Miscellaneous Garden Designs

Drawings Historic Photographs

The Dell

The informal woodland that falls between the research library in the east and the Fellow's Quarters in the west was previously known as the Dell. The hilly woods still remain, but are infrequently called by any official name. Because the Dell abutted the Service Court and was never a part of the public garden space, Beatrix Farrand envisioned it as a low-maintenance forested expanse.

Within the Dell, a service path winds east-west through the hills. Deciduous and evergreen trees are intermixed, with undergrowth of small flowers. The Acorn House, home to many Dumbarton Oaks staff over the years, is located in the northern stretches of the wood. Between the Acorn House and the current Research Library is a small hollow between the hills where Robert and Mildred Bliss created a second pet cemetery for their beloved animals, after the first resting place became a part of Dumbarton Oaks Park in 1940.

The Elm Terrace

The Elm Terrace refers to a garden area that still exists but is no longer defined as a distinct designed space. The area immediately north of the Beech and Urn Terraces was not a part of the original scheme of terraces that Farrand planned in 1922, but it served as a connecting space between the terraced gardens, the balcony over the Tennis Court, and the Swimming Pool and Loggia area. A large elm was growing on the sloped hill east of the terraces and the balcony; it can be seen in Rudolph Ruzicka's 1935 sketch of the gardens, and it was still growing in 2000. Because the Elm Terrace was a go-between space rather than a strictly designed garden room, today it is simply comprised of the elm and the paved balcony overlooking the Pebble Garden. The elm has since died, and the terrace is no longer called by a distinct name. Rather, it has been absorbed into neighboring designs.

Fairview Hill

Fairview Hill is the informal name for the hillside sloping toward Dumbarton Oaks Park from the terminus of the North Vista. The area is bordered on the south by the drive leading east from the Service Court, the western boundary wall of the gardens, and Dumbarton Oaks Park in the north. The Forsythia Dell plantings creep up the hillside on the east. By virtue of its placement, Fairview Hill is fairly isolated. Farrand provided very little strict direction for the plantings on the hill. The primary points of interest are a number of trees, mostly maples and poplars, and a curved stone bench, originally designed for the Forsythia Dell in 1934-35 but placed on Fairview Hill in 1939. From Fairview Hill, the view north looks over the sites of the Wall Garden and the Hazel Walk, