side and had a mold made and had this one here cast. We still have the mold, the mold weighs over three hundred pounds and probably you’ll never have to use it now that we’ve got a mold. We’ve got about six thousand dollars tied up in this one here of redoing it.
PP: The shady corner under the beech, that’s a peculiar problem for you?
DS: It’s a great problem. Early in the spring it’s not bad because the beech hasn’t leafed out but once this tree leafs out it’s really shady and when you do plant it up you’ve got to kind of overplant it because once you put that plant material in there it’s not going to grow too much. It’s going to bloom mostly but it’s not the best place in the world for plant material.
PP: Do you put things in those beds that you don’t put up in the sunnier beds here or do you try to keep the same –
DS: We don’t usually, we used to have begonias in here. We have put some impatiens and that sort of thing in there but you just have to kind of load that up a little bit more because it doesn’t get the sun over there. It’s getting a lot more light now because a lot of these branches have been taken off. When I first came, after a rainy day you couldn’t even walk over there, the branches were coming down and touching the pool. It’s kind of nice, though, but this is not the way that Farrand wanted it, or that Bliss wanted. There was on either side of the south gate great big American hollies in there, and we didn’t have to plant much at all up in there, it was dim shade. We just planted about three feet right in front of it. And then I took the American hollies out and they’re over on the R Street border just to lighten this up a little bit. Then a few years ago we had a lot of problems in underneath right in that very corner, that southeast corner there. And we put that [inaudible] in there just to fill that in a little bit because it was awfully flat in there and there wasn’t any plant material would do anything and that’s improved that corner a whole lot.
PP: How about the hollies on these other corners?
DS: The holly – that was original but in where these two Chinese hollies are were two yews, and back years ago when the Arbor Terrace was an herb garden, there was a yew hedge around there, then there were two big cuspidata yews in here. They were pruned every year and then they got pretty old and got pretty woody and we took those out and we put these two hollies in. The only problem we’ve had with the hollies – and we haven’t had that in the last two years, but maybe twenty years ago – was the Florida wax scale came into this area. And we had a terrible time with that and then we had a couple of good cold winters and that got rid of the Florida wax scale, so they’ve stayed pretty huge and we shear those just to keep them in boundary. We try to keep them away from the walls so light does get down on the backside.
We’re talking about the tall honeysuckle that’s on either panel going into the Arbor Terrace underneath the two vases of black tulips. This is, my understanding is it’s heckrotti. Ordinarily it’s a little more – flourishing a little better than it is now. What it needs right now is to be tied up and this is quite a show in the spring of the year, especially when the new growth comes up.
The gates are original and the tulips in the two urns are metal, of course, and they were done back when the garden was first done. And then we go into the Fountain Terrace, and when I first came to what is now the Arbor Terrace and back until 1940 when Harvard took over, this was an herb garden in here. The balcony was here, the arbor was here from the original design and where the stonewalls are was a yew hedge. This bench that’s on the –
Look at that bench over there. We were just talking about the bench on the east side of the Arbor Terrace or Tub Terrace. Back when it was an herb garden there was a gate there. You walked out the gate and turned right and walked down a path and then you made a quick U-turn and went down over the hill and had a little pagoda type top over it. Like I said before, the balcony was here when there was an herb garden and the arbor was here. The late ‘50s, I would guess ‘57, the arbor was replaced. We just jacked the vine all up and braced it all up, took the old arbor down and put the new one in and this arbor is made with the heart wood of tidewater cypress, it’s all pegged and laminated and the Link Woodworking Company did it and it’s one of the first things that they ever did outside. They always did interiors, offices and things like that.
A few years after that, they came out with a brochure or a small booklet on I think it was their fortieth anniversary, and one of the first pictures in the booklet of work that they had done over the years was this arbor. The only problem we’ve had with the arbor, when it very first went up, we haven’t had the problem in late years, but when it first went up there when the wood wasn’t completely weathered then, the carpenter bees would tunnel in there, but other than that we haven’t had any problem with it.
The arches on the top, there’s twenty-eight laminations in each arch, then they come down and they fasten to bronze plates on the top of the arbor itself. And there was a sheet of lead laid there to keep the moisture off from that plaque section, and if you look real close the edges of that lead is all chewed up and that’s where the squirrels come up in the wintertime chewing on that lead to sharpen their teeth.
When this was first opened, Ms. Havey was the designer, this goes back, I can’t even remember the date now but it’s got to be back in the late – we replaced the arbor and then we replaced the terrace – probably late ‘50s, ‘57-’58, in through there.
PP: This is the third arbor?
DS: No, this is the second one, but I say the arbor was replaced before they redid the terrace. When we redid the terrace we took the hedge out, built the stone wall and laid all this stone in here, brought in this doria stone and all. Everything in here at that time was in huge cypress tubs, big square tubs that it was supposed to be real easy to take out of the tubs and to transplant or repot and once we tried to do it we couldn’t get them out of the tub. There’s a big aluminum plate on the bottom of the tubs and you’re supposed to be able to take that off and plant would drop right out of the pot. We took it off, but the plant never would go in there and it grew right into the tubs now.
At that time we had a lot of camellias. Most things in here were white and we had a lot of camellias and white azaleas. And the big problem was storing them, and for years we built us a little pen underneath the arbor and put them in there and covered them over with leaves. I think even a couple of years we made a little plastic hut in there. And then as those plants got too big and they died, we switched over and they didn’t want to replace the tubs because they cost too much money. This was after Mrs. Bliss had died. You’ve got to remember too that things like redoing this arbor and doing the Pebble Garden and redoing the Ellipse were gifts, they didn’t come out of the endowment at all. But once Mrs. Bliss died, there wasn’t any more of those kinds of gifts.
So, then we started putting the tub plants in and then since we’ve opened up in the summertime we have usually a lot of spring bulbs in the spring and then we just progress from there, put in lilies and a lot of plants that bloom in the summer and then way into the fall. Some of the lantanas were some of the original ones, some of them we’ve had over thirty years, and the gardenias and a lot of these things have been here for a long time.
There’s a mad rush here usually after the first weekend in November to get it all back inside, this and all the tub plants that’s outside of the Orangery. They spend the winter in the Orangery because they just won’t stand outside. Everything is cleaned out of here. What else can I tell you?
PP: Tell me about the fountain inside over there.
DS: The fountain is the original fountain. When I first came, there were two lead jabberwockies at the bottom at the water’s edge, one coming out of the pool and one going into the pool. They were stolen a couple of times and we got them back and then they were stolen again and we never got them back. In the panel to the left of the fountain, there was a big lead cabinet, kind of a little cupboard thing in it, it had a big lead door, had a little lead drawer on there. The door was broken off that a couple of times and the drawer was busted up, and Mrs. Bliss just took it down and just kind of filled in the whole panel.
PP: The phrase the other side? Is that Italian?
DS: That’s old Latin and it’s kind of a memorial to an Italian prince who was a great friend of the Blisses. In Georgiana Mason’s Guide to the Garden booklet there’s a translation of that. He apparently had a great garden in Italy that Mrs. Bliss really liked, and they were great friends, and this is kind of a little memorial to him, a memorial to their friendship.
PP: Do you want to mention some of the plants here?
DS: We’ve got a lot of the brunfelsias, we’ve got some Mexican salvia which hasn’t bloomed yet but ordinarily that will start blooming here in September, gardenias, fuchsias, passion flowers, lantana, some hibiscus, some of the scented geraniums. We do have one big plant of the night blooming cereus.
PP: Has that always been here?
DS: No, we’ve probably had that ten years and I’ve always put it in that one spot because that’s the only place it blooms.
PP: It’s blooming today.
DS: It’s bloomed here today. And there’s the scented geraniums, the oleanders, what else do we have in here. A lot of potted things, the geraniums, we’ve got some [inaudible] which has done well in here, scented geraniums and some small pots of lantanas and there’s a big pot of the miniature pomegranate which is already fruiting. That will lose its leaves when you put it in the Orangery. We’ll cut it back this winter and it will lose its leaves and don’t worry about it, it comes right back and it’s got some nice –
PP: Where did that come from?
DS: I don’t know where we got that. That and the little flowering maple in the back, I don’t know where we got them. Some of these things were gifts that somebody gave Mrs. Bliss. What we were trying to do is find something for the hot summertime. You’ve got to remember now, we hadn’t been open July and August, we just really opened that up in the mid-’80s, but we never really had anything here for blooming in the hot summertime. In fact, the gardens were pretty quiet in the summertime, about the only people you saw were a few people from the house and a few of the professors in their own gardens. So, you could be in here all day long and not see anybody but your own crew.
PP: Tell me about the ponderosa lemons, where did they come from?
DS: The ponderosa lemons, I think the original one, I won’t say the original one – but we did get some. Dr. Link out at Maryland called me one day and he was cleaning out a lot of stuff he had in his greenhouse, and I kind of remember that I went out there and got a couple of truckloads of things, but I don’t remember the lemons. I think we already had the lemons, but the gardenias and some of those things, the passion flower, some of the flowering maples, those are all things that he gave us because at that time we were looking for especially white things that we’ve used for many years.
PP: Can you note some of the plants that maybe Mrs. Bliss had that she perpetuated?
DS: My gosh, yes, all the scented geraniums, the oleanders, and I assume the lemons. As far as I can remember the lemons have always been here and a lot of the lantanas were here. The hibiscus was not, the hibiscus is something that was brought in when Giles Constable was Director, but that also bloomed in the summertime, so that’s come in handy that way.
PP: The oleanders, they were here?
DS: The oleanders were here.
PP: What about the cleyera that’s planted in the ground?
DS: The cleyera – in the beginning there were two, but they weren’t cleyera. They’d sell them as cleyera, but they were Ternstroemia gymnanthus [sic]. And Dr. Creech brought that into this country many years before that, and when they came on the market we had one in here and he came over here and he wanted to know what it was. We told him and that’s when we found out he’s the one who brought it in the country, but that’s the only thing that’s actually planted in here. The ternstroemia now, I don’t think you can buy it as ternstroemia, I think it’s the cleyera [inaudible], that’s the only thing that actually stays out, the others [inaudible].
PP: Is that a moon vine? Does it bloom?
DS: Yes, I’ve never seen it bloom, but we keep it in here just because it’s viney and it gives you some green.
DP: Your brunfelsia looks kind of yellow, is that natural for that to do that?
DS: Usually in the summertime it gets that yellow on there. We could feed it a little bit of lime again. They bloom really good in the Orangery, usually in March and April they bloom up there. And then by the time we bring the plants out here which is usually by the middle of April there’s still quite a lot of bloom on there. But those and the clivia will bloom in the Orangery in the spring which makes it nice [inaudible].
PP: Which one is the yesterday today and tomorrow?
DS: That’s the brunfelsia. It’s a dark blue, light blue, and then the white, Three days each that it turns dark blue when it comes out, and it’s a light blue, and then it’s white, and then it’s over with.
PP: Around the fountain you have some bulrushes and some broad leaf plants. Are those same plants in the same place every year?
DS: Yes. We just started putting those in, the cypress we’ve used before but the elephant ears is something – I got some of that from Pat up in Longwood, that and the water flowering cannas that are down in the Ellipse. I got some of those from him about three years ago and that gives us a little something more during the summertime. And these are just little old [inaudible] some company didn’t want, you had all you wanted and we’ve grown them all and we just put them in there and just get a little green [inaudible].
PP: The plumbagos?
DS: The plumbagos was a gift from up at Hillwood, the Hillwood Gardens. They were getting rid of some of this and I got the plumbago. And I think we got some of the – not the little pink maple – but the little yellow one, we got that up there and I think we got those little white lantana I believe came from up there.
PP: What about the [inaudible].
DS: [inaudible] often. We did that just a couple of years ago just to have a little something different in here. There’s been a lot of comments on it. They get kind of ratty this time of year.
PP: Is this a jasmine here next to it, what’s that?
DS: That’s a jasmine, that will bloom.
PP: This is confederate jasmine?
DS: Yes, or southern jasmine, there was a tag on there that’s been pulled off. It will bloom in the Orangery along with the brunfelsia and all. It’s a lot heavier bloom, a bigger bloom I should say, not a heavier bloom, but it’s a bigger bloom than the winter planted one.
PP: How long have you been using the New Guinea impatiens?
DS: We stuck them in here probably four or five years. They haven’t been around too long. We planted them from seed, but it’s much easier to go out and buy. I only buy maybe three dozen and you can get a variety, and we’ve been using them mainly because they’ll stand the summer heat and they’ll stand the full sunshine on this terrace here. This is a hot spot here. Sometimes in the hot summertime we have to water it twice, that’s how hot it is, but you’ve got a big variety in there and they make good – just one little pot and they give you a lot of color. Most people want color. In the spring along the arbor there’s a lot of clematis blooming and most of that is Henryi, there is some Lady Cholmondeley over near the outside of the arbor, there’s some Lady Cholmondeley in there. Where there’s something on the walls we’ve got Jack Bennys and some Ramona, Nelly Moser. In the spring there’s a lot of color.
PP: Are these the original benches under the arbor?
DS: Yes. Yes, most of these are. I don’t think we bought any of those new ones. See that little one right here, the little plaque, [inaudible].
PP: Did somebody take the plaque off?
DS: I’ve got two or three of them in the office because people have been stealing them. There’s still one up by the Pebble Garden that’s got the plaque on it.
PP: And what about the lead mask?
DS: That’s just hung up on there, and there’s a little tubing that runs around and gets it in there. And this is one thing you want to make darn sure that it’s drained real good in the fall because that tubing – if you come over here I’ll show you – you can see it right there. Be sure that thing is drained dry; take it apart and blow it out and make sure it’s drained because if that freezes – because that thing has to be fed up behind that to replace it so be damned sure that that thing is out of that water. I don’t know what they’ve been doing but what I used to do is just take it out, where that tubing comes out, once they shut the water off you just blow back through the thing.
PP: And this was stolen once, is that true?
DS: That was stolen. That’s been taken two or three times but they never carried it very far. Most of the time we’ve found it here in the bushes and we did find it up on Box Walk one time. They got tired of carrying it because it’s pretty heavy, it’s all lead. It just sets up on a piece and sort of hooks over like that. It doesn’t matter, if they want something they’re going to get it, regardless, even if they destroy it.
PP: This must be the original wisteria?
DS: Yes, as far as I know it is.
PP: What’s the oldest one you’ve got?
DS: Here it is, it’s pretty old. See these new pieces that we trained in? [inaudible]
PP: You handled this when you replaced the arbor?
DS: We took two by fours and nailed them all together and jacked it all up and braced it up like this and lifted it up off there, throw this there. The old ones you couldn’t even walk up on the damn thing, it was falling down every time [inaudible].
PP: What about the ferns here under the arbor?
DS: We just put those in back in the other—there was a couple or three ferns, we added to them, just put in back in the ‘80s. We added to the ones that were in here. I’ll write it down, these are all the hardy ferns.
PP: Rhododendron here –
DS: We stuck those up here in the summer, we use them – once they go by we’ll dry them off – we use them up in the museum through the winter, but this time of year they still have some new growth coming on them so we just stuck them in here. It’s a good place to put them, something a little bit different. That one over there is about gone by but a few are coming here now.
That’s a yew hedge, that’s that cuspidata and this is what the whole hedge was. This was not part of the hedge where the wall is, but the whole hedge was like this, which meant you had to prune it all the time. A lot of hedge pruning when I first came, now we’ve got quite a lot of wall, not quite a lot but all this was replaced with the wall. This one, usually in the wintertime John will come up and take this right down [inaudible]. He’s cut this mainly to keep it from coming in because you’ve got to cut it – this one and there’s one up there – you’ve got to cut it because if you don’t it’s going to go all over everything.
PP: Are these [inaudible]? In the gate here at the black tulips.
DS: A lot of these things have rusted out in these kind of places because the water gets in there and there’s no way for it to drain out through on a lot of it. Or they get some stuff in there where there was a little hole, a leaf blowing in there, anything gets in there stops it up and then the water builds up, freezes and that’s where you’re getting a lot of that. Right up on that thing there, that was a – you can see on this one, see it looks like somebody had taken a wire and curled it around a bouquet but water gets in behind these things and there’s no way for it to drain out of there. And that’s the way a lot of these things have been here for so many years and that sheaf of wheat up there, I’m sure that was what’s was causing some of that problem. The water probably would have been gone completely if they hadn’t been made of lead, if there was metal like this, it would have rusted right off this sheaf of wheat.
PP: Are these lead?
DS: No, They’re metal. We even sandblasted them. This is where we started finding out that this stuff was pretty fragile.
PP: Are some of the flowers missing or is the bouquet intact?
DS: The pot’s intact, but see the buds, those buds, see how thin they are up there. But years ago – remember these things have been out here since the ‘20s, they’ve seen lot of weather. Right now these things were last painted in 1979 and a lot of this metal work should be repainted again – you won’t have to do those balconies – but a lot of this metal work, because if you don’t do it, you’re going to end up having to have it all sandblasted again.
Down near the playground are the bamboo, the Japanese kind. One of them was standing right in front of that “terrior” column and if you look in Georgiana Mason’s book again, the story of the “terrior” column and this is – I can’t relate the whole story, but this is a memorial. Over in Italy, Mrs. Bliss and Mrs. Farrand both saw this memorial to a terrier dog. And the story goes something of a French naval officer fell in love with this Italian girl and he presented her with a terrier dog as a gift and she couldn’t say terrier, they call it “terrior,” so when the dog died they put a memorial up in the town square. All the stories in that book are – this is a replica of that, I call it. And all we do here, we’ve got to just keep this up, keep up the ivy on it, it needs to be pruned now, keep it like this. [inaudible].
This all got smashed; we had a sugar maple over there where that one is. It came down in a storm and flattened this right down and broke the urn and we had that all fixed and put it back up there, but the idea is to keep the ivy growing like this; but like I say, it needs to be pruned. It’s supposed to represent a green column, not a little skinny thing.
Down here in the bamboo we have a little lead roof and the chairs and the little pagoda type thing with the lead roof. On either end of the uprights here are some of the things out of – the Wizard of Oz?
PP: Aesop’s fables?
DS: Yes, Aesop’s fables, with the crow and the fox.
PP: What is this that looks like a little vase here?
DS: This is another—we were just talking about places water catching in. Right now that’s all full of gravel. It’s [inaudible] for graveling so the water doesn’t drain out [inaudible]. We just had this roof redone and it had one brace. It didn’t have any braces in the beginning and a long time ago we put one brace on it, then we had it redone and they put two braces back there because you could stand here and move this whole thing back and forth. But this has all been redone now. The main thing was rebuilding it down here, putting the braces on it and then out here on the roof – see this skirt up here on the top of the little pinnacle – that was all broken off in there and they put that all back on.
This is an example I can show you here, if you look at some of the – not the old pictures of the Ellipse but back when they had that one single jetty. And after they redid it the first time – there’s a round pool out there and the water kept hitting down on it. And the edge of the pool had lead on it like this, and they took a chisel like that and just cut in and lifted that up so the water didn’t come down whoosh, it kind of bubbled down over that. This is the same design, that design down there is the same as this, so when water comes down it just kind of trickles in different directions.
And we’ve had some problems with this, this is something you can do this winter too. Take these chairs down in the garage and have them scrape them down. They don’t have to take them down, just all the loose stuff and have them repainted with a Rust-Oleum flat black or semi-gloss.
PP: You think this is rebar that’s been put in the seat?
DS: It’s [inaudible]. They’re not going to want –
PP: Did we do that in house?
DS: I forget the details—yes, I think we started to do it this summer.
PP: Was there more furniture of this type here, this is a set?
DS: No, just what you see. Heft that table.
DS: These are heavy too, but this is something, this winter [inaudible], just have them go in there and kind of scrape and get all of those [inaudible] out, have them painted.
PP: What is this tree here as we look at the – to your right?
DS: That’s a Siberian Elm which Meade Palmer doesn’t like, a Russian Elm. It’s got little leaflets on it and suckers. He’s wanted to take it down, but that was here when I came here. I haven’t removed anything unless it dies or something like that, and I try to replace it. Those that we have cut down but some the things you can’t replace because the others – we’re out of them – they got so big. But we’ve replaced that little one four or five times over there.
PP: Has the planting of the ground cover changed?
DS: Yes, back in the ‘80s when they were doing a lot of changes here, this whole section out through here was where the lawn used to come down and turn right there, and this was all added on right here. It’s not like it was originally, but this is what the architect or the two ladies from the architect – but that’s what in this area they wanted to do and I didn’t have much to say on that.
PP: What about the wisteria over there by the “terrior” column?
DS: It’s never done much of anything. That was in here; the daylilies were all in here, we just left them in. We did close this up a little bit in through here, we planted this, and we let the bamboo come over here because people were coming across through here and making a path and, we stopped that and we let this bamboo come out here. You got to put a stop to them somewhere. I don’t think there’s any problem with the bamboo, it’s not really a problem. It sits right here, we’ve kept it. We kept this line and it will come out this way and way down there at that end down there down by where they’re doing the construction. That’s easy enough to take care of if you just don’t let it get away from you.
This bamboo all died here a few years ago, but it all came with seed, all flowered and looked like the devil, it was right down on the grass and then sure enough, just like they said it would, it started coming back up from the old ride home from some of the seed. And they got up about three feet and then we had a bad winter and took it all back down again, but now it’s coming back up. Most of this bamboo will be up here. That’s one right there, obviously it’s taken over. Most of this bamboo will get up, some of those taller pieces in there are about the right height now. That’s about how high it gets.
PP: The elm tree?
DS: This is English elm. We’ve sprayed all the elms with dormant oil to keep the beetles off of them, and the only ones that they actually hit is this one. They don’t chew on the American ones much at all, but this one here as you can tell, will, it’s riddled, yes. That’s got a drain in it on the other side to keep the water out of the inside of it.
PP: What about this oak, it hasn’t died back?
DS: That’s been dying back for the last couple or three years and last year I just went up there and had them cut it back to green, that’s why you like to have them come in here and prune them when it’s green, when you can still see that stuff. Probably in a couple of years we’ll have to take that back down. You might want to come in and cut it down, trim it back and maybe let them come in and feed it this winter, that one there, and see if that helps it any.
You’ve got this one. There’s a Pavlovian over by the fertilizer shed down by the greenhouse, that probably should come down before it crashes down. You also have that crabapple up on Crab Hill that’s going to go down one day, and if you don’t take it down it’s going to get some of those other trees. Those are some of the things we can talk about when you get going on this tree thing.
PP: Is that a crabapple right here?
DS: That’s a crabapple. When I first came it was a great big old Rhode Island greening apple tree there, a big old tree, big old fruit on it and everything else. And that died and we took it down and as the old apple trees died we just put ones there.
PP: Can you tell me more about the cocky-locky garden? Is that this garden here or over here?
DS: I never have been able to define what cocky-locky is, but I think if you read on the thing, what I got of it – the cocky-locky was all this area from the gate over this way. Where the name comes from I don’t know, but I’ll bet you that Mrs. Farrand and Mrs. Bliss or the Regents called them the cocky-locky.
PP: In the Plant Book it says that the boxwood were pruned to fantastic shapes that kind of looked like animals and things. Do you remember that ever being made an effort?
DS: One of the first things we did, the very first winter when I was here was move this off to right here. You can walk up and down that path. I got the worse case of the flu I ever had in my life that first winter working right out here. I didn’t care whether I lived or died that year. Sweat like hell one minute and freeze to death the next and sweat and freeze – flu. But I’ve never seen any animals. We’ve always just shaped them like billowy clouds or something. That plant book was done right after Harvard took over ten or twelve years earlier from when I came here and Harvard did away with a lot of things. They did away with the coal train and the herb garden, two or three greenhouses they did away with. They did away with the tennis court, all kinds of things they did away with.
PP: What about the lobelia up there?
DS: That was here. The only place we put the lobelia since I’ve been here is when they redid the garden, when they built the Garden Library we put some up there. The lobelia was here.
PP: What about the magnolias?
DS: Our big magnolia – we lost a great big one in there and that was a little one we put in there. It seems like every time we put a magnolia in it takes about four years for them to actually get to size and that one is finally getting there.
PP: You’ve got a dogwood there in the corner, how is that doing?
DS: Those dogwoods – they’ve got to be really replaced. We’ve already taken two or three out of there and they were originals too, but there should be a couple more put in on this end.
PP: Do you have the deadly dogwood anthracnose?
DS: No, I don’t believe so. Most of that has come out on the wild dogwood, hasn’t it? Are you talking about the anthracnose getting into them?
DS: The native ones now.
PP: It’s getting into all of them, has it shown up here?
DS: No, we haven’t had it here [inaudible], but I thought most of that was coming from the ones these guys going out and yanking out of the wild and moving.
PP: That helps spread it but a lot of those that are in the wild that have it can infect others that are in cultivation.
DS: No, we don’t have any. Most of our problem with dogwood is old age and borers.
PP: The walk here –
DS: The first year I came here this part of the walk you could just get up here, it was about that narrow. One of the first things we did we moved some of these magnolias, moved them out that way and moved the box over.
PP: Which magnolia is this?
DS: That’s that swamp that blooms in June, Virginia [inaudible], I believe. [inaudible] That’s another project when they’re in here pruning, like pieces [inaudible].
PP: Keep it a couple feet off the boxwood?
DS: Yes. You don’t want to keep too big an opening in there, then they can get in there, but keep it back in through there. That’s a good job in the wintertime if the weather keeps. You’ll be looking for things to do in the winter.
PP: Those hosta look nice.
DS: Yes, [inaudible].
PP: Has anything been done to just kind of –
DS: We can tighten it up some, clean it up. This was more less I assume [inaudible]. That’s the only hydrangea we’ve got in the whole park.
PP: Are those deodar cedars there?
DS: Those would be deodar and this one here at the top [inaudible], you could tell by looking at it. A lot of the other big ones up there [inaudible] and the linden, that’s about the only linden we have on the property too and this [inaudible] little ones in there too [inaudible].
PP: Would you put the elm back in the same place? Where would you put it down here?
DS: I don’t know as I’d put an elm in here, you’re just going to have the same problem over again. I know, everybody’s preaching liberty elm, liberty elm. But this mag [inaudible], trees over there [inaudible].
PP: How about the [inaudible]?
DS: What we did we put these in to fill in this green.
PP: And the [inaudible]?
DS: Those were in here. This was put in – this is something I got from the arboretum, this was a big hole and just put those in to fill this green up because they were coming over here and dropping down in there to get in here. Last year – you can see all the new – last year we put a whole new fence from the end of the wall all the way up. The old fence came – this is part of the old fence right here and this is where it ended, right here. So, last year I got them to put this fence all the way down and we put some more barbed wire, I wanted to put razor wire but they wouldn’t let me do it, but this is how people are coming in, [inaudible] come in. And we get – going here, they step on these little arms up here and they just snap them off.
PP: Why is this wall indented like that?
DS: There was a tree there when the wall was built and the tree died [inaudible]. But this is a new wall [inaudible] way up and then we [inaudible] and reinforced it. See here where they come in here [inaudible]. We had a big silver maple there [inaudible]. It went right down, we were taking pieces off it and then one day it blew over in the winter, right down the street and blocked the street.
PP: What do you call this prickly tree?
DS: Torreya. It [inaudible]. This looks like a yew until you touch it. [inaudible] This you’ve got to take down, this [inaudible] but that’s something you can do.
PP: The quince?
DS: Yes, I’d get that out of there and over in the dump, over in that [inaudible] fill that hole back, this has been a great place for them to get in here too.
PP: When we do the wildflower area here that we’re looking at, is any of the stuff worth saving?
DS: If you people are going to do this wildflower thing I’d wait until the spring, come down here and look at it in the spring, see what you want to save. That’s the only way you’re going to do it. I wouldn’t go in there and clean it all right up. There’s a whole lot of bluebells scattered in here already, we have those on plants. I think before I would go all hog wild on new plants I’d wait a full season to see what’s there because if you go on these new plants and you don’t know what’s there, you probably wished you hadn’t done some of it. [inaudible] do with these plants, I know five or six years and I shamed them into it the last year.
PP: What is this tree – another elm here?
DS: No, there’s some more lindens in here.
PP: Another elm here?
DS: No, that’s a linden. We don’t have any elms down in here, that was the only one down here.
PP: What about an epimedium, has that always been a plant in the garden?
DS: No, we brought that in. We started it down below and I liked it down there, there was some of it down there, then we started putting it in some of these bare spots. We tried to make a little path out through here, but we’ve been waiting and waiting for this plan. I think you should come up here – you’ve got a plan that’s going good – come up here this spring, look this over and see what you want to take out. You might not want to take this out or take these ferns out – or the epimedium, that’s nice, and then in the wintertime there’s all kinds of the Christmas rose all through here and there’s three different kinds in here. I think you ought to look at these things first before you go hog wild on changing this all.
PP: That’s a good suggestion.
DS: There’s a lot of this stuff can come out, granted, but also if you look at these plants, it’s all for the spring, you’ve got to have – think a little bit of something in the summertime too. But this kind of stuff here, this makes a great ground cover into – nobody ever came down here until they came out with these maps and put these in the wheelchair route and everybody comes down here [inaudible].
PP: Tell me about this Japanese maple.
DS: This is a Jap Maple, it’s the biggest one we’ve got on the property. This one and the Katsura which is beside it; it was my understanding that they were here when the Blisses bought the property. And at one time – I don’t know what it is now, I haven’t measured it – but this Jap Maple had a spread of over 75 feet from that side over. It would have been bigger on the street side except there was the trees out there that we put on the street out there.
A very bad wind storm and ice and snow back in February, four years this coming February – the ice and snow. The snow got on there and froze and then the wind came up and that’s where a lot of these big [inaudible], you can see where it’s been cut back. We lost a lot of big limbs off of this, some of the holly, the Katsura, everything. This is one of the places right here. It just snapped them right out of there. As far as I know, they were in here before the Blisses came, but at one time there were some Japanese dendrologists come through here and they all claimed that these trees are just maple and this one here probably are all well over 100 years old. That’s all they do is go around aging trees.
PP: Do you have any more information about the Katsura, stories or anything?
DS: No, other than they were here. This is a tree that Mrs. Farrand has kept here, and she used it as a street tree I think up at Princeton. Amherst has one that’s bigger than this and I think Temple University has one that’s bigger than these. We had these all cabled up so you could mow underneath this and all, and that same storm that did all the damage just didn’t break the cables but it took the screw eyes and straightened them right out flat and all these limbs came down on the ground. We lifted them up this high just to get some blocks underneath.
The biggest problem we’ve had with it is right in the dead center. We’re always losing something out of the center, even the one that’s across the way over there we lost. Any of these clump things, you’re going to lose something in the middle, whether they get crowded out or what, I don’t know. The same thing happened to us on that one over there.
PP: We’re sitting on the bench under the Japanese maple. Is this an original bench location?
DS: No, this bench is one – there was a bench here, yes. This is not one of the originals.
PP: Was the bench like this?
PP: A different design?
DS: No, it was like this.
PP: So, they did buy some benches that weren’t custom made?
DS: Oh yes. Some of them are knockouts, a lot of those around the swimming pool. I bought two batches from Country Casual since then. I bought five here a couple years ago because they were all rotting out. But you notice, most of our benches, we have them up on a brick or on a flagstone, something to get the legs off the ground. That seems to be where they rot.
PP: We see a bench over by the Gothic Garden, is that an original bench location?
DS: Yes, but there was a Gothic Garden there, that was a complete circle at one time over there.
PP: The circle in front of that bench?
DS: Yes, you had to walk in right on this upper end here, there’s an opening, that circle came around this way and all that box was terrible. It looked like it had been buried. I’d tell you it was buried, but I don’t want it on that, shut that off.
PP: The Gothic Garden was a circular boxwood area about fifteen feet across and there’s a little bench inside and there was only one way in.
PP: And someone piled dirt up around them and caused them to die on one side.
DS: That’s what killed them as far as I’m concerned. Also this was landscaped at the time when little secret gardens were the thing for most of the people. This is kind of a little – you had to go in through the hedge to get in there.
PP: Interesting idea. We see a stone tub up there towards the Rose Garden. Tell me the history of that, where it was, what it is.
DS: I don’t know what, we just always called it the bathtub but originally I think it was on the Bowling Green, on the west end of the Bowling Green. I’ve seen pictures of it there, but it sat right here ever since I’ve been here, sat right over on that spot.
PP: Has it ever held water?
DS: Not that I know of.
PP: Is it made to hold water?
DS: There’s a drain in it. A lot of people have had their pictures taken sitting in there like they were taking a bath.
PP: Have you ever rebuilt this walk here, this brick walk?
DS: About once a week we’re replacing brick in here and you’ll be doing it for the next fifty years, as long as you’ve got tree roots. You can come in here today and replace every single one of these bricks and come back next week and replace some more of them, especially right in this area right through here.
PP: Makes it kind of tough for the wheelchairs, doesn’t it?
DS: It does, but what’s the worse thing on the brick walks here, they’re not in a concrete base or anything but they’re just laying on the ground, they’re in sand, and in the wintertime they freeze and thaw.
[end of tape 4]
DS: This is Crab Hill and the only thing that has changed – we only have one more of the big old crabs still here. We had four and two of them have died, and we lost another one right in this spot from a hurricane. They went down and cleaned out a bunch of little ones we had. This one here that we’re talking about now taking down, it’s about ready to go and that one down there are the two oldest. And there’s a couple over back on, not this group in here, but that over in there, they were in here then. The yucca was here, the daylily beds and the iris beds were here, except for those few that are over near the swimming pool, and that’s some of the new hybrids we put in to give more color through the summertime.
The [inaudible] are way down at the bottom here on the left hand side, that was something that was put in here many years ago. Mr. Kearney put that in, in fact, in the files there’s a picture of Matt and two or three of the crew bringing that down the hill on a platform and putting it in. The fringe tree, I bought about five of those and we stuck them in various parts of the garden and that one has been knocked down to the ground twice with the cold weather, for some reason, but now it’s come flourishing right back. And also right beside it there’s a little flowering almond, that was in here when I came here and that thing never gets over three foot high and that’s the only one we’ve got on the place and it blooms its head off. It’s straight down beyond the yucca. It’s just a little tiny thing, that blooms its head off.
This is a Chinese or Japanese lilac and it blooms real late in the last of the spring shrubs bloom. It doesn’t have a very good fragrance but it’s something that’s been here for years and years and years. The magnolia behind it was in there, the [inaudible], the Canadian cherry behind that, that was in here when I came and all of that planting that’s over in the valley. The forsythia over in there, those were all in here. That tulip poplar in here, which is fifteen–eighteen inches across now, that was a small tree that was put in here just before I came. And the big cherry that’s in there, that was already there. There haven’t been that many changes. We have added some crabs when the old ones went by, but we still kept the crabapples.
PP: Have the beds ever been dug or divided?
DS: Now we’ve cleaned them out and made them smaller, some of the bigger clumps. In fact, we tightened them and split them up and moved them around, there was just too much of it here anymore. Those iris beds, they were already here.
PP: What about the yucca?
DS: The yucca was in there. The day I came here that thing was in here then and it’s been here for years. And the daylilies around us, that bed has not changed in here at all.
PP: What about the bed of the winter flowering jasmine in the ivy down by –
DS: That winter flowering jasmine, that was put in there. When they redid the North Vista walls and redid that end down there where the railing is, after they got that – in fact when I came here they were just finishing the stone carving, they hadn’t even put the walls up – and the jasmine had just gone in there like a year or two before that. And from what Mr. Kearney told me, he said that was put in temporarily and they never changed it so it’s worked out fairly well. It’s a nice show in the middle of the winter, real nice, and we’ve let the ivy come underneath it to give it a green background. But when it is in bloom the jasmine will lose its leaf and it blooms its best on the bare step and with that green background it’s much better.
PP: Are these any particular variety of crabapple that you use?
DS: I don’t even know the name of this old one.
PP: Do you know the names of the younger ones?
DS: There’s some red jades in there and the zumi down on that bottom side and I think there’s some coronaria in here and there’s a couple of sargents in here.
PP: Are these daylilies, these are the orange lilies and the lemon lilies, or?
DS: Yes, all of these are the old orange ones, but that group up in there, there’s a double yellow, there’s some single yellow hybrids up there, and this is that red that has the yellow streak in it, just for variety. I got this one over at the zoo, we didn’t have any of that color, so I got some pieces of that we put in here, just to give us a little something in the summertime. The daylilies today, they’ll bloom – if you watch the varieties you’ve got something in bloom all the time and this works out real well in the summertime. Now that we’re open in the summertime, this is a big switch of what we were years ago.
PP: What about the mock orange there?
DS: Those have been right there. The boxwood we’ve added. The mock orange we’ve moved a couple three of those around. There was a big crabapple in here and we lost that. There was one there and one on this side and one right in here, and we lost them and we put those mock oranges in mainly just – the mock orange was there but the boxwood just to give a little terminal point on this end there. Didn’t we talk about the chains and the pruning of this, I think we did.
PP: Not too much.
DS: – about taking them down every February and retying them and then during the growing season keep them sheared.
PP: That’s the wisteria.
DS: Yes, the wisteria – a lot on these chains just to keep it in bounds. If it gets too overgrown that’s just what it looks like is a big glob of overgrown wisteria. But in the winter when we do a lot of our vine pruning and all this is all taken off the chains and retied to make sure that none of the stems are going into those chains. This is one vine that will actually break a bronze chain.
PP: These are bronze?
DS: Yes. This is a vine that will girdle itself and not kill itself.
PP: Do you have to do anything to maintain the bronze?
DS: No. We haven’t done anything. That’s been in there – Bob Patterson was the designer of that. That’s been in there probably since 1950. That was there and done when I came. It hadn’t been done very long.
PP: What about the peonies here?
DS: They’ve been right there all these years, all of these peonies. This group and what was down on either side of the cutting garden building are only up on the Boxwood Walk level and then down on Plum Walk and that level right by that fertilizer shed on that little planting in there. There was peonies in there, that big double light pink was one of Mr. Bliss’s favorite peonies. And then after they died they tore those all up but we haven’t taken these out up here. Are you sure we didn’t talk about this up here, talk about the [inaudible] that was in there and the green background and all, I thought we did.
Standing by the front steps of the house looking towards the R Street border and on the right of the hollies, originally before I came there was yews in here, double hedge of yews – a double boxwood from what Mr. Kearney told me – and they lost the back row, the higher row in the back and they lost that. And then after I came here we put in some yews back there, a row of yews behind this box, and we were having a terrible time with that after a while and found out it was a drainage problem. Root rot got in them took and we took those all out and gassed the holes and all, put new soil in and put drains in and then he found eight seedling American hollies and we put four on either side and then we’ve trimmed them and it’s worked out well. We keep them at this height mainly because this is where we can maintain them ourselves. If they get up a lot higher you have a problem having to hire to have them pruned.
PP: The urns have always been here?
DS: No, I don’t know if they were here earlier or not but when I came they weren’t here. Either they were in storage or Mrs. Bliss had just bought them, but these were put in here after I came here and all we’ve done is just keep it trimmed away so you can hide them and yet still see them.
PP: What about the chains here? Do they normally drag the ground?
DS: Yes, the chains have always just dragged the ground there, some of them.
PP: Some of them drag, some of them don’t drag.
DS: Most of them just drag the ground like that and you have to be very careful when you’ve got a lot of trucks and people like that coming in. Like today with all these people in here, you have to be careful of people that haven’t driven in here before. They have to have somebody watch them or they’ll snap those things off. And the thing that breaks the most is right where the chain hooks onto that pin that goes through the blocks there.
PP: Yes, I see a couple of them are broken.
DS: All you have to do with them is just – this middle one never was in, that was always open. But those, I just take them and have them brazed and put them back in there. They’re just unscrew out of there, like caps – unscrews right up.
PP: Who does your little welding jobs for you?
DS: Used to be a lot of them. Some welding we can do ourselves, but there used to be a lot of places right here in Georgetown. Park Welding used to be right down here in Georgetown and then a machine shop that used to be down there. They’ve moved over northeast now but they’re a machine shop – they’ve done quite a lot. Everybody’s moved. All the businesses are moving out of the area. The R Street border, we have just that one elm down there now and we’ve lost three in back of those hollies from Dutch elm disease. And there was two more up on the lawn itself, we’ve lost those mostly from storm damage not from Dutch elm. But we’ve never put any back in there because the hollies in the background, the hollies and there’s one more elm in there, but all of those things have grown up enough now for a screen.
All of this on the front of the house was kept just about like it always was. We’ve just kept the ivy just loosely on there so you can still see the balustrade and the wisteria has never bloomed much at all, all these years, but we’ve always just kept it, framed it up around there.
PP: There’s not much ivy on the house now, was there in the front ever?
DS: There was not much ivy over here at all. There was a big pyracantha in this corner that went way up there and they took it down. It was kind of a mess. But there’s not much ivy at all, a little bit on the shady side but other than that it’s mostly on the other side. We’ve just taken a big yew out that was over here right off from the study. It didn’t really look very good in there, we took that out finally. It was here when I came, and we took it out and put all boxwood in on the recommendation of our landscape architect. And this is of course some of it – we just did this this past spring and it’s filling in pretty well, just let that box go and maybe it will get a little bit bigger.
Then we replaced this box here, and the one on the other side we replaced. We seem to have a problem with this box because you get a lot of the – that’s the furnace room in there and there’s a lot of exhaust seems to come through there and we kept losing that. What we have done, we added this one little piece of American box over here hoping that it will come over and eventually fill that whole gap in.
PP: What’s this little bare spot?
DS: That’s the spot I was talking about, we can’t seem to get the box to grow in there. But up until a while ago, this window was open, there was a big exhaust in the furnace room and I don’t think that’s helped that box blowing out here.
PP: So, maybe you could try again, it might work now.
DS: We can try again now but also what the box is, this ground, this foundation probably mostly is to screen off these little windows, not so much up here but everything that’s down here. We clean chips and chip it up and they’ll come up here and dump a little. We just chip this part, but the last time they were in here we didn’t have any clean chips.
PP: This is the little garden to the south of the Music Room?
DS: The Garden Library. The [inaudible] under this driveway came over here and went right out through the left and then when they built the Garden Library they moved the driveway, it was changed and put over here.
PP: What about this little chair and table stand here?
DS: It’s just a little nice touch.
PP: Were they somewhere else or had they been here?
DS: They’ve always been around, ever since we’ve come here. We usually try to keep a layer of wood chips. What we do is when they come in here and do the chipping we’ll take the chips and put them here and all down around that bike rack down there. The monogram is Robert and Mildred Bliss, we see the R and the M and see the big B middle, look underneath the B and you’ll see the W – Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Bliss.
PP: Is that a pyracantha?
DS: That’s the only creeper, winter creeper, the little leaf one, the spreading euonymus. That’s the only one we have, and that’s dying back all the time. We’ve been lucky we’ve never had much scale on it [inaudible], of course you never see that in here.
PP: I see a lot of embelias are planted on these borders. Are they something that you’ve always used a lot of?
DS: We’ve used – when they built this building this was in the plan to come in here. Come down here while we’re here, I’ll show you. That’s a telephone box right there and all the telephone lines come in, go into the building in here, then they come out on the other side and go way down by the Pre-Columbian and there’s another one down there too. But right here, these downspouts and these window wells, they all get stopped up. This is a cleanup and what this does it cleans it out, spread all their hooks in the city sewer line. We’ve had this all dug out of here – cleanup – because these things kept filling up and they went into the – they filled these window wells up. And when the water went in there, we dug this all out thinking we could clean this all out, it wasn’t even here, it was way out there that was stopped up. So, this just nothing but a clean-out thing, [inaudible] the downspouts and all, that comes right across here and goes on out and hits in the city.
This is September, mums are in bloom, are coming in bloom, and usually by the first weekend we stay – keep the garden open until the flower borders and the pools are all filled, until after the first weekend in November and come down here, tear this all out and select your stock plants and usually I get twelve of each of the old varieties, mostly the taller ones in the back, a lot of these in the front you can buy those. Rototill it up, come in and move the new perennials in the same way we did the mums, figure out how many perennials you’ve got left and divide them up into groups and put those in and get that stuck all in and then bring the tulips down. And the tulips will be corning probably the first or second week in October.
Some rainy day count them out on that – by that slip I showed you up there, put them in boxes, mark the boxes for the lawn borders, and that way you just know that box, you know they all come here and you’ll have twenty-five of each variety for that section. And if you do that ahead of time it’s much easier. If you get a rainy day, get that done up ahead of time and when you get ready to plant all you got to do is come down. If they got to stop and count the tulips up and all while you’re planting, that’s a pain in the butt. And also once you get this thing cleaned out, you want to get it planted right back up again because if you do get a lot of rain it comes off cold, that ground will never dry out. The one thing you don’t want to do is get in there and plant it when it’s wet.
I’ve been leaving the pansies up in the cold frame in the winter now because – not the last couple of winters but other winters – they’d freeze and thaw so much they’re heaving, you’re forever coming down here and putting them back in the ground. The last couple of winters the pansies bloomed all winter long, out in the open. And the snaps too, with the snaps we sow those in July and we pricked them off now and along about after New Year’s or if they get a little bit bigger before that, give them one pinch and pot them up in three inch rounds and just set them right back over in the cold frame and they make good root growth all through the winter and then usually in March or April, depending on when you get to it, get those out here. If you can get those out before a lot of these perennials start popping out it makes it a whole lot easier. You can put the pansies out there and give the beds a good cleaning and feed them and then rake them off.
PP: How do you feed them?
DS: We’ve been feeding with [inaudible], one of the slow releases, just go around them and broadcast around because all the tulips and all are still down in the ground and a lot of the perennials haven’t even started yet, just broadcast it all around and work it up real easy. Don’t wait too long to do it and cultivate too deep, you’re going to be hitting some of those tulips, but do it as soon as you can in the spring. As soon as it’s winter, rake off the old dead stuff and just clean them up.
PP: After you plant your tulips you put in some of the perennials and biennials.
DS: You put the perennials in first and then you come in and plant your tulips. You put the perennials in afterwards you’re going to be putting them right on the tulips.
PP: But you can get the tulips up after they’re gone easily enough?
DS: Yes, because you’re putting the tulips in afterwards and then under the perennials there you spread them out in between them and as they go by [inaudible] can’t come out of there.
PP: How many tulips grow in each section?
DS: It’s on that chart up there, I think there’s twenty-nine or thirty each variety of the fourteen varieties going. This is what we call the long section, the nasty shot section. You’ll see on that little chart that’s up there in the bulb thing, there’s like twenty-nine and twenty-four or something like that. You always have a few extra, but if there’s a few extra I just throw them in two boxes that do the south end of the Fountain Terrace because that’s a little bigger area than the rest of it down there. You might want to do it different next year, that’s the way I’ve been doing it. You can try it and see if you like it. And these fellows all know because they’ve all – you have to be careful when you’re counting the tulips, you want to be careful who counts them.
Each one keeps track of just their varieties, and they count twenty-five out of each of their bag and throw it in there and mix it up, put it into a box. But if you get somebody over there that miscounts a lot of times he’s not putting twenty-five, he might be putting eighteen or thirty, and you can always tell because at the very end you’ll know that you should have maybe six or eight left over or something like that and you haven’t got them. This guy’s only got eighteen of this one because the variety before he put too many in, so you have to be really careful on who’s counting them and get people who don’t count out loud. If you get this one counting out loud and that one counting out loud, they mess each other up.
Then in the spring after that usually in May or the first of June, usually in May, we put a lot of the annuals in here and I usually have a lot of the annual seeds sown usually the end of November, December, so you’ll get the seeds in around the first of the year. And some of the things like verbena and some of those things you should sow a little bit early because they take a little longer, but most of the stuff we sow in February and March. And then you’re begging for space. You might think you got all kinds of space up in that greenhouse now, but come February and March you’ve got this coming and that coming, you’ve got flats stacked on top of each other.
PP: Do you ever grow larkspurs in here?
DS: We’ve tried larkspur and the darn rabbits – we used to put it in there for cut flowers – and the rabbits – as soon as they’d come up in the spring – the rabbits kept cleaning it out. Then I tried it in here a couple of times but, it would be nice, but you got to remember too, larkspur is good and it will seed itself but you’re turning this bed over here twice a year and that’s a hard part.
PP: You said delphiniums the other day, you tried that?
DS: I tried delphiniums, they do fine in the winter, it’s the hot summer that gets the delphinium. I keep trying them, I keep trying them but they seem to get that [inaudible] rotting in the hot summertime.
PP: You’ve got the michaelmas daisy, is that the one that’s always been here?
DS: That was here when I came here, yes, and the anemones were in here.
PP: The white anemones have always been in here?
DS: Yes, and there’s some verbena in here.
PP: What about the [inaudible]?
DS: The [inaudible] we put in – a lot of this kind of stuff we put in since we’ve been open in the summer, the [inaudible] and the lans here were put in, the yellow has been put in, that little clematis was in here.
PP: And that’s a perennial, right, and that’s been cut back?
DS: That’s a perennial, yes. There should be a piece here somewhere.
PP: Which variety is the Dumbarton Oaks variety? Has it opened yet?
DS: That’s – no.
PP: Is that a tall type?
DS: It’s a tall – this is Compton, that’s Rockwell, that’s Sunshine so that would put Dumbarton Oaks way in the back, that big one in the back. You can tell it, it’s the only – all of the tall ones are yellow of one type or another, but the one that’s pink is the Dumbarton Oaks. It comes out pink and then as it goes by it turns kind of – not as lavender as that up there.
PP: Is that a recognized variety called Dumbarton Oaks, or is this one you’ve tagged that.
DS: I didn’t tag it, it was that seedling that they found up on the Fountain Terrace, that’s what Mr. Kearney told me, and they just propagated it and he just stuck the tag of Dumbarton Oaks on it. It’s not a recognized variety. It’s probably a variety from somewhere over the years, but it was here when I came here. That was here, that one right there was here. The sunshine, that big one up in the corner we’ve had for a long, long time. We got that, it was down at the Potomac Mum Society show back years and years and years ago. They used to have a yearly show down at the Department of Agriculture, and we got one of the cascades that was down there.
PP: Do you try to keep some space in between the different plants, the chrysanthemums? What is your philosophy about that planting, spacing?
DS: It was never – none of the border was ever done where it’s packed tight, it was never done that way. But they could – if some of us had time – they could have loosened it up a little bit. They could have spread it out just a little bit like that and that would have helped down there. But the border was never tight, tight, tight, you always –
PP: You like to see the ground a little bit, keep it open, is that the idea?
DS: Yes. You don’t have to do it that way but places like this, next week or so you can go down there and take a handbarrow and bring up three or four loads of whatever. He’s got a lot to stick some in. We’ve always come in and spotted afterwards.
PP: They really look better than they did last week, don’t they?
DS: They’re coming in pretty good now. There’s still some of those varieties that you should throw out probably.
PP: The blue salvia, is that something you’ve always relied on?
DS: We’ve used that a number of years, and last year we had them in the back and they only got about that high, so I moved it out front this year and the foolish thing has gone wild this year. I usually put three or four plants in a group because usually only two make it and this year nearly every one of them is making it. But it should be back halfway or just little bit, that one there’s not too bad but these right here in the front are a little bit too much. But if you go in and pinch those things and keep pinching them way late like into August – not down low but keep them down – then they’ll come in bloom. The same way with that Mexican salvia which is not high here. Don’t start that too early in the spring. We did it real early last year and it was higher than the michaelmas daisies. This is not a bad height that’s here this year, like these over here.
PP: You treat that as an annual?
DS: You have to.
PP: And you take cuttings of it before fall?
DS: You have to. It’s not hardy. It’s a perennial, but it’s not a hardy here. We kept it in the cutting garden one winter except for two clumps that we dug out to save and we lost them and we even mulched them in there. But that’s something we just started using the last few years. But it’s nice because it comes in bloom this time of year, that’s just started to bloom. You watch through the month of October everybody’s going to be raving and want to know what that thing is.
PP: Do you ever use the red sage, the pineapple sage?
PP: I notice you had scarlet sage in here, is that something you use a lot of, you have different colors?
DS: Yes, we do it mostly for the color in the summertime. The hummingbirds seem to like that and the butterflies like it too for some reason.
PP: Do you have more problems now that you’re open in the summertime and have to do these beds?
DS: It’s almost three seasons now where before we just had kind of spring and early summer. We didn’t have to worry about bloom in the summertime. That makes it a whole lot more work, but it’s not that much – other than you’ve got to have a lot more summer blooming material than we had before and finding the right ones. We’ve added the arrow, we’ve added the bee balm and things like that because they do bloom pretty good in the summertime. I don’t use petunias anymore. Petunias never did much of anything here. After the middle of June when the hot weather comes the petunias always went downhill. But what we have done is started using more of the [inaudible] scarlet sage and the different ones there because that does well.
If you can get the verbena really going in the spring and get some nice plantings out, that does well in the hot weather and the [inaudible] comes in, the arrow and some of these taller plants. You’ve got to have almost a succession of different plant material. It’s a son of a gun to keep a boiler like this in the summer. You can go down and put your begonias, your marigolds and cannas, and that kind of stuff, but just to put herbaceous plants like this in here for the summer you really got to – and all I’ve done really in the last few years since we’ve started is go around and see what is blooming in other gardens in the hot summertime. You’ve got to have something that’s going to take this heat. And like I say, you can always go in with impatiens and begonias and banker and that kind of stuff but you like to try to use some of the other ones. A lot of the veronica and stuff like that blooms early enough, and if you cut that back, that comes back.
PP: I see you’ve got the [inaudible] in here. Have you used that a long time?
DS: This purple one we haven’t used but there’s some of the – I see some of it here. That’s something you should grow some more of next year because that plant’s beginning. We’ve got this one, it’s only the second year we’ve done this one, but the little ones that are on the corner there, we’ve always had that in here, right there. But that’s one we ought to do some more on. I’ll split these up, you can split them up.
PP: And flax, you use that a lot.
DS: And flax, that was here when I came. Flax, foxglove, gladia, coreopsis.
PP: I notice you’ve started some new flax, are those from seeds from these?
DS: No. New plants every year because a lot of times these don’t make it. So, that’s another thing, when these are little, little, once they get up and you can pinch them, pinch the heck right of them when they’re small, and then when it’s time to get to plant them in, if you look at that group down there now, they’re a nice big cluster.
PP: The hollyhocks, are these the single types that are in here now or?
DS: There’s some singles and there’s some mix and the ones we’re putting in, the one you’ve got over there, that’s a double one, that powder puff. It’s a nice powder puff, that is a yellow one. Of course, this is a mixed package. I try to put some of both in. In the singles you better save your own seed because you can’t find the single ones very much and there’s pinks and whites, whites with a pink throat, and the deep purple, most of the maroon colored ones. Years ago we had a black one, it was almost black. We just put that in completely one year and we made it a nice show; it was different.
PP: So, you try to use something different or do you try to keep it the same?
DS: I try to keep it the same – most of the same plant material – but there’s always something you try, something a little different especially if you go somewhere and you’ll see something that looks good and it’s doing well for them, I try it. I’m not so sure that I’d try this again. I thought the foliage was good and all, but it’s real late blooming and it’s supposed to be the purple one but you always get some of the green ones in. Probably should throw the green ones out once they get up.
PP: It’s the [inaudible]?
DS: Yes. But in the summer that and the lans here, things like that, just the foliage helps a whole lot on that in the summer, it just gives you a contrast.
PP: Can you tell me a little bit about the changes in the hedge here?
DS: When I came it was [inaudible] cuspidada, the big Japanese spreading one and it was spreading over right in that section and that hedge is over twelve foot across. It was really, really too darn big in here. It used to take us almost three weeks to prune it, and you did it off from ladders and boxes and on these corners.
PP: With a twelve-foot of spread you wouldn’t have much bed left.
DS: You didn’t have and out of the dirt – we’d do one side over here and then come down on the other side to finish it, but everything had to be done up off of stepladders or boxes. But on these corners, if you look at some of the old pictures of the gardens you’ll see a big pyramid type thing on these corners. Each one of these two here and all of those down through there, they all had them and even these up here and even the one that goes over there had them. And before the plums were in they were used in there and they had it. You could spend all day long just doing maybe doing two or three of them, and they just got so big and then we started – we lost the big one right here. In fact one year we lost that one and instead of taking it out we dyed it with a dye that they dyed [inaudible] when it first come out. It looked pretty good from out there. When they were dying it somebody sprayed two white tulips, of course we pulled those out so there are three.
And then we took them out, took the yew out, and we put some privet in here and that worked fairly well until we had two or three bad winters, then we started losing the privet. We took all of that out and put this, this is the upright, this is supposed to be not hicksii but hatfield, but I think there’s hicksii mixed in it and the main difference in the two of them, one gets varied and the other one doesn’t. But we’ve kept them down at this height so you can do it off from the ground, stand on the ground and do it, and one man, Rigo is really good at this and he’s just started in the last couple three years. He’s got a really good eye for pruning and he can do the whole hedge up and clean it up in a couple three days.
PP: How many times a year would it be pruned?
DS: We’ve been pruning that probably twice, at least once. A couple of years ago we went in and took the top back down a little bit, but we cut it real bad, cut it hard because it was getting a little bit too high. You want to keep it down, if you got to get up on this darn thing and do it off from ladders and boxes, that’s where the time goes. Maintenance is pretty expensive now, plus that putting in all this time on this thing and there’s other things that don’t get done. But this has been definitely an improvement putting this yew hedge back in because in the wintertime you get this nice, deep green. See how that peak is up there, how the top is too big on the top? When you’re doing these, like you want to stand down and look at those hedges, that one looks really good – stiff. This one here, the top is getting a little bit too –
PP: It’s starting to bow out to the right, isn’t it?
DS: Yes, and this is the thing, you have to watch them. This is something that Rigo is pretty good at, is making sure that that bottom is out where the top is. If you don’t, this is what you’re going to get. Even if you look on the side – there on the side it’s pretty good, and we use the back of this wall more or less for the lan. They have a tendency of going in deep on the bottom and coming up and that’s what you have to watch out for. We put these walls in, these are not original. We put these in when we did away with that old hedge and some of the problems with the hedge – other than it should have been the upright yew – was the soil in these beds washing over into the hedge. So, we put these walls in and that keeps the soil right over here and that works out fine.
PP: Do you have any schedule for bringing in organic matter to this garden and mulching it?
DS: Yes. Usually – we haven’t mulched it, but the last few years we’ve used peat moss and two years ago we gave it a real good dose of dried cow manure and we went over the whole thing. In fact, when we rototill you could still see a lot of the peat moss in there, but we mixed it all in and there’s still quite a lot in there, but next year it probably should have a good layer. We used to use leaves, and the leaves – that’s a time consuming job because we were bringing our leaves from over there, we took them over there and had them in the leaf [inaudible], bring them back over here and put them in here and it was a hard job to get them rototilled in. Then we started using leaf grow, not composted cow manure but a dehydrated one, we’d just get bags of that, you can bring that in, you can put it in here and I think it works just as well. You helped plant here, and the soil was not too bad.
PP: No, it’s great, that’s why I was wondering when you did it.
DS: But you have to do it every year, do something every year. Like the Cutting Garden and the big garden down there, when they pick up the leaves it’s fall, they put them right in there and turn them right in and by spring they’re all rotted down. This one up here can use – and we added some peat moss in there because when we redid that brick walk in here a couple three years ago we had a lot of sand in there and soil when they dug that out and they piled it up in the garden and of course when they put the walk back in they didn’t need the soil and it was real sandy so we just spread it out in there. And then we added a lot more, that first year after we did it, shoo, that was the sandiest soil you ever saw and then that fall we added a lot more peat moss and we added a lot more leaves in there just to build it back up.
If you put the leaves and the peat moss and the cow manure, one or all of those things in every year, you shouldn’t have any problems. Just like the big garden down there, instead of hauling it, when we clean all these leaves up out here down this area, we take them down there and dump them. We try to mow them on the grass up here first, that cuts them up and we haul them down there and before we plow them in down there we’ll set the mower up a little bit and go along and cut them up again and then turn them in and by spring they’re fine. You rototill them in in the fall so that’s plowed up all winter long and it’s getting all the moisture and the freezing thaw and that’s going to rot your leaves.
Every once in a while – and you probably should do that this winter – is go in there and give it – before you rototill it – go in there and give it a dose of lime, that helps to break it down. I think it was three years ago we did that.
PP: These stones here, were they flagstones here when you started?
DS: No, this was a grass walk, supposedly a grass walk. You never could keep grass in here, especially in the spring if it rained, it just laid so wet that people walked it out. And then we put these stones in and we had one more stone in more than is here now and then the architect at that time made us take one out of the space and they looked good but if you walked across here, put your foot there and just walk naturally, you won’t end up on the stone, you’ll end up here.
PP: It makes you break step?
DS: It makes you break your step.
PP: And it’s harder to grow the grass between the stones now, it gets walked out?
DS: Yes, it gets walked out, but it looks alright. But like I say, you read a lot of things and it’s stressed a whole lot in some of Farrand’s books and the writings and even her Plant Book, the staircases all over the gardens, there’s one of the biggest staircases, the one up in the Rose Garden it’s got seventeen steps, but if you come down here you got maybe four steps and a landing and then two steps and then a landing and then maybe three steps, so you’re not going boom, boom, boom, boom, you have to break your stride because it’s such a steep hill. And down at the bottom when we used to be opened up down in the park, you could come down on the bottom where that gate was up to the Orangery, you stepped up a hundred steps, that’s not counting the gradual grade but just the steps themselves. But it didn’t tire you because like I say, there’s two or three steps here, then the next landing there might be four steps or two steps or something.
You’ll notice it all over the gardens. Look here, not the goat steps so much but that staircase around there, there’s – like going out of the Fountain Terrace to the Rose Garden you go up three or four steps to a landing and then you go up maybe eight steps and there’s another landing and then another step into the Rose Garden. I think she did that mostly just for people walking in gardens. She probably struggled up and down on some staircases so many times and thought they were terrible that she’s always done it that way, even through the little garden. That repoint there, the staircase there wasn’t as much elevation as this, but there were two or three steps here and in fact one place it just kind – just for wheelbarrows. She didn’t do it here but up there, there’s a place you’d come around the front of the place and just roll straight up a little grade onto the Rose Terrace. When you got on the Rose Terrace there was two or three steps on the other side, but on this side there’s just a light grade for wheeling.
A year ago, down back of the greenhouse where the fence was knocked down there was a deer come in there but it came in out of Rock Creek, a doe. I didn’t even see it, it was right about this time in the afternoon that somebody saw it. I didn’t hear about it until after it was gone but they went down to look at it, they saw it and it spooked it and it tried a couple of times to get back out through the hole in the fence and it got back out and went on down in the park. That’s the only deer I know of seen here and I’ve seen one skunk in all the years I’ve been here and that was sick. We’ve had red foxes, we’ve had possum, we still have possum, raccoons, squirrels. In the spring we had a bunch of rabbits for the first time in many, many years. I think there were three little ones in that yucca bed there on Crab Hill and we’ve had rabbits nesting in the boxwood in the Rose Garden at times. We had rabbits had a nest built in the Cutting Garden, we used to have a big clump of [inaudible] in there and they went down on the backside of that and had a burrow down in the [inaudible]. But this year is the first time I’ve seen rabbits in a long time.
PP: You’ve had raccoons up in the black oak, lived in the black oak, tell me about that.
DS: We’ve had raccoons up in there, in fact in that pile of pictures is a picture of one laying out in the sun. We’ve had raccoons live up over the greenhouse up over the potting shed, they were there when I came here, you could hear them sometimes in the wintertime fighting up there.
PP: Did they come in that little hole right above the door?
DS: Yes, right above the door they go up, that’s why it’s all slimy and greasy there, that’s where they squeeze up through there. We’ve had raccoons in some of the maples down in back of the woods there where they [interruption in tape]
DS: The other side of the Rose Garden you just have limestone and stone and then we go below the Rose Garden, it’s all stone, you lose the [inaudible] so there’s a little something going a little better. In the winter is a nice time to come in here because all the foliage – you can really see the whole structure.
PP: What is it about the beeches – kind of a triangle apron?
DS: Yes, there were three Copper Beeches. Those two there and this one and the Copper Beeches here died I think in 1948 and they replaced it with this American Beech. And that has been fine up until about six or eight years ago when it finally outgrew the space, so every three years I’ve been going and just cutting it – we cut this side back real hard really the last time because it was getting beyond the – just to keep it in bounds.
PP: What’s the life expectancy, they’re vulnerable?
DS: I don’t know how long they’ll last in there.
DS: But the only problems we’ve had with them, we had a big ice storm here about three years ago and – not that big leader on there but the one on the other side, it just split that thing off, it went over and landed on that walk. And of course the squirrels in the nest are eating beechnut. But in the spring this is all silver and [inaudible] in here, sort of lumped with the [inaudible]. You can’t get any more bulbs in there. I bought some tall blooming [inaudible], it took me about two hours to get them in and I don’t think there’s maybe a dozen in there.
PP: That root structure is incredible. Ancient mountains or something.
DS: It’s a typical beech.
DS: I don’t know how big it was. I know Mr. Kearney told me when they put that one in it had a diameter of eighteen inches, but you wonder how the heck they got those big things around in there.
PP: Can you tell us anything about this little shed here?
DS: The little pagoda – that’s a lead roof, underneath that there’s some trees with birds and leaves. It’s where birds set when they land.
PP: And that was original?
DS: That’s original. The bench has been changed.
PP: I came out here to eat my lunch today and said this is a nice shady spot in [inaudible].
DS: These tables and benches are both metal. Where they built the Music Room – you can see the corner of it, they set on that corner of the house and there’s some old pictures so you can see. That’s another thing, that landscape architect come running down to my office: “What ever happened to those metal benches and tables, where are they, where are they?” I said, “What are you talking about?” She said, “The ones in these pictures.” I said, “Right here where they belong.” But she had a picture of them.
PP: She didn’t recognize them anywhere but in their original [inaudible].
DS: But when we had this sandblasted all of this detail, that was lost because it had been painted over and over and over. In fact the man told me it was the first time he ever sandblasted trees.
PP: Are we missing a couple of birds here, did they fall off or get stolen?
DS: Probably or got stolen. We had a nice swing in here, upholstered swing, and they destroyed that, we redid it and they destroyed it a second time. And we just had these [inaudible], so we got three lead [inaudible] and we just had these redone about two years ago. We had a terrible time trying to find somebody just to do this. Everybody wants to do a [inaudible], but the same man who redid the Pebble Garden and whose [inaudible], he’s got a man now who does work in that and they redid this.
DS: The good part of it is a lot of the young fellows he’s got are doing the statue of Diana outside the Music Room, have you seen it? That used to be down in Dumbarton Oaks Park and they destroyed it down there and then Mrs. Bliss moved it, we put it in down by the Perspective, they destroyed it down there and we put it in the basement of the Greenhouse for ten years. And then Mrs. Thomson, who liked it, said put it in the garden somewhere. We put it over there where the public can’t get to it and those fellows redid that for us, so it’s seen now and we felt much better that they can’t get to it.
You see the stone in here, the limestone and the brick, in the wintertime this jasmine is right in full bloom and we tried to grow some ivy down but we had a heck of a time getting it down just for the background. The Rose Garden is basically the same design except where the stone is with the boxwood, like the outside hedges, and we kept losing so darn much box in the winter, especially all up through there, we were moving three and four hundred box in here every spring.
PP: Do you still put the burlap sacks down on the box in the snow?
DS: We took that down but I’m on record that one of these days they’re going to have one. We used to spend three weeks in the fall covering all the boxwood – Box Walk and all that stuff out front. And the Box Walk you can see where that’s suffered quite a bit. It will come out of it and a lot of that box has come through. But progress – we used to cover this box. First we used to go over – before they sold that ten acres – we’d go over there and get big truckloads of Japanese honeysuckle cut and we would lay it on top of the box. And then we ended up tying it on and then we built little structures and covered that with boxwood. We had problems just to store all that. So, we took that out and we put [inaudible] candytuft in here. That looked great but you’ve got to prune it every week or darn near and then after about three years we started losing it in the shade so we put that stone in and that’s worked out.
We’ve got two balconies here that should have been back here six weeks ago. Hopefully, John’s calling him again.
DS: It’s hard to keep flower borders in this city. You can go down downtown, there’s plenty of caladiums, begonias, impatience, and marigolds, that type of stuff, but they have a mixed flower border.
PP: And ornamental grasses, [inaudible].
DS: Yes. Jim and I don’t really, he doesn’t really care for them, I know he doesn’t care for mix. You go down there to Virginia Avenue, down by Federal Reserve, my gosh.
PP: They’ve got a monopoly.
DS: It’s the same way with Perry Wheeler. Perry has a lot of commonsense. He did some nice gardens. He’s still alive and lives in Middleburg. He was our consultant here for a while. I got along great with him, but [inaudible] know the grass thing and he thinks they look so good in the middle of winter. They look to me like it’s something nobody’s cleaned up. That’s what it looks like.
PP: [inaudible], it’s that you see too much of it.
DS: If he just mixed some of the colors, some of the different ones, but that same old one. [inaudible], he’s used that and I know Dick Simon must be happy as hell because he buys a lot from Dick but I know Dick is sick and tired of it. Dick brings his crew in, every other year they take a day off and they go on a field trip and they come in here and the arboretum and next year they’ll go somewhere else and they’ll do their thing.
PP: Is the irrigation always there?
DS: In the beds, we’ve got thirty thousand feet of pipe underground and right in this bed itself there’s a spigot here. There’s one there and there’s one over the wall. The only underground that we’ve got are pop-ups in the Rose Garden, there’s a hundred forty-five pop-ups in there. That’s really helped that Rose Garden because we used to go up there [inaudible] to hand water them, but we’ve got two, three, and twelve. You ever notice on a hot day there’s no water in the toilets in the house?
We had another big engineering feat here with one of these smart guys who was going to save money. They have a three-inch water line comes in from that gate and one at the top of the drive to back here and those three-inch fill a six-inch and everything goes off the six inches, it keeps up the pressure. This smart fellow decided to go: “Let’s cap off that six inch and we won’t have to pay the sewage on one meter, we’ll just pay the sewage on the other one.” That’s well and good and when we put water in the swimming pool and put two sprinklers out here, there’s not too much water in that pool. And then they made the cooling tower bigger and they’re using more water than anything now. But someday they’re going out there, they’ll be out there puttering around how to put that pipe there, put it back together.
PP: How about these pears?
DS: This is a replacement. If you look in the Plant Book you’ll see some pictures of the old hedge. Probably over there and they got up a little bit high, about as high as those taller ones, but you stood down here and just above eye level you looked out underneath the pair of hedges above us. And the way you prune it, you take the lightest man you’ve got and put him on a ladder straight up and usually I’ve stood up here and they used a [inaudible]. If you put somebody heavy, his weight’s going to move it all together and when he gets off it’s going to pop up and it’s going to be higher. My crew were real pleased when that thing went there.
We bought – this is [inaudible] pear just like the original [inaudible]. This son of a gun will get it but we’ve been very lucky that way. They were only six or eight foot high when we bought them and there’s an old nurseryman down on the Eastern Shore – nobody goes – you can’t find people there. He had a [inaudible] and we put them in and the pears are so darn heavy we had to put pipes in there because they were going right down to the ground. Last winter we went in – the last few winters we’ve gone in – and thinned them out a little bit and now they’re getting so, they’re going to get up here and then you can leaf three leaders up and then let them bush out.
Where do you want to go? She’s looking for shade, I can tell. Let’s go in the arbor.
PP: How many gardeners do you have working on the grounds?
DS: Twelve of us in all and then we have three part time. Yes, we’ve got more than three this year because some work full weeks and they’re gone. One guy worked eighteen hours. He got into the poison ivy that he said he didn’t get, but he had that before I came here.
PP: [inaudible]. I think this is the coolest spot.
DS: That first summer I was here I came down here and cooled off. There’s nobody around, we used to just strip off in our underwear and lay down, there was never anyone around. Originally when this was done the arbor was here, the balcony was here but there was a yew hedge all the way around and there was an opening where that bench is if you went out like this, made a U turn and went down over the bank. This was all full of herb beds in the Farrand days, and when Harvard took over they did away with the herb beds. When I came this was just grass in here with a hedge and then in the late ‘50s Mrs. Bliss got the idea of a pot garden, a tub garden, so we took that out, we replaced this. This was replaced in ‘55 by the Link woodworking people. The first thing they ever did outdoors, they always did interiors and they got intrigued with this.
This is the heartwood of cypress and each of the laminations, each of the beams up here have twenty-eight laminations. It’s all glued and pegged and laminated. They just jacked the vine up, took the old one out and put the new one in and a few years later they had a fortieth or fiftieth anniversary, they put out a catalog of different pictures and the first picture in it was this arbor.
And when we first did this we had a lot of [inaudible] tubs in here that Miss Havey designed. We put a big aluminum plate on the bottom so you could repot them real easy, estate size. We got the plate off alright but when we cut around them and everything we ended up breaking them in one [inaudible] just to get them and they have since rotted all off and we’ve done away with them and I know they won’t be replaced. We had a lot of big azaleas and a lot of camellias in here and then we had a bad winter – and we used to bring all of those things in here and mulch them all down – and then we had a bad winter and everybody, the arboretum and everybody lost camellias. But the last two years they were replaced, we’ve had about two mild winters here, replaced [inaudible] all the camellias and they’re selling them. But one of these days, bang. Mrs. Bliss’s yard down on Q Street was full of them, the whole thing was just lined with different camellias from [inaudible]. And bulbs – it’s the same bulbs out in that yard year in year out. We go down there and put the trial in and there’s a whole popping out [inaudible] from everywhere you went.
PP: Would you manage her yard?
DS: We did both kind of things, and we’d go down and plant up the little flower border. And now there’s the swimming pool I guess is there now. We’d go down and plant that up and then Don that worked here worked down there nights. He made a pretty good thing down there, he used to go down and take care of that yard.
PP: Who owns that house now?
DS: The first guy that bought it his name was Smith and it’s been resold. That whole garden has held three townhouses in the garden and where the garage was and the parking area. There’s another building and in back of that the building that Mr. Bliss had an office in and the servants lived upstairs, that’s another residence. And the only thing of her garden that’s still there is some [inaudible] and magnolias right on the street, on 28th Street. There was a huge, big Copper Beech in that backyard and the first thing the guy did, he went in there and he cut one whole side of it off to put a swimming pool in the old [inaudible]. Let’s cut down through here before you have heat stroke. It is a nice cool spot. We used to keep goldfish in here but the raccoons got to taking care of those, so we don’t bother with that anymore.
PP: When you talk about people corning in and ruining the statues and all that, was that coming over the fence after hours?
DS: Yes. The section we’re walking in now, if you read in there they’ll tell about the goat steps or the goat trail, in the Plant Book. This is all that exists of the goat trail now, this section here. There was a walk and it came up here, went up here and up to that wall and went on the outside of the wall all the way up above the Rose Garden up on that terrace. And then she did away with that and put this grand staircase in. And before that if you look in some of the old drawings, there’s a walkway that comes out here with a big overlook right there with a big grand staircase in here which she never did. There’s some drawings of stucco walls where the hedges are which was never done – a lot of drawings out there but a lot of them she never did those.
PP: What is the Camellia Circle, was there a tree in the middle of that?
DS: Yes, there was a big cherry right here we took down, there was a big maple right there. We put that on there to hide the stump, unless you want to pay for bringing the stump machine in and pulling it up this hill. This is the biggest problem of getting around in here.
PP: I saw one photograph that had pictures of wooden gates there at the yew entrance, they just haven’t replaced them or?
DS: They didn’t replace them and there was little lead animals on …
PP: Were there birds on there?
DS: Yes, when I came the only thing was there, there was a post on either end and the gates were long gone by that time.
PP: Is it something they want to put back in the future do you think?
DS: They never talked about it, and Mrs. Bliss didn’t put it back in those years. She was around here for almost thirty years after she gave it to Harvard. She made a lot of changes, like the Pebble Garden, like this terrace, like the Ellipse. She redid B Terrace where the urn is, that’s been redone. This wasn’t here when I came, there was a [inaudible] she replaced and had that one [inaudible].
PP: The little seat with the pennant on top.
DS: That’s the greatest place in the world where the kids can climb up and down.
PP: A jungle gym.
DS: The only thing I got Mrs. Farrand to plant is [inaudible] We had this here, this was a big glob of honeysuckle and on that walk up there and over on the other end right over that second big area, a huge big patch of maybe twelve foot in diameter.
PP: Was it always a Japanese honeysuckle?
DS: It was always this one, not this one, but this one here.
PP: She didn’t use the trumpet honeysuckle anywhere, the coral?
DS: Yes, we had some of that, we have those up there, but the Japanese she used in here. If you stand over here and look at that walk, that walk is not straight. It’s got a big curve in it like that, and she put that honeysuckle in there to offset that curve. This is actually the top of a sixteen-foot retaining wall.
DS: This walk right here.
PP: Is a sixteen-foot retaining wall?
DS: Mrs. Farrand did the plan.
PP: Did she have an accurate purpose or did she make many of these decisions on the site?
DS: Knowing her she went over and over and over and over and over, God knows how many times she did it.
PP: Because it doesn’t seem like you could have at that point had a very good topographic survey to figure out all these levels.
DS: But nearly every garden she’s done –
PP: She said she came out and listened to the wind and the sun.
DS: She’d come out in the evening and listen to the thrush, we still hear them. My wife says there’s Mrs. Farrand’s thrushes down there. If we sit out in front of the house in the evening you can hear them.
PP: Is the house that’s further down by where we parked, is that where you live?
DS: That was a doghouse. That was built in the early ‘20s for fifteen thousand dollars. It was a doghouse and then when Harvard took over they made it a residence.
PP: Will we move in there?
DS: No, they took that perk away.
PP: For a superintendent not to live on the grounds – the first time there are no garden families here.
DS: [inaudible] but that’s really logical because he has all that security you have and all the heat and lights in the main building, so that’s a lot bigger place up there now. When I came [inaudible] engineer, the building people took care of it. We took care of our own furnace down here.
PP: These flagstones, they’re relatively recent, aren’t they?
DS: How recent is recent? In my time, yes. This is a grass walk we couldn’t keep grass in. We’d seed it and even sod it and if you had a wet spring it got walked out and this is also – I’m watching her, she’s doing it too.
PP: Stepping between?
DS: She was going like that.
DS: When we had the other landscape architect here, we had one more stone in here, one more stone and a little closer, so when you walked you put your foot down right in the middle, easy, and you could walk there about three stones – I guess it looks better. But if you read in the plant book about the steps and the staircases on Dumbarton Oaks, Mrs. Farrand refers to them all the time about people getting tired. You go up there – we’ve got four or five steps here, then you’ve got a landing and then you go up two and then you might go up four the next one. Nothing boom, boom, boom, boom, there is always something to break them. The longest staircase we’ve actually got is the one coming down the Rose Garden steps, I think there’s seventeen steps there.
And when we have the gates open in the park, I counted them one day, from that gate to the Orangery, just steps, not levels like this, but just picking your foot up and there’s over a hundred steps. You go along for a while up here and then there would be four steps, but there was over a hundred steps. This was all yew hedge in here and around on that side and then around this here.
PP: With the retaining wall [inaudible]?
DS: The retaining wall, we had to put that in when we put these plums in. Just like the wall that’s around these pears, we put that in because all the dirt was going over.
PP: But that wall was there?
DS: That wall was there.
PP: But not the sidewall?
DS: The sidewalls were here but not the little ones. These little ones and the little ones that’s in here – see them in there?
PP: When were the plums first put in?
DS: We put these in in 1954, the first, these are the second set.
PP: That was Ruth Havey?
DS: No, this was back in Thacher and Patterson’s day. In fact, the day we started tearing yew out of here, Mr. Thacher came down this way to go back from lunch, like 1:30 and he stayed down here until 4 o’clock with us. He was all dressed up and he was the dirtiest man you ever saw when he left. He got blisters on his hands, but he worked out here all that one afternoon.
PP: Helping plant these?
DS: No, he was just tearing the old ones out.
PP: Was it his decision to put the plums back in?
DS: He and Patterson and I guess Mr. Kearney – that was long before – I could sneeze and nobody would hear it or if they did, not pay any attention.
PP: All those mums down there?
DS: All those mums that go in the flower border, if you’re here right after Labor Day, don’t get in the way. They all get moved and getting them moved is the worst part. They put two people down there digging and I’ll take myself and maybe two people up here planting, I usually place them and two people planting and the rest carrying them in a hand cart. And we take one whole variety at a time and put it in all four beds. Like, we’ll say that one Dumbarton Oaks we’ve got, we might take sixty of those and we’ll put probably thirty of them or forty of them each and put twenty of each right here and some down here.
PP: How many days to put them –
DS: We can tear it out and plow it up and if it gets hot like this, that’s what slows us down. In the fall when we tear the mums out and put the new perennials in and put tulips in if the weather’s good, it’s about two days. But in November when you tear that stuff out and you plow it up, you want to get it in because if it does get a rain, the stuff never dries up. If you go in there working it when it’s wet and it does dry out you’ve got something like this.
PP: The chrysanthemums are in full bloom October –
DS: Usually in mid-October. There’s some earlier varieties now, but usually about mid – some of the old varieties I keep are some mainly because they’re tall and they bloom usually about the third week. This year they’ll probably bloom the first of November, but there’s usually color in there around the first part of October. A lot of the newer varieties now are seven and eight week [inaudible], a little [inaudible] and it’s pretty hard to hold them back. But that’s something Mrs. Farrand told to me, you can go ahead and try chrysanthemums but it won’t work. We’ve got about two thousand two hundred mums now, I think there’s about thirty different varieties.
PP: Do you propagate all those yourself?
DS: We propagate all the old ones, and some of the newer ones we can buy now, we don’t propagate because we don’t have room to keep the stuff. And I’ve been buying fifty of each of those varieties and taking cuttings off those but this year I bought a hundred. It cost a little bit more money, but we got them out early. We didn’t have to wait until the middle of [inaudible]. We’re trying to grow like a hundred of each variety; that gives us something to work on. Which way do you want to go, up or down? I just come back from four days off so –
PP: You’ve got energy. Let’s go in the Ellipse if that’s okay.
DS: These [inaudible] that are here, this one, they were when I came.
PP: It seems so strange.
DS: That’s one of the most [inaudible] rose.
PP: What is it?
DS: That’s that old [inaudible], smell it.
PP: Were these rose clumps also?
DS: Not all of them.
PP: Are just different?
DS: In that spring that thing, phew.
PP: So, you just kept different shrubs in here, a mixture?
DS: Yes, we did keep, there was some double flowering, this is a [inaudible] here, some double flowering [inaudible] and we did buy some of the old fashioned roses and have two or three of these in here and down over that bank over there but they never did anything. At one time this walk has been changed here too. This walk used to go up there and over and when we redid the Ellipse this walk was changed.
PP: And who made that decision?
DS: Mrs. Bliss. This was back and Havey was tied up with that – the garden committee did that.
PP: So, when you redid the Ellipse did you simply replace the trees and put it back the way it was?
DS: No. The shape is still here; this wasn’t like this at all – overgrown with huge, huge plants of American boxwood.
PP: In an ellipse?
DS: Yes, see where those maples are over down there? There was two more set in there and that’s what you called the Seven Sisters. And when we redid this and put the hedge in we took those out.
PP: So, Farrand’s scheme was the boxwood?
PP: With a small fountain, not this fountain here.
DS: It had just a single jet and it was a raised fountain like that. The water would come out and that would spill right here but over from where that flag is there, back. See that ridge in the water there, from there back that was up at ground level. There was a big bed of ivy with one little spill it in the [inaudible].
PP: So this is of Mrs. Bliss and whoever the landscape architect was at that time?
DS: Alden Hopkins was the original one. He was – that’s where the [inaudible] come from when he was [inaudible], and then Griswold was tied up in it, and they had a big committee then – garden, all the big names, all Harvard graduates, of course. A lot of times they’d come here for meetings. They’d meet in the house. I don’t know what they talked about. They’d come out and walk around the Orangery, go to Thacher’s for lunch, and they would be gone. And this fountain set where the pre-Columbian is now, originally, and then we put it in storage.
PP: Was that fountain brought back from Europe?
DS: This and those rose marble benches that you saw and the table, those and there’s two or three other pieces in the gardens. The fountains up in the Fountain Terrace and the lead lion or whatever he is up there, those were things that she bought. But most everything else, like these pineapples, these were carved right here. In fact we took those and took them up in the Fountain Terrace where those tubs are, we took the tubs down and set those there one day just so she could look at them for about five minutes and then take them back. We spent the day getting the darn things up there. But she was always doing that.
PP: She was the designer.
DS: Yes, so was Mrs. Bliss.
PP: Well, she was a designer.
DS: That’s true, but even the benches – see the benches? – they’re cut on just the slightest of curves. You don’t notice it until you get right on them. And to get into this garden when it was American boxwood – back in that days there were things called secret gardens. Mrs. Mellon’s still got one, you look around and you wonder what’s this, you could come in right over in there and there was another place there. I remember when she used to come in here a lot. But if you’d walk on the outside – right where that hedge is and out there, there were benches out there, so you’d sit on the other side of the box, so this is all just closed right in.
PP: And it just got overgrown, is that why they pulled it up?
DS: It got overgrown and she wanted to change it a little bit. Like I say, she changed quite a few of Farrand’s; she kept the design but they’re much more formal now than before.
PP: So, you saw the boxwood?
PP: Which do you like better?
DS: I like this.
PP: It’s unforgettable.
DS: I remember the boxwood. When they were taking it out of here one of the tree men got mad at the tree company, he had a double bladed ax in his hand, he just threw it in the chipper and it’s still there, chipper [inaudible] and he walked off the job. Then he went in business for himself about six months later and the company kept losing all this equipment and they found out he was doing it [inaudible].
– just about how to do it, and the Federal Triangle now they’re going to do; it’s a weird idea, I think, they’re going to do it down there. They’re going to use a little leaf linden, and the spread on the top is going to be thirty-three across. And they can get in on one side, the other side they can’t. They can get in on this side with a bucket truck – the bucket truck is not going to go up there. You’re not going to be able to be able to reach out and prune. And we keep the middle of this open.
PP: It’s hard enough, just this sixteen foot.
DS: We keep this open too just so you can get up in here and you get light then. If you didn’t get any light in here you wouldn’t have a darn thing, this would all be dead. But it also gives us a chance to get up the perimeter.
PP: So, when they were talking about a thirty-foot spread are they leaving in these areas for sun or are they –?
DS: There’s no way they can get in to do it. You can take a bucket truck and put it there. But these men use a pole when they’re ten or twelve foot and we clamp a little one – the hedge shears – on the end of it so they’re holding that pole with that weight out there like this. Can you imagine what they’re going to do with thirty feet on a truck, and they can’t get on the other side of it? And I doubt they can do it with a ladder or something. An architect in California designed that and there were two architects in town trying to find out how to maintain it, so when we did this last they came up here while we were pruning it.
PP: They just wanted to watch and see how they’d deal with it?
DS: Yes. But there’s not a lot but there’s quite a few people doing it with little leaf lindens. Down at 17th & Constitution there’s a skating rink in the wintertime and they have a double row of little leaf linden and Carter Brown, the Director of the National Gallery, he’s on leave, but his office overlooked that and he wanted those trees cut like that, and the Park Service had to go up there and cut them. I don’t know why, these trees at maturity get about thirty-five–forty feet, and the little leaf lindens they go up to seven and [inaudible], so that if they all live and I haven’t seen any problems with them, they’re going to have stumps like this all the time. I think the hedges will live forever. I think if you get too high, you lose the whole darn perspective of the [inaudible].
PP: Which life spans have this?
DS: I’ve seen them up on the canal. It’s a native tree around here actually. You can’t find them in this – you can find the European ones, but I’ve seen some up on the canal probably were like that. All of these were a little bit bigger than the small ones over there when we put them in. If you look in the Plant Book and there’s a picture of them right after we put them in because they’re still wrapped, back quite a few years.
PP: So you think you’re still have these?
DS: We’re replaced six and we replaced three more this past winter. That crooked one over there, we’ve replaced that once, that’s going to have to go again and we replaced the one beside it and there’s a little one in here. There’s another little one back of the fountain and we replaced this one. There are seventy-eight trees in here and we replaced six, so that’s not so bad. To get a big one in here, it’s all handwork and then once you get in there you don’t have that much room. You can’t put your [inaudible], you want to go out there and you’ve got to line it up.
DS: Yes, but everybody wanted it there, they wanted it all big, big, big, yes, yesterday. They don’t want to wait but gardens aren’t that way.
PP: And they don’t want to behave.
DS: That’s for sure. I think this garden is very lucky that it’s lasted as long as it has.
PP: Don’t you think it’s the only American garden that’s really survived this continuous –
DS: There’s a lot of them around but they’ve changed a whole lot. We have changed this. When this was originally done this was grass, we used to sod this. In the city of Washington grass has the biggest problem, and this was like this when I came. But we had a big gully then, we put those in and the same way down there, we put that little [inaudible] in there all the way around just for the wash. But everybody thinks it should look like it did eighty years ago. These are living things out here too, and a lot of them are varieties that we used back then and there’s some a lot better. There’s a whole lot a lot worse, a whole lot.
PP: More of that than the other, I think. [inaudible] they were better probably through here anyway.
DS: That’s true. This forsythia isn’t the original. The forsythia was put in – all of this was in 1980. We went in and took a chain saw and cut this all right down to the ground. Cut it down and the phone rung off the hook, they were going to have my job.
PP: (In audible), cut it back again next year. We’re just going to do part of it at a time.
DS: I think you should go in and do this section and leave this one, do two sections, then let them come up, do them right after they bloom and they’ll be up that high for next year. You might not get too much bloom on it but they’ll be up there.
PP: I could [inaudible] the rest of the day if it weren’t my last day.
PP: It’s a shame you’re leaving.
PP: It is a shame.
DS: [inaudible] I’m leaving in an hour.
PP: I’ve been here seven weeks. I really appreciate [inaudible].
DS: Some of the people who live across the street never come here and then all of a sudden they come in with a house full of houseguests and they want us to spend all day long in – but they only live across the street, they’ll come back when we’re open, just look at the gate. But all the time there’s something different. We’ve replaced these gates and we’ve got to patch this already, the latticework outside we’ve just done. When these were originally done, these were all pieces, this one here was little pieces that were cut and nailed. And this is where the nails were rusting out and rotted out. So, when we redid this we did marine plywood and treated it and cut it all in one piece. We had an expert doing it.
PP: This tree, was it on the site?
DS: I would think it was when the Blisses bought it. But we try to keep them [inaudible], keep them open just so the wind blows through them because if you don’t you get all kinds of wind damage.
PP: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
DS: Okay, come back in the winter.
PP: And I took a boxwood.
DS: You only got one?
PP: I took two and then my daughter came, she took one.
DS: There’s a few over there.
PP: Tomorrow morning I’ll put all of this into the car. I have a windowsill full of every kind of scented geranium and every kind of rose and [inaudible] lavender that I could find. It was the only way I could live without a garden, and I always put them in the window and fortunately they’re getting [inaudible].
DS: Every time she goes by she pinches each one.
PP: I was lucky enough to be here October 23 and since last year when you did this pot for the Garden Sellers [inaudible] and I walked around but the garden looks completely different…so I was real happy to come again, I knew…
DS: Like I say, in the winter, early in the spring every day is different, it really is and every day you walk down that drive –
DS: I’ve got a few. I’ve got to get a van. She’s got them all in boxes [inaudible], I looked underneath there the other day, there must be thirty boxes.
PP: But it’s hard not to take –
DS: And she does every year. Is that the same picture? She bought a camcorder here a couple of years ago and we’ve got one of almost all four seasons, every Saturday or something. I’ve got a weird wife. It will be great in the middle of winter when we’re all snowed in up there, and I’ll think I don’t have to come down and get these darn walks. The same photographer came back last year and did one for Southern Accents – same picture, the Japanese fellow, he did that one. But that one of the Rose Garden with the snow, it’s really a colored picture but it’s all black and grays and white. Snow on the walks and the plaques, it looks good. Bye-bye. We’ll see you again, I hope.
[end of tape 5]
DS: What we have now is something Mrs. Bliss did when she bought it in the twenties.
PP: With all of that, would she have that too?
DS: There’s thirty-seven acres down back. Years and years ago, before she even built this place, there was an L-shaped house right down here, it went all the way to here.
PP: This was on the property when she bought it?
DS: No, I think it was torn down before that; it was removed from the main building [inaudible]. But when we put this tree in, we dug a huge hole here to put some drainage in and about that far down we ran into a yellow pine floor that we just buried. We just cleaned it up, and we split the darn thing and it was just as good as new.
PP: You mean you were here when this tree was planted?
DS: Yes, it was just a little bit around. We’ve lost – we had a big leader on the other side and we lost that. Recently the Blisses had two hemlocks, one over there and one over here and at Christmas time they’d have a Christmas party for all the garden crew and all in the garage and they’d decorate these two trees. They all had turkey and toys for the kids and all that, that was before my time.
PP: These greenhouses were built –
DS: In the twenties, and they were built by – I forgot the name of the company, there are name plates in there – but we redid them here about – Mr. Kearney died in ‘73, in the mid-70’s, and the company that did it was Ludy Manufacturing out of Ohio. Went to Loudon Burnham because Loudon Burnham had bought out the company that built these and they had all the blue prints of this whole thing.
DS: We stripped them all down, just put new glass in, the steel work was fine; we put new vents in. But we had a Director at that time who wanted to tear them down, the Director before that. Of course he’s gone now. A fellow by the name of Constable.
PP: I’ve heard about him. Isn’t this fun getting [inaudible].
DS: Right. John worked out here in the garden with us for five years.
PP: Do you think that’s how he got interested?
DS: I don’t really know.
PP: Does that go all the way down to Washington Parkway? Is that the boundary?
DS: Our property line runs to where the fence line is that you see here. From here you can just see a building over on that top, up on that top there’s ten acres, the Danish Embassy is on that and that’s where the Blisses were going to build their house. They ran sewerage and water up there and then they went down to 28th and Q Street instead, it was smaller. But there’s twenty-seven acres right down here at the bottom of the lane and goes all the way to the Naval Observatory. [inaudible] to the Park Service with the a stipulation that no highways be built and it’s a nice valley for a parkway [inaudible]. Rock Creek Parkway is right down –
PP: I rode my bike through there over the weekend, it’s nice. There are real pretty stone benches down there that are different than anything else here.
DS: In the park here?
PP: Yes. It’s basically footpaths and it’s real overgrown, you can barely walk through it. You go down Lover’s Lane and there’s a real pretty gate there.
DS: It’s right down at the bottom of the lane. Years ago we had a gate right down here and there was another one down there that we used to open up so people could go back and forth, but they kept destroying it so we just closed it.
PP: I think there were like seven ponds, weren’t there, on a stream? You’d step down and there was an old mill – we walked down there.
PP: I’ve seen the mill, I think. Is this the only mill that –
DS: Yes, that was here, [inaudible] all that too. And somebody was repairing that on their own on the weekend.
DS: Yes. I don’t know who was doing it, but the Park Service made him stop, I guess. But years ago when I first came here, there were two men who didn’t do anything but worked on – the paths were all cleaned and raked every weekend. The ponds were all cleaned up; each pond has a little dam.
PP: And that’s owned by the National Park Service.
DS: That’s owned by the National Park Service and when they did all this construction up here on Wisconsin Avenue, the Page Building, the Holiday Inn – the Page Building is just the other side of Safeway – and after they did all of that it just kept filling up with all of the rain and it just got too much, they couldn’t keep them shoveled up. Then it just went downhill. This is the end of the line. When they’ve got time then they come over. But two years ago they started a Dumbarton Oaks project and they went down and they surveyed and they went around –
PP: Didn’t they measure the gardens too?
DS: In here?
DS: They didn’t come up here.
PP: I had a student who was working for the Park Service and they were measuring something at Dumbarton Oaks.
DS: Yes, Dumbarton Oaks Park.
PP: That’s what they called that?
DS: Yes. They spent the whole summer down there and I hope they didn’t get poison ivy because it’s down there, this side.
PP: Did I hear something that they were trying to give that back to Dumbarton Oaks at one time?
DS: They can’t build a road in there or we can take it back. If you go up Wisconsin just the other side of where the Holiday Inn and the Institute of Health is, Whitehaven goes down in a dead end. And if you go over Massachusetts Avenue and come up it dead ends there, so there’s maybe two or three hundred feet to break that road through there and they can’t go that way with a road because it’s the Naval Observatory and they’d have to come down here and they can’t do that. Which is good, because if you do that they’d have a road.
PP: It’s a good buffer for you.
DS: Mrs. Bliss is smiling all the time, she is. But down in the park there’s a hump in the upper field, it’s a cemetery, an animal cemetery where she’s got three horses and some dogs.
PP: In Dumbarton Oaks Park?
DS: Yes, up in the upper end of the field. You have to look now because the last time I was up there it was this high around, there’s a big meadow up there, it’s just at the upper end of the meadow. And then the old building down here the park uses for tools; it’s been set afire a number of times. Mr. Kearney said he used to keep apples and that kind of stuff down there.
PP: And she had some stables over there where she boarded her horse?
DS: I don’t know where the stables were but I would imagine they had to be down there.
PP: I heard that she kept it over there somewhere.
DS: It had to be down there somewhere. I’ve never seen anything about the stable but I know she used to ride. She never weighed over a hundred pounds, if she weighed that. She was a little, old, tiny thing, but she was stern and strong. She broke her hip down in Barbados during the winter and in the spring she was climbing around on stepladders [inaudible].
PP: When did she die?
DS: ‘69. Mr. Kearney, Mr. Thacher, and Mrs. Bliss all had birthdays within one week in September. He died in ‘62 right in the middle of winter, I think it was January and she died in ‘69. The Pre-Colombians have got a library that was not finished when he died, in fact they were going to have a big opening about a week after November. Kennedy was shot that weekend and they postponed the opening of those so that was in late ‘62. When Mr. Bliss was – he never saw [inaudible]. Back when they took him out for therapy, they’d bring the ambulance up here, the whole job was done there. We’d been building two buildings and they shut it down, put him in a wheelchair, take him around to both buildings –
PP: So he could inspect?
DS: Yes, and once he got back in the ambulance, they started back away. Let’s walk up this path before we get rained on. We’re going to get a little storm tonight but that’s supposed to be real good. [inaudible] it’s the last weekend. This jasmine was put in here temporarily.
PP: By you?
DS: No, by ten men. Finishing these carvings on here. When I came here they were just – they had a little compressor set on there, the railings weren’t done or anything.
PP: You mean when these were carved [inaudible]. These artisans came from where, Italy?
DS: He was an Italian man, he used to come down and change his clothes in the greenhouse, he had a nice straw hat – no, he lived here in town – straw hat, all dressed up with briefcase and that was his lunch. He did most of this.
PP: Was it Mr. Coles?
DS: No, Mr. Coles didn’t do this section, another man did that but Mr. Coles did a lot, a lot of the elephants. I’ve got the man’s name who did this, he’s dead now.
PP: A friend asked me today about this. She’s not a landscape artist or anything, she said this one looks finished and I said I’ll ask about it. Does the jasmine die back?
DS: No, come January it’s as bright as my shirt. But originally it was put in just temporarily. They probably had a lot of it in the nurseries down there, and when we did it, they did it, at that time it was all bare in here. There was a little ivy down over there and then over the years he’s used to, he’s got terrible—he’d keep weeding and everything and then when I took over I said let’s let that ivy just keep coming over and sometime in the summer we’ll go in and take it just to keep it all pretty. But you need the ivy because when it comes in bloom it’s yellow but the foliage is all gone then. So, if you’ve got that dark green background with that yellow it shows very nice. Of course everybody thinks its forsythia. But we have a lot of it here and out on the street and in the middle of winter there’s this old jasmine hanging down blooming its head off.
These cherries were big trees when I came here and I don’t know why they’ve lasted longer. [inaudible] going to take that leader off over there in half, so they’re going to have to be replaced one day.
PP: Is the only place where you have things, like a nursery, that place by where the parking lot is by the [inaudible]?
DS: No, we can’t have anything too big over there, we’ve got a lot of box –
PP: Something like this you’ll have to –
DS: Go out and buy, but then you’ve got to find something you can handle too. You can’t get a crane in here. Those two little ones right over there, now we could [inaudible] this one. These were here and this one was here and the mag was here. One-two-three-four of the old crabs are still here, we had five big old crabs like that and they just kept dying out. That one there is already to go, it’s all rotted out.
This is a wisteria here that came, when they were going to build Dulles Airport they bought a place called Deck Station, right next door to it and they bought all the property up and one of the men that lived there used to work here and he offered that to Mr. Kearney, it was in his yard. I went over there and I just dug the darn thing and put it in here and it blooms and blooms and blooms. If you look in the [inaudible] seed catalog under vines, you’ll see this wisteria in bloom and you can see the little bit of the royal in it too.
PP: This is Chinese wisteria?
DS: This is Chinese and then we have some Japanese in there too.
PP: There’s one blooming down there.
DS: They bloom, the Chinese bloom a little bit in the summer but not heavy, heavy. They usually bloom real early before the leaves come out and they’ll come back again, and the Chinese – this is Chinese – some of the others up here are the Japanese. They bloom – up until this year they bloomed maybe a week or ten days later. This year they bloomed before this, but we’ve had two real mild, mild winters. So, look out, this one’s coming.
When they first did this wall and all, this was all boxwood where these walls are, and I came at the very end of it. They had already done this, but they took the box out and put the walls in. When they first put the walls in they had – right on this place – they had a fence type of thing that went along in here, and I never knew that. Somebody gave us a collection of slides from 1943 or ‘44 and there’s a picture of the north vista and you could see this. I often wondered what the heck these were, but that’s what they were, a post for that fence.
PP: When was the chain up? Was that a Ruth Havey design?
DS: No, Bob Patterson did this. He took over when Mrs. Farrand stopped communicating with Harvard. I don’t think Mrs. Farrand was too happy when Harvard took over. She still was a great friend of Mrs. Bliss’s, and the Plant Book, that was drawn up after Harvard had taken over. Mr. Thacher asked Mrs. Farrand to do that. But Bob Patterson worked with Mrs. Farrand a lot and he took over as a consultant here then. He was the one that got me down here into garden.
PP: He was out of New York?
DS: No, Maine. Bar Harbor, [inaudible] I assume it’s a little town, [inaudible] office. I worked for his brother-in-law in a commercial greenhouse up there only it was not like this – pulling ragweed.
PP: You’ve come a long way.
DS: Yes, I still pull a lot of ragweed. But you’ll notice the walls are raked way in to give the illusion for the driveway and nearly all our walls and the whole place are like that. And the Garden Committee redid the Ellipse, and they had that big moat around there. And they had the masonry people bring it right out flush, and they spent I don’t know how much time going on drilling it all away. Mrs. Bliss didn’t want—exactly what she didn’t want. She said that’s exactly what I don’t want. That wasn’t [inaudible].
PP: Was she an easy person to work with?
DS: I thought so. She’d come up three o’clock in the afternoon and say good morning and you’d come up around here at 8 o’clock at night and she’d be still running around in here.
PP: So, she was actually out here?
DS: Yes, a lot more than he was. It always looked to me like the Garden Library and the gardens were hers, the pre-Columbian was his and the Byzantine was theirs. She liked the gardens a lot – thank God, where would we be, a lot of us be anyway. But this kind of stuff we’ve had to put in since we’ve gone almost into the public park area. It just gets –
PP: I can’t believe the numbers of people who do come in, just looking out the window, it’s amazing.
PP: Yes, they line up out front.
DS: You should be here in mid-March through April, just before beach season, there’s four or five hundred people standing out on the weekend waiting to come in.
PP: Have you all talked about –
DS: Locking the gates forever?
PP: No, that would probably be everybody’s ideal, but having a limit to the number of people each day. That’s hard to manage.
DS: No, because it’s pretty hard. On a good weekend, on a good Saturday in the spring, we get from twelve to fifteen hundred people. We used to be only open three hours a day, now we’re open four – that was a Constable deal thing too. We used to be closed July and August, and he changed that. There was never any summer flowers back in those days.
PP: It sounds like [inaudible]. He’s gone too?
DS: I have nothing to say. We just replaced these two trees. This will be their third summer.
PP: Had one of them died out?
DS: Yes, one of them had, but the two originals that were both down there were Cedars of Lebanon that were put in here and they were supposed to be, just be let go and even if they come over and touched, that was fine. And then back in 1950, just before I came, they lost this one and they moved the big deodar from around on the street down the driveway and they had a ball line eighteen foot thrust and it was egg shaped and they just got it through there, the green gate there. They had two winch trucks up here, the [inaudible] and they could drive up here, and that’s what they pulled that big tree up with. I’ve got some pictures of Mr. Kearney standing with the ball on a little tree cart, a big old four wheeled tree cart.
And then we lost this Cedar of Lebanon after I came here. We lost that in a hurricane, went right down through there and took out two or three [inaudible] and a couple of hollies. We put a little deodar in there and we practically pushed it in up here on a barrow cart through the [inaudible] to put it in there. And then we had two bad winters. We had never had any problem with this and we had one winter that we didn’t get any freeze or anything in the fall and then in December, boom, that went and it froze tight and a lot of these turned yellow. Then the next year it did almost the same thing and that’s when a lot of people lost the tops, see how the top’s gone out of this. And everybody that had them lost nearly everything they had.
We fooled with this one and kept it cleaned up and cleaned up and then it just started going downhill, so we took that out. By the way, when they were going to build the Byzantine Library here back in ‘75-’76, it was all going to be underground out here and the only difference would be those two trees wouldn’t be here, those big, big, big [inaudible] people picking in their nose and stuff. But when we took these two down, there were no trees here for about three months. We didn’t hear a word from anybody, we didn’t know anything.
PP: They were replaced with the deodar cedars.
DS: The second replacement were deodars. The very first plants were Cedar of Lebanon and the last two were deodars and then these two. That one there –
PP: These are deodars here, aren’t they?
DS: These are deodars here.
PP: Originally it was Cedar of Lebanon? Is it that you just can’t get them in big sizes, is that why?
DS: You can’t get them no way. You can get littler ones now, I think two kind.
PP: And you know how you said it was okay if they would touch. Was that written down somewhere?
DS: Yes, it should be in the Plant Book. Look in the Plant Book under the North Vista and see what her comments are, Diana McGuire, what her comments are.
PP: I was reading just that the other day and she mentions up here that she wants the dark green, like the ivy and the grass and everything and they like the light green contrast of the cedars, that they would be more of a focal point.
DS: What did she say about spruce?
PP: I can’t remember.
DS: When they’re gone, they’re gone, don’t replace them. That’s the only one we’ve got left because the color was off, she didn’t like the colors. That’s the only spruce we’ve got on the property right now. We had another one that got hit by lightening right where the magnolia is. I put that in mainly not for out here so much but – we put that in because we wanted kind of more of a screen from the inside looking out in the winter. When some of these deciduous things lose their leaves they’re not quite [inaudible], so we put that little mag in and there’s also two or three little hollies in behind that to fill that up. The Pre-Columbian is supposed to be standing there just looking out into the woods, not at concrete, at people.
PP: Kind of a jungle feeling, lush.
PP: Yes, and it’s probably good to not see it too much from here too.
PP: Either you love it or you hate it.
DS: But think about it, there’s three stories there and two of them got buried, so all we see is one third of it. They had a hole in the ground –
PP: When we were down there like in Joe Mills’ office we’re underneath that actually?
DS: Yes, you’re on the middle floor, there’s one below that, yes. You should have been here when we were putting in Joe’s lab before Joe came. His office has got a big tack room back there, they had a one piece sink to go in there and you should have seen us trying to get that down there. We had a terrible time.
PP: What’s happening with the building there with all the scaffolding?
DS: We had a big survey all over the building. This building is supposed to be all repainted and waterproofed and I think that scaffolding is putting some other trees or brick or something like that. I haven’t had much to do with that. There’s a fellow from Harvard come down, he went over everything and he even had an architect drawing up plans and she worked here for eight weeks, just kept drawing, take the measurements and keep drawing. There’s a survey about that thick. So, something’s got to be planned with this house, going to be something done.
PP: When you’re talking about the Byzantine Library, originally it was going to be a separate building?
DS: Yes, before they did upstairs, they were going to come out where that downspout is, they were going to come out at the base from the building there out into two floors underground here and would cover nearly all of this one and down in here. They only way they could get in here was to come in through what we call the Bowling Green, that little terrace in front of the Director’s house. That was before they built the cooling tower on some hill then.
I got a price for helicoptering two big deodars in here, 90-inch balls and they wanted $20,000. These were fifty inch and we brought them up through the gate on a forklift and we bowled them up this way. I also have in the nursery – this is a regular deodar [inaudible] – and the nursery took six shalimars which are higher than the regular deodar. And I want to put those in and they weren’t big enough, and I put those instead of them because they weren’t big enough, they were only like that, but heck, they [inaudible].
PP: Who decides what’s big enough?
DS: I don’t know. The Director wanted something big. The [inaudible], think about it now, after ten or five years, that’s why Mr. Tyler who was the Blisses’ godson wanted this library built while he was Director and it didn’t happen.
PP: Is that a set tenure of five years or is that just kind of how it seems to go?
DS: Mr. Thacher was hand picked by Mrs. Bliss and he was here twenty-nine years and then when Mrs. Bliss died, Mr. Thacher retired and Mr. Tyler, who was a godson of the Blisses, it was Mr. Tyler’s father, Royall Tyler, that set up the Byzantine thing with the Blisses. He was a great friend of the Blisses, and he’s the one that helped them set up. If you look through something on Royall Tyler, it’s the second Director’s father. He was a diplomat with the State Department and he retired from there and then he came here. I think he was here eight years or something like that, and then from then on we’ve had Mr. Constable, Mr. Thomson and Angeliki, and they’ve all been Harvard professors. Constable was here eight years, I think it was a tenure of five but he stayed three more and Thomson was here five and Angeliki now is on that, she must be starting on her fourth – I think July 1st she’s starting on her fourth year. So we don’t know who’s coming next. I won’t be here so I won’t ever know probably.
PP: Are you going to go back up to Maine?
DS: Yes. That’s why I’m wet today, I’ve been wet for weeks.
PP: I know, it’s been a great summer, compared to Louisiana.
DS: It hasn’t really been that bad, last year we had eleven days or longer of ninety degrees late in May, and this year I think we only had two, and we’ve probably had fifteen or twenty now. Let’s see, oak leaves and acorns carved here. Mr. Coles did this carving and those magnolias, the magnolias buds and this. He did those, in fact he did those two that’s up on the building and the first two he did, he brought them out and put them out there and Mrs. Bliss looked at them, and she wanted them just a little bit longer. He took those down and cut two more.
PP: Did he also do where the squirrels are in the house and all those animals?
DS: No, I don’t think he did. I don’t know who did that except Sam Yellin did all of these balconies. He might have done those too. Sam Yellin’s name is stamped over on that wall, right hand corner of that one right over there, I think it’s 1922 or ‘23. Now whether he did those inside or not I don’t know. Sue Boyd would know, maybe she would know. This is a [inaudible] garden where the white oak is outside of the Music Room and we have a drop of about eighty-eight feet, ninety feet down to the road.
PP: For example, something like that white oak, what’s the prognosis and how do you deal with it?
DS: It looks three hundred percent better now than it did about five years ago. I think I remember the Music Room was built in 1929. Then they built the Byzantine over there in the early ‘40s. And then they turned around and dug this so we had another one that set right in here not quite as big as that but nearly as big and they had a hole in the ground [inaudible] fifty feet in the ground and we told them you better take that tree down. Oh no, it will be fine, they built the building; we had to take the tree down. We put a crane out on the street and a tree man up there, he cut a piece and they couldn’t even see each other and that’s how it come out.
We’ve had a lot of problems with that and then two or three years ago they went underneath the Music Room and the courtyard where the new garden is, it’s a hundred cubic yards of soil taken out of those places, so that big room down where the Finance Office is, that’s all new. That’s all from that [inaudible]. So, there’s nothing but the wall where the Music Room goes down for this tree to grow in and nothing out that way and it can still come out here. We’ve gone up and trimmed it out a little bit and we’ve still got this big snag here and there’s some more up in there.
PP: You kind of keep it wide and watch it.
DS: Yes, and we get the scale off and it’s sprayed and if you look on that [inaudible] it’s a sprayer and about every three years we’ve been going up and cutting the dead out and it’s pretty expensive. But getting up and getting down is what costs you. Once they’re up there they can do pretty well, but like that big stub there, that’s got to come out of there and look over here on that dead over in there. Everything has to be lowered down and hand carried out. Mrs. Farrand had a place in Maine, eight acres and you could drive around there – not here. But hers wasn’t as hilly as this either.
PP: Are those chrysanthemums in there?
DS: Chrysanthemum weed. We just keep pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling. We could go with Roundup, I guess, but we want to keep the – no, we cut it, dig it out of there. It comes back.
DS: Yes, we just pruned those. We shear those back usually in June or July and we shear them back mainly to keep them in bound. They never bloom much. When we had a bad winter here, in fact, one of the winters that did all the damage to the deodars, we lost seven or eight great big magnolias, but none that – they was all free standing—it was none of those though against the building. Over in front of the Fellows Building, there’s one great big magnolia, there’s another one on the other side where we had a crabapple. It just killed that thing like that because all the wind from the Wisconsin Avenue side blows right in and just knocked the heck out of it.
Notice up on the scuppers, up on each one there’s a little different insignia. There’s goats and sailboats, there’s a wine glass in some.
PP: Is that Yellin that would have done that or maybe a foundry, I guess?
DS: I don’t know whether Yellin did those or not. What’s the old iron people here? Kischner. He did a lot of work here too. But old man Kischner worked for Sam Yellin at one time. But each of those signify, they’re all over the building and each one is different and they signify the different stations that Mr. Bliss was in during the diplomatic service. Which one was which I don’t know, but he was in Sweden and France, Argentina and I think he was in Norway.
These tables and chairs are not – the chairs more or less are – of the Bliss or the Farrand or the Bliss era either. We had some chairs, the same design only much, much lighter and not quite as big in there and we still have two or three of them around here. They’re used as copies. Constable was going to serve tea in the Orangery to the customers, so we had sixteen of these tables made and sixty-four of these chairs made. Then they decided not to do it. So, that’s why you see all these tables and chairs. A lot of them are teak and cypress. There are a lot of them. The same man that’s redone a lot of our wooden benches over the years, he made a lot of those. The chairs are made by a metal worker in [inaudible]. This, of course, is the Green Garden with the black oak, and they called it the Green Garden because it was designed to have a green background for the garden parties in the spring and the fall where the color of the ladies’ dresses would be the color for the parties. The oak is supposed to be three hundred years old and it was dying before I came – it’s still dying. It’s been cabled and it’s got a rod in it. We have tree crews coming in probably next week. We’ve got a cable that snapped last week here, they’re going to put that back and trim some of this back and there’s some dead, we always get dead up on the top. But we put this one in to replace that and we put another one here because this one was dying and it just kept going and going, so we finally took this one out.
But you see that big crack there, that opened up about two years ago, I could put my whole fist in there. We ran some rods in this way and that way and put some cables all on the ends and when we tightened the rods up, it closed right up, but the whole inside is all rotten. There’s been kittens born in there and possums and raccoons live in there and we sandblasted all the metal work out here in ‘79. There’s a bunch of white sand underneath there. We put that sand everywhere just to get rid of it. There was a big chestnut tree over where the gate is, only on this side, if you look at some of the old pictures, there’s a big old chestnut tree and that was gone when I came, but you could see right where that tree was. We just lifted that sod up and we must have put three hundred wheelbarrows full of sand just to get rid of it.
PP: Who’s so creative in deciding what to put in the containers?
DS: Whatever. A lot of it we’ve emptied, there’s the bamboos and a lot of the oranges.
PP: Like the white eggplant? I love that. And the gardenias.
DS: The gardenias, they were given to us. Dr. Link of the University of Maryland called up many years ago, he was getting rid of some junk – and did I want it. I think I hauled three truckloads out of there. That was lot of the big gardenias and some of that [inaudible] sort of thing. [inaudible] you can’t see it now, but not the big blue in the back but those little tiny ones that’s in front, that was a gift. I got that up at Hillwood, up at Mrs. Post’s place.
PP: How about the scented geraniums? Did Farrand love those?
DS: We’ve always had that, we’ve got all of Farrand – Mrs. Bliss loved it. We’ve always kept that. In fact, the shelter used to come up twice a week and get all kinds of those for finger bowls. Of course nobody knows what finger bowls are today and even the White House for a long while, they needed scented geraniums for finger bowls, so they’d call up and I finally gave them two or three plants so they’d grow their own.
PP: They tell me that was one of the few things they had up on the roof, they had some little greenhouse up on the roof with herbs and scented geraniums for the finger bowls so they must be using them.
DS: I think probably one time they had a big dinner for the president of Mexico and Ludy was looking for nasturtiums. At that time we were growing a few in the greenhouse in tubs, we did some this spring but we did those real late, we usually do it early. We use them for pot flowers early in the spring. That was the only one he knew, nasturtium. He’d go out and get two great big bundles. But we swapped back and forth at times. Mostly I’m on the receiving angle. Those guys buy so darn much stuff, they might need two hundred of these and they will buy four hundred. But these were here when I came, these bamboos. They used to be in wooden tubs and when we had concerts or big symposiums or something, we’d drag these big old things into that Music Room, even in the middle of winter.
PP: Did they get dragged into the Orangery?
DS: If you’re here in November, after the first week in November, don’t get in the doorway.
PP: Is it packed?
DS: This and all the pots – all of that down there, everything. There’s enough down there. We started the eggplant, we did that, I think this is the second year. It’s a little something different, the same way with the black pansies. We started using those. Everybody looks at it and thinks all they see is one black pansy or something. Only problem is you get a lot of white fly on them sometimes.
PP: And that’s one ficus plant in there?
DS: I didn’t say it was one, I don’t know how many, but it all grows in that one pot.
PP: Was that part of the original design?
DS: Not the original because this was 1810, but it’s said to have been planted here in the 1860’s when Lincoln was president. When Mrs. Bliss bought this building it was a free standing building.
PP: So, the building wasn’t here in 1810, and they built something else in 1810?
DS: It was built, it was just separated from the house. They built this little hall. This was all free standing. She had a hall added on it and attached it to the house.
PP: This was a flower room in here.
DS: That was a flower room originally. Then they made it into a catering kitchen and put everything in it but a stove, even an icemaker that’s never worked. The only time it’s used is for symposiums, cocktail parties, some nights it was just [inaudible].
PP: When you’re having a bad winter [inaudible]?
DS: We’ve got heat in here. We have our own thermostat, we keep this about forty-five or something like that and then if it’s going to get real cold I’ll kick it up a little. You can get in here, but you almost have to walk down the middle like this. [inaudible], but it’s nice, it’s warm in here. And they wanted little tables and chairs so people could sit and read.
PP: Is it gas heat?
DS: Hot water gas. But before they redid this, many years ago there was an old hot water pipe in here and that took a lot of water, but once you got it hot it was great. We redid the roof of this a few years back. All the beams were rotting out on the building and they were wood. They built a big platform, first they went up and braced everything all that way around, but you could take a pencil, stick it in and you could lose the pencil in there, it was all just dust. They put the braces on there and built a platform in here and took all the beams down, then we peeled the vine off the wall and brought it inside of the platform, hauled that platform just about three feet in here and then as we peeled it off it was taken up right now and put the vine in and out. They put that back, it just went around the whole building. It was supposed to have taken four months and it took about sixteen.
This is all plywood and while they were working on it during the day we’d go up and open that up a little bit so light would come down, there’s all kinds of light come down. This was the landscape architect’s idea.
PP: Those are still wooden beams up there?
DS: No, that’s concrete, they’re cast, but they were supposed to be the color of the wood, like a brown, that’s not. But the only vine we lost at that time was the vines going across on the beams because they came in from both ends, so we just cut them off there. And then, of course, everybody was saying you killed that vine, that vine was never coming back, so they got ready to rehang it, we put stainless steel hooks in, just took it up there and hooked it in there and in three months’ time that thing connected right there. It grows more now than it ever had. We prune it more now. And the windows, the latticework is the original. The fan in those track lights was added with the new renovations. I don’t think they should be in here.
The windows were small panes, like this, like the pull frame [inaudible], only smaller on cypress frames and of course when we used the heat they all went out of shape. This is a Plexiglas type of thing and they claim I could walk on that, I haven’t tried. We get a lot more light in here now and another thing they did, this roof had some nice quarter round tiles – see the tiles in that. This roof was all made up of these beautiful tiles and the landscape architect –
PP: What landscape architect? [inaudible]
DS: You know who it was? Diane McGuire was here then. She took that off and put slate up here to match the main roof, but that tile here – we still have them, they’re all on the property, that tile there went with this wall over here.
PP: So, who is the landscape architect on that?
DS: Meade Palmer. Do you know Meade?
PP: He’s a nice guy.
DS: Nobody’s killed him yet, he’s been around a couple of times. He’s coming here Monday too. I get along good with him. He’s not too swift with sawbush and things like that, but you give him an open field, he likes that sort of thing.
PP: But you all do the horticultural decisions, like the flower borders. He doesn’t meddle with that.
DS: No, he doesn’t. He gave me hell two weeks ago, he said, “You haven’t been in here for a long while.” I said, “Of course we haven’t, every time we could come down here you wanted to go way down around that way and go around it.” But he’s someone you can work with. Like that tree right there, there was an old silver maple in there, an old one, we kept losing a lot of limbs to the storms and I wanted to put either a sugar or a redback in there. Diane was tied up during that time and [inaudible] the silver maples, the [inaudible], which one day they’ll take the silver maples out of there, but anyway she was going down to pick out the silver maples so she flew to Charlottesville. People from Waynesboro came over the mountain to get her, took her through the nursery and she picked out all these silver maples and tagged them and they had to take her – that was five miles from Waynesboro – took her back over the mountain, you can drive there in three hours.
But she picked out this one and I think seven down below and she put a bunch in the – we had some nice – years ago before they redid the Ellipse with what Mrs. Bliss called the Seven Sisters – they were all silver maples. And when we redid the Ellipse we lost two of them because they were in the Ellipse. Then over the years we lost some of the other ones with storms and all so we put tulip poplars back in and we had some nice tulip poplars over there, it was maybe that side and she made us take those all down and we put silver maples in there. But the story I’m going to tell you is that she had this one tagged for here because she was determined there was going to be – so we put it in and come the spring it’s a red maple and it’s still a red maple.
DS: No, [inaudible].
DS: No, but some of the things the way we’ve been pruning, we don’t do it anymore because the trees will look sparser. They’re quite high but if you stand right over here and look out over, you can see where the dark Norway is, then the silvers in the front. We used to keep those down so you could stand here and look over, you could see the mosque and the steeples of the churches on the Calvert Street Bridge and Connecticut Avenue. Those trees in the back of the park have got so high now, so we stopped doing that. But the way – we’ve been pruning that way for years, and she came in here about the last time I was going to prune – it got so the tree people, they’d tie into this tree and work on that one because they were getting so large – and she raised hell the way we were pruning them. But that’s the way we’d been doing it for years just to get that effect. “I have pruned a lot of trees.” She’s probably right, but that wasn’t the way to do it.
But now these things have gotten so big, you were asking why we prune that pear there. We were talking about that pear, we prune that down mainly because from over there that worked right into that same vista – like I showed you the vista from this one, from the swimming pool. We keep that kind of open so from the pool you can see that over there.
PP: Who designed that terrace, the stone –?
DS: The Pebble Garden? That’s Ruth Havey, who was a draftsperson for Mrs. Farrand.
DS: For hours and hours and hours and hours.
PP: And wasn’t the Pebble Garden here kind of a test, wasn’t it, to see how the stones would work?
DS: Yes, the pebbles that are in there. Over here you could see the –
PP: The Urn Terrace.
DS: And this is made of limestone; this was done before I came. But this off of this terrace – you see how the boxwood is over there around the bed? That terrace was the exact same except these were grass walks when I came, we put brick over them, and these beds here were a little wider, and there was a boxwood hedge all the way around the outside there. And then where the ivy is there was a double row of boxwood and in there was grass. You’d walk in there and walk out again, with grass in the middle. But it was pretty and we were shearing box and replacing box, and then I think it was the late ‘50s, Mrs. Bliss wanted to change it to this. We put white gravel in where the grass was for about three weeks and the sun would hit that white stone and phew, we took it out and then we put grass in.
The ivy we had in there was green ripple and shamrock and we already had it. A lot of it was old pot-bound stuff, and we kept losing that so we slowly just replaced it with our own Baltic and this worked fine. Back in about the end of April or so they cut this thing right down. It looked like somebody run a herd of cattle through there, but you have to do it to keep it –
[end of tape 6]
PP: Interview with Don Smith.
DS: September 29, 1992, not November. We’re sitting on the Ellipse watching them trim the top of the hedge. They’ve done the sides and the middle and they’re up on the top of the hedge over in the northwest corner. This is the second shearing of the year, we usually do it in June or July, but usually in June, and then again in September and then it looks pretty good all winter long. Probably this winter or next winter for sure you’re going to have to get up there and take what we call the crow’s nest up, you go up there and cut those big knobs out where we’ve been cutting for two or three years. It lowers the top down a little bit and once new growth comes out it takes it right back up there. But you can get rid of those knobs and you better get them out of there because that’s what you’re going to end up with is a bunch of knobs up there.
It takes the three of them about a week to do it, they trim it and clean it. It’s going to take a little longer this time because there’s only been two of them up there most of the time. This will hold now, this will look like this all winter long now except of course the foliage is going to be gone. But it looks neat and clean all winter long. What else do you want to know about this that we don’t already know?
PP: You’ve got some dieback in some of the trees; tell me about how you deal with the dieback.
DS: Some of them are getting pretty old now and we’re slowly replacing some. If they get really bad like some of those that’s right on this side – we’re sitting on the southeast corner – right down in here, all of the trees, we’ve only replaced six trees in here in all these years so it’s been what, maybe thirty years since these went in here. We replaced six trees and we replaced three last winter and there’s a couple more that’s going to have to be replaced, that big stub right there has got to come out and we keep losing some of the tops, but we’ve replaced some of them; it’s the only thing you can do. Just get some young ones and keep them coming along. There’s still two or three over in the nursery that we’re shaping up now over there so we can just bring them in here.
And one of them that we planted, especially that one over there on the northeast side, when that gets a little bit bigger on the top you can take some of those lower branches off to bring the bottom up to the level of these old trees. But probably over the years now you’re going to have to replace every one of these as they get older. And this tree was picked because it is a twiggy little thing and it has nice leaves and it will take shearing which has proven to us that [inaudible]. A lot of these have been sheared; they’re the original trees and have been sheared – these city ideas. It makes a nice thing. What it would do if it didn’t get shearing, I think it would lose the whole effect of the aerial hedge, it would just be a big bunch of bushes up there, but this works out fine. A little something different and it’s been part of the gardens now since the early ‘60s. And there’s something that Mrs. Bliss did herself. This is no change that was done after she left; this was done – she did this as one of her changes.
PP: Have you always had gravel under the trees?
DS: We’ve always had gravel in here and when we first redid this we put bluegrass in here and of course that didn’t last very long. There’s still a little bit of it over there on that northwest side in that shady area, but there’s always been gravel underneath here. And then in the fall we put – there’s grape hyacinths that have been in here for years and we just let them spread, but along the bottom of the [inaudible] hedge, every year we put not a mixture – but I buy pink, white, and blue little anemone blend, and we put little clusters of pink, white, and blue in here around there. For some reason those things never seem to come back up – some do but not like it should be – so every year I buy whatever it is, I think it’s three hundred total and put them in little clusters here. That makes a nice thing early in the spring in here.
Then there are some narcissus here, the ivy and all which have been in there for years, but most of the color in here comes from the few blooms and the pot plants in the middle. That wasn’t built for a big, color display thing, it was like most of this, this whole garden, most of the color part is in the roses, the Fountain Terrace and the Herb Garden, the rest of them is more of a greenery. Granted there’s some bulbs here and there but it’s no big color splash year around in it, that type of thing.
PP: Do you have any kind of fertilization scheduled for the ironwoods?
DS: The ironwoods, all I’ve been feeding those – I’ve taken Arbor Green which is a slow release the Davey Company puts out, and it lasts for three years. And every three years we come in and we feed this with – we take out a little feeder, make a hole and put a small [inaudible] around in here. Don’t put it down very deep because you’ll lose it all if you go way down deep, all you’ve got to do is a canal, like kind of using eight to ten inches.
PP: When was it last done?
DS: This was done last year. The men don’t like it too well because it grows like hell their first year, but during the wintertime when you’ve got plenty of time and it doesn’t take much and it seems to have done well here.
PP: Do you spray these trees?
DS: We’ve never sprayed them. We don’t do it to – about the only spraying we actually do in here is the roses most of the time, and this year we sprayed the borders with a fungicide, but in the spring I have a spray program with a tree company, you can get the big things, the [inaudible] early in the spring and then they come in about three or four times during the season just mostly for the oaks, elms, and of course we do the boxwood and the azaleas usually in May, that type of thing. And we have had – we’ve hit the hemlocks the last two or three years because we had a big infestation of [inaudible]. We had it quite a few years ago and we sprayed and sprayed and the only thing we really found to keep that clean is using a light oil on it and that’s taken care of that pretty well, especially those down around the greenhouse, even up the driveway, up front here, they’ll come in here. I think everybody was getting that at that time.
But we don’t really spray that much. Franco sprays with aerosols in the greenhouse once or twice a month or something like that to try to keep the preventative instead of the cure, if we can do it. Last winter we had a terrible time, but I think everybody did with the infestation of white fly, especially on the poinsettias and then the [inaudible] come in there from somewhere last winter and we had a time with that. We got it under control, if you keep using the yellow [inaudible], you can keep pretty well track of them.
PP: Can you tell me a little bit about what this garden was like when you first came and how it evolved and who put these trees in?
DS: The garden has not changed much. There’s still an ellipse. It’s much more formal now than it was – big ironwoods and all that around. And then the Garden Committee – and the garden consultant at that time was Alden Hopkins – and this is their plan and Alden Hopkins was the one that brought the ironwoods in. If you look in the folder in the filing cabinet up there, there’s pictures of the scale models of the Ellipse that they made before they even did this. They’re pretty much – other than a few of the stone changes that changed a little bit, I think on the scale model they had a little bit of white and red tile type stuff in here on the flagstone but that was changed. But like everything else around here, when you have fifteen thousand sketches and they might not even use any of them – but there’s always some changes. And there was changes after they first did it, in the greenhouse that newspaper clipping that we framed and put on the board on the wall in there, if you look, you’ll see the picture of the Ellipse when these trees were real small, that’s was April of ‘63, somewhere around there. But you’ll see a picture of the moats that were in here when they first did it and the pool that was in the middle when they first did it.
There was a big overlook out here on the northeast side and that was when they very first redid this. But then a few years later, Mrs. Bliss changed it and we did away with the moats. We added four more trees where the overlook is, did away with the overlook and changed the pool and put this French Provincial fountain down here and originally when I came this fountain set where the Pre-Columbian museum is.
PP: Tell me about the hollies that are just beyond the hedge.
DS: Mostly you’ll see a lot of hollies in here, hollies and hemlocks and some yews, that’s mostly done – the evergreens – for the green in wintertime.
PP: The magnolias?
DS: The magnolias, most of the magnolias and all that are around the Ellipse. All of this planting that’s right around the Ellipse was done when the Ellipse was redone there in the early ‘60s. The magnolias and hollies were put in. Back where those hollies are over there on the northeast side there was two big silver maples in there outside of the American boxes out here. There’s seven silver maples, those two and the ones that run over through the forsythia there. This is what Mrs. Bliss used to call the Seven Sisters. When she redid this they took those two maples down and they put hollies back up in there and then the ones over through the dell. We lost two or three of those and stumps, and they got old so we took those all down and we put tulip poplars in to replace them. There was only five of them in there and they were growing real good and then a decision was made in the ‘80s where the director and the garden consultant at that time to take the tulip poplars down and put silver maples back in there. So, that’s what’s been done there.
But the planting around this hasn’t changed a bit. In fact right in back of where we’re sitting, down here where this bench was right in here, was a huge silver maple down there that we took down when they redid this whole area.
PP: Were you saying that the heights of the holly should be kept lower?
DS: Those hollies are getting up a little too high now.
PP: About half the height from the top of the hedge up?
DS: Yes. I would take – see where Donald’s standing there, see all that growth? I would keep it down. I wouldn’t let them get up as high as that magnolia. I’d cut some of that. You can almost see it, right over on this one here I might take three feet off that one.
PP: The one that’s by itself there?
DS: Yes. And this one here, I’d go up and get some of that out of there and open that because that’s all running into that hemlock.
PP: Would you keep them all about the same height?
DS: Yes. It doesn’t have to be a line.
PP: About six feet above the top of the hedge from ironwoods?
DS: Yes. See where that cut comes in there where there’s kind of a line, I’d go in there and take those off.
PP: Down to where the cut is?
DS: Yes. But you don’t want it formal, formal. You don’t want that taking away from the hedge, you want the hedge – the formal cut of the hedge – you want that to be a formal thing.
PP: So, uneven but not allowed to get too high?
DS: Yes. But the thing is, too, if you go in there and make it formal, formal or let it get too high, you’re going to end up with all the holly up in the air and you’re not going to have anything down below. We’ve added three or four more little ones in here and they’ve grown two feet in the last couple of years and that’s going to fill that screen in. But you’ve got to keep it cut back off your hedge or it’s going to interfere with the growing of the hedge. But when they do the side, the outside edge, they go along and keep that kind of opened up over there just to get the light down into the [inaudible].
PP: When they built the Ellipse down on the mall with the linden trees, did they come in here and look at this or anything?
DS: No. They did that – you mean the skating pond down? No. They were just planted in there. And then, years afterwards they wanted to take them down and do this to it, then they came up here and looked at it. That was not planned to be done like this down there when they put them in, that was done afterwards.
PP: I was down there over the weekend and I noticed that they were taking up all the paving around them and were filling it in with shredded bark. Underneath all the trees, they took up all the paving and there’s going to be bark.
DS: They’re taking that paving all up and just going to mulch it?
DS: I don’t know. Those things might work out. I understood they were having some problems with some of them, but I don’t know what it’s going to look like later on. Those trees are going to be huge, I think, those trunks.
PP: Yes, they’re getting big now.
DS: And the tops aren’t much taller. If they were any taller than this hedge, this is only sixteen-foot high; these trees at maturity only get about thirty-five–forty feet, but those at maturity down there get seventy-five and eighty feet. But, like everything else, when they outgrow it, they’ll pull them out and do it over again with something else. But there are a lot of people who have come in and looked at this and talked to me about it and they use the little leaf lindens – an awful lot of people, for some reason.
PP: I think it’s hard to find ironwoods.
DS: Yes [inaudible]. Waynesboro has some. You ought to call down there sometime when they’re having a truck come up here and get a couple of dozen of little fellows and put them away in the nursery. Then you’ll have. Because I’m sure you’re going to lose some more of these in here over the years. Most of the ones we lost are right here too, right here in this northeast corner, right in this little piece right here – whether they get a little more sun, a little bit more cold or what, I don’t know. Up on the canal, this darn thing, I’ve seen trees up there full across, they just grow wild up there. If there was some way you could get up in there and snag some of the seedlings, but then again, that’s a federal offense, you can’t do that. But they need the water in the summertime when you get hot weather coming. We use sprinklers right in here, soak this right up. That looks good where they’re pruning that top up there, it’s just as level as can be.
PP: Have you used different kinds of water plants in the pond?
DS: Yes. We’ve got nine tails in there, what else have we had? A few years we had a few lotus, that type of thing. The biggest problem is you have to be careful what you use because you don’t have any place to store any of those tropicals. You do have those cannas in here now, this is the second summer on those. They’ve got to be split up, and we just cut those back and put them in tubs and set them in saucers up in the Orangery for the winter; but that’s only four plants. So, you have to be careful most of the water lilies – and some of that pickerelweed – that stuff’s got to be repotted this year. You get that pickerel, take the water lilies out of there or get rid of some of that pickerelweed. You can probably go in there and repot every one of those and get rid of a lot of that pickerelweed and a lot of that flag because that grows like a weed. But you’re much better off keeping big containers because your pools take cleaning.
PP: What about the cannas, tell me about them.
DS: These are some that I got from Pat Nutt up at Longwood. I saw him over at the arboretum. He said that the water – whatever you want to call them – aqua cannas, I guess – these grow in water. I saw him over there and I was at a meeting over there and a while later Pat was there. I asked Skip where he got them; he said Pat had them. So, Pat was there at this meeting and he sent me down some, but they were just little tiny things. We got them last year, way late in July, just little things and they’ve grown a whole lot this year. Like I say, they’re big enough now to be repotted, but you got to work out something to keep them from blowing over because these are so top heavy – the weight, or the tubs or something. That’s the trouble with most of that kind of stuff, it gets so tall. I’d put them in a wide based pot. I’ll put a little weight in the bottom of it and pour a little concrete in the bottom of the pot, you’re not moving them very far anyway, it doesn’t need [inaudible] to lift them because when we move this stuff to bunch it all up in the back they just bring out the ball cart or a hand cart down there and move it over.
But this spring – next spring you should come down and repot these. Bring some plywood down and get some new soil and come down and take these all out and repot them, separate the lilies and get that pickerelweed out of the lilies. You probably could do that this winter sometime, take them up in the garage and do them and then stick them down in the fertilizer shed for the winter, if you want to do it that way. It might be a pretty good winter project. You’ve got to have some room, that’s all, you got to make up some space.
PP: Are these the original benches around the Ellipse?
DS: Some of them are. There’s been two of them replaced and there’s one now over in Moore’s shop. Some of them had been repaired but I think two of them have been replaced, and he’s got one over in his shop now. The whole middle section has gone out – sometimes you’ll get that. I think the Arlington Wood Works built these originally and I think that’s who did the two other ones that were replaced. There’s one missing right here, right now. I think there’s eight down here in all.
PP: Has the ironwood hedge always been around it?
DS: That came in with the planting when they redid the Ellipse.
PP: Did your crew do the planting?
DS: No, we had a nursing crew come in who did that. Small’s Nursery, that’s where we bought the ironwoods out in Norfolk; they’re out of business now. But they did that and somebody came in and we redid that staircase. That staircase didn’t come down here before, like the upper walk that comes along that top up there. That was a walk way down this way.
PP: So, there was no entrance into the garden from that point?
DS: Not a big thing like that.
PP: What was it?
DS: Just a kind of a little catwalk type thing – the one over where Glenn is standing, and there’s another one right over in here. It wasn’t a great big thing like that. When you walked on the outside, the hedge and all was in here and you walked out here and walked around and out that way, and there was a couple of benches set out there so you could sit out there and look out there, but you couldn’t get out there from in here. You had to go out around and walk because this was a huge planting of American box – high, not trimmed at all, it’s just let go. About the only thing that was trimmed was right where you wanted to get in that.
PP: Was it a double row?
DS: I don’t remember. No, I don’t think it was, but a lot of it had gone down and rooted, it’d been in here for quite a while.
PP: When would it have been planted, in the ‘20s?
DS: Yes, yes, when they were doing the whole place. There used to be a house sitting right here when the Blisses bought the property – a big white farmhouse sitting right here.
PP: Where the dogwoods and the cherry is?
DS: Where that big maple is over there.
PP: What kind of a house was it?
PP: It was one of the farmhouses, an old farmhouse that was in here. Somewhere I saw – up there there’s a picture of that. It’s an old white house that sat right beyond this end out in here.
PP: And that was torn down when?
DS: When she took over the property. The [inaudible] was a cow path and all that up in through there. The swimming pool was a stable – up in that area there was a big stable. If you look in the Plant Book, I think there’s a picture of the North Vista, and if you look on the left hand side in that picture you’ll see the stable and you’ll see the Orangery in the background.
PP: What can you tell me about this fountain?
DS: I don’t know too much about it other than it is a French Provincial fountain, it’s one of the few pieces that Mrs. Bliss bought and brought here and it was set up just right there at the north end of where the Pre-Columbian museum is when I came here. The pool itself, the coping was at ground level and the pool itself was underground there. And then when they built that building, we took that all out and put it in storage for a long time and once they redid this down here she didn’t like the fountain they put in so we brought this one down.
PP: Was it the original fountain that they put in when they did the Ellipse?
DS: No, when they redid the Ellipse she didn’t like that fountain.
PP: The old fountain.
DS: You go down to the truck garage, we were down there this morning, where that chipper is. You look back against the wall and you’ll see a great big ring about six foot in diameter, that set in that fountain that they put in there, and there’s little nipples all the way around. There’s supposed to be misty water coming up out of that with a big single jet in the middle, and that thing never did work right. Mrs. Bliss didn’t like that pool and we took it out of there, and then we put this one in and she liked this one. This is a nice fountain. The cover we’re using on here now is the same cover that they were using when I came here. It all comes apart in sections and all hooks up. You put four sections on the ground and then there’s four more goes on top of that and then there’s a big cover on the top of that. It’s all stacked up over there in the property yard in the shed where the [inaudible], that big pyramid pointed gold colored roof thing, that’s the very top of the building.
PP: When does that go on?
DS: Usually in October but we don’t drain that pool out until we’re getting ready to put that cover on. We never leave that inside pool empty overnight because we don’t want people climbing up on that fountain and breaking it. We usually drain that pool down early in the morning and we bring the fountain cover and bring it out. The other pool we drain out and bring that cover and give that a chance to dry a little bit. It takes quite a few guys to get it up there too because especially that top has to be carried up on two sides up on a stepladder. These fellows have done it and they can do it blindfolded, they can almost tell you what goes in what hole and where it has to be nailed and everything else.
PP: When does it come off in the spring?
DS: Usually we try to get all the pools filled and everything by mid-March or something like that, before the cherries and all of that stuff gets in bloom, if we can. If you have some bad weather you can’t. What you don’t want to do, you don’t want snow getting on the thing and freezing on there, so in mid-March, the third week in March or something like that, we’ll get the swimming pool cleaned up and painted and get water in that and clean these other pools up. That’s why I say, if you have a bad winter, you can always come down here and take these and go up there and put them in the garage and repot them up there and then put them in the fertilizer shed where it’s cool for the rest of the winter. That would be a good project for this winter coming, like I say, if we get caught inside for any length of time. A lot of times in the winter it’s just two or three days, if you get all of them inside in two or three days you get pretty well caught up.
And then they go over the equipment, the mowers and all that kind of stuff, and clean them and change the oil and sharpen the blades and put new parts in if they need them. And then if there’s something we can’t do, take it out there to the shop. It’s a good thing to find out about the stuff that’s got to be repaired this fall and then you can take them out there early because if you take them out there in February, March, and April, that’s when everybody else has got theirs out there. And then come March and April when you want yours back, they haven’t gotten to it. When the garage starts going everybody wants to get their machines back and I usually take those things out like in November because I know this is going to have to be done and it’s got to go out there. Just take it right out there and let them keep it.
A lot of people would come in with a new broom, we’ll change this or we’ll change that. No, I haven’t changed much. Some things we’ve had to change, stuff gets overgrown, it gets out of place or something. We’ve had to cut it back or some of it dies and you can’t find those varieties of things anymore, you have to change them. That’s one of the good things about a garden, it’s moving all the time, it’s a living thing. It’s a good job and these fellows, they enjoy doing it and they have a lot of pride in their work. [inaudible] and they’ve done enough so they know how far they can get here and how far they can get there. The only problem with these three doing this, they’re getting older too now and Glenn had his back operated on twice. Donald can’t walk and Jimmy, he’s had back trouble. So, that’s why when they’re doing the sides, especially with Donald’s eyes, I let him use Rigo. Rigo is a good man on this but Donald can’t take any chance of getting anything in his eyes, he’s had those two transplants already, he doesn’t need anything coming in his eye.
So, if some of these young guys are going to stay here, some of them ought to learn how to do this too. That will give them one more thing they know how to do. And if they know how to do it, it gives them a little more confidence. [inaudible] stayed here as long as they have, phew, and I’m sure they could have gotten jobs closer to home especially with all these high tech buildings going up in these suburbs and places like that but no, they all stayed right here. They could handle some of these other jobs, maybe not as the bosses but they know how to do a ‘lot of work and most of those places got guys that if they push the lawnmower, they’re the gardener. But these guys here, they push the lawnmower and all that, but they know how to prune and they know how to do everything. They enjoy doing it.
PP: The staff has consistently been at twelve, I think, for years and years. Is that working out.
DS: A long time, yes. Yes, it works out very well.
PP: Have they ever tried to take away staff from you?
DS: No. I think we had a few more than that years ago, but labor was a lot cheaper. But we have a lot more equipment now than we had before. When I came in we pushed everything – we had one power motor and everything was hand pushed mowers.
PP: Have you always had electric shears?
PP: It would be hard to do this hedge without electric shears.
DS: You could do it, but how long is it going to take you? We used to do all that yew hedge around there with hand shears and then when these little wonders came out – I think we’ve thrown it out now, but that first pair was a little old eighteen-inch thing, but these have worked well as long as they keep them sharp and keep them running and don’t try to cut too big a piece with it. That’s the problem, they try to cut too big a piece. But most of this cutting is just the new growth and you can see how nice they’ve done through here. This hedge would probably do well in a place like England where they don’t get the hot weather and they get plenty of moisture, a lot better than it does around here. I don’t think there’s ever been a name for this area –
PP: It’s between the Ellipse and the Plum Walk.
DS: Yes. But years ago when the big silver maple was there, we’d always sit down by the big maple. But right where the bench, right back of the bench actually where that dogwood is in there, that’s where that big maple – I mean that was a huge thing, that trunk was six foot across. We had to almost split that up on the ground to get it out of there. We worked on that thing for I’ll bet you two weeks breaking up a chunk at a time. When Davey come he took the tree down, they come over with a brand new chain saw, that didn’t last long, they were going to use it on the stump and they tore the chain about the first hour, a brand new – But when they redid this, this walk we’re standing on – this is the original one but from here on that’s a new walk – when they redid that. This walk went right up on that side of the tree and went over like that, it couldn’t come in here.
PP: This is new here. When the Ellipse was done?
DS: Yes. It’s thirty years old now. But to get the Ellipse so they could have this hedge and all out here, they moved that walk in and the walk didn’t – where Don and them are – the walk came over here and down a different bend, it used to go straight across and go up. The walk that’s up there now that we walked on was way down back to where the hedge is. That walk was changed completely. You’ll see it on some of the old plans. And some of this stuff in here, there’s a double flowering mock orange in here and the quince, this was here. The nandinas were there and the julianne barberry was here when I came. These roses were in here when I came, all this down through here were here when I came – the flagstone walk. That’s a yellow single rose, a scotch rose, that’s one of the first roses that will bloom, too. I forget what the name of it is but a little yellow single, that’s one of the very first one that’s ever bloomed. The bench was over there, but all that [inaudible] and all that ivy, that was all added when they redid the Ellipse, but everything down on this flagstone was in here then.
PP: Are the dogwoods doing well?
DS: Yes, they’re doing great. We haven’t had much problems with them and that’s something I’ve tried to do too is keep some of this mag, see where this mag is getting into the dogwood? Try to keep some of that cut back, every once in a while we get up there and I’ve had the tree crew up in the top of this and then they took – this mag came over and was hanging way down in here and we lifted that all up. You can see where we’ve taken some big limbs off of it but it was coming right down on this hedge and we raised that all up.
PP: What kind of magnolia is this?
DS: This is the yu lan, like the one up in front of the Orangery and the little one we put over there, that’s why we put that little one over there because we did have this one here.
PP: What about the [inaudible]?
DS: That was put in, well, I put this [inaudible], this is really just a replacement. We had some in there and we lost them all years ago when this was first done and then I put these little ones in here about three years ago. The angelica was here, put that in there. We had some big ones in there and we had them in tubs. When we first did the Arbor Terrace many years ago we had some big [inaudible] up there, but we couldn’t keep the mildew off them up there. We brought them down here and planted them in here they did well and the mildew never got on them down here for some reason. The same winter that we lost a lot of magnolias and all, we lost some of that [inaudible] and then it’s two years now, this will be the third winter. I put these little ones in here and we’ve got two or three of them here and there’s some up in her yard. She’d like that. Trying to keep it green too, the raccoons get in it and they’re digging it every day.
Plum Walk, I think we talked about that and the yew hedge that was here.
PP: Let’s go up into the Cutting Garden. Have you always had herbs along the wall?
DS: No. We’ve always had a few herbs in the gardens here, we had some mint and a little bit of thyme and a little bit of tarragon, but this herb garden was put in here back when Giles Constable was Director and Diane McGuire and Alan Hopkins was here, that’s when we first put this in. Everybody wanted herbs and we put it in, and Mrs. Everson today, she used them but she’s about the only one. They’ve just grown on and when they get overgrown we cut them all back and let them come again. It’s not used as much as I thought it would be used. I think a lot of people would use them if you’d cut them and take them to them, wash them and deliver them to them but we don’t do that. That’s a little something different.
We replaced this brick walk in here about 1987, I think it was, and we were having problems finding old brick to replace some of the bricks in some of these walks and couldn’t find them. So, we decided to take the bricks out of this one garden here completely and save those bricks to use in all the other walks and we put this walk in here. When these bricks were put in, they’re in a kind of – the side bricks are in a putty in there and then the others, there’s dust and the putty, and then these inside bricks are put in brick to brick and then we put in a dry pack underneath. And then we just swept sand over them and this has held up real good, but it’s also given us all those other bricks to replace them.
And most of this in here is used for cut flowers, and down here on the lower end we always put in some of the perennials and mostly the big perennials we use. Like the hollyhock and the foxgloves, that type of stuff, I’ve grown those up here. Then when we get ready to plant up you only have to carry them from here to over there, you don’t have to lug them way down there in that lower garden. I’ve ordered tulips – I don’t know whether you’ll be doing that after this year – but I’ve ordered three different varieties of the lily flying tulips that we usually put in up at the upper end where the glads are now, and we put those in in November. And then in spring they’ve usually come in bloom just about the time for the symposiums when you need a lot of cut flowers. We use the lily flyers against the darwins because they work out much, much better on bouquets. You can put them in tight and the next morning those things are opened right up, but they make a much better cut tulip than the darwins or the [inaudible] because they are kind of a lot smaller and slender like that. I think there’s three different varieties, I’ll have to check on it, I think West Point is the yellow one, I think a red and a pink or a white, something like that. I usually buy fifty of that just for that particular thing and then if they don’t use them, we use them for the centerpieces over [inaudible].
PP: Are there particular cut flowers you always have in here?
DS: Most – well, we’ve always used dahlias because they’ve never been much good until September, but these are summer grown, the little annual dahlias. And we’ve always grown a little bit of this [inaudible] because this goes good for centerpieces. The [inaudible], we’ve been using that and of course the [inaudible] and all that kind of stuff and the Mexican salvia, that’s a new one for us. Just a little mixture of stuff, that’s all, then of course we’ve always had mums this time of year or a little later we have plenty of mums to cut.
PP: What about these mums in here?
DS: I bought those – they were supposed to be in bloom in September – and use them for cut ones. This a florist mix and there was only like eighteen plants out. I got it out of Thompson and Morgan, but you don’t get too many seed. As you can see, they didn’t bloom hardly but we’ve got plenty down there and we don’t even really have to bother with those. All of this stuff will be taken up except for the [inaudible] and the [inaudible] that’s in here, that stays here and we’ll put some tulips here. That little dianthus, that’s a pretty one there, this is the first year we’ve used that, so next year that should be good for you. Over there, there’s a row and a half of it anyway. This right here, this is the Siberian wallflower and you can use some of these in the borders, but leave some in here. Maybe use this row in the borders in the spring. When you plant up this fall, take some of this and put it in there but leave that little short one over there because that makes real nice cut flowers for the small centerpieces for the Byzantine symposium in the spring and the landscape architecture symposium in the spring. Those make nice plants for those kinds of things.
PP: Have you always had the apple, the fruit trees, the [inaudible]?
DS: When I came there was one on either end up here and one down the sides and then there again back in the ‘80s we went in and they wanted to put all these things back. As far as I know there never was any down in here, there just isn’t any room down here. This one is not bad and they even had one down in here, there’s just no room.
PP: They don’t seem to be doing very well.
DS: They didn’t do any better before.
PP: Too hot against that wall for the nectarine?
DS: I don’t know what it is. We had a nice big one up in there and they didn’t put one back there, and the ones down in the Cutting Garden along that north wall, I don’t think there was ever any – if there were some they were all gone by the time I came.
PP: What about the purple hearts and [inaudible]? They’re nice.
DS: Yes, that’s something a little different. We started that a few years ago. I can’t remember where we first got the [inaudible], but the first couple of years we sowed it too soon to let it go too much and it covered the hedge and everything else – that was too much. All you have to do is just take that and poke it in the ground with your fingers. We usually have one down in here and apparently they didn’t make it and I didn’t put anymore back in. But just save some of those seeds. I’m going to take some of those to Maine with me too. It’s something different, when you use it there’s a lot of comments on it. It’s a little different and there were a lot of people who used the old scarlet [inaudible], this is a nice replacement for it. The scarlet [inaudible] was nice, but this is just [inaudible].
PP: Tell me about the lead –?
DS: The lead systems? About every place I’ve ever gone when Mrs. Farrand has been there you’re going to find a lead system of some type. Originally there was a scupper right up there where the wall ends and there was a lead pipe comes out and you can still see one piece left there and over on the other side too. But what happened there, there were people who stand up on this and climbed up that and broke it off. We still got the pieces of pipe in there. But people come in and they don’t want to go around so they climb up there, walk up there, and climb over that so we’ve taken them down. There’s never been any water in these. A lot of the places here – and I think Mt. Vernon’s got some of them and Longwood have them – they have them with water running in them, kind of a recirculating type thing. But there’s never been any water in these. Good mosquito breeding place.
PP: Any words of advice about the glads?
DS: We don’t grow too many glads. We have been lately because she likes glads, but over the years we never had many glads at all. The Thomsons didn’t have any cut flowers. Thacher didn’t like glads, except he’d go out and buy some every once in a while, a certain color he liked. But Thomsons didn’t have any flowers at all. Constables didn’t use – they used some flowers but not much in the glad. Mainly we put the glads in so she’d have something to use, but then we tried to time it. The first time we did it, it was fine but they all came in bloom while she’s gone, so really I don’t think you even have to worry about glads anymore because she’s usually gone two months in the summer. Depends on who’s here, that’s all. I wouldn’t even buy – I’d just save those glads and dry them up and put those back, I wouldn’t buy anymore. Some of those glads when they dig them up they’re going to be like that, they’re huge. We used a lot of them when they first come in.
What we tried to do this year, and it hasn’t worked out very well – they claim to eight weeks – and we did three different plantings of them and none of them came in when they were supposed to come in. Then the [inaudible] got in them too. They haven’t been sprayed and they should have been. But like I say, we hardly ever spray any of this kind of stuff down here. This was just a bad year for [inaudible] and we don’t usually get any [inaudible] around here at all but a little bit in the roses. I hardly ever get any – if there’s [inaudible] around it will get in the glads but we’ve never had a big, big dose of [inaudible]. We had [inaudible] even was in the greenhouse last winter and I don’t know where that came from. We finally got it under control, we were having a terrible time, but if you use the aerosol sprays in there as a preventative, not a cure, you can take care of it.
PP: I notice that the roof of the shed is missing some shingles. Do we replace those?
DS: Yes, but we don’t have any more, we’ve used all the ones – these are handmade Italian tile and we don’t have any more. In fact, down at this building we took two layers off this backside to patch this. They’re very fragile, all you’ve got to do is throw a rock up there and they’ll break. Some women have a habit of bringing their little ones in and letting them walk on it, that doesn’t help any. I don’t know how you’ll ever get them to match, you can’t go out and buy them. They’re not flat either, these –
[end of tape 7]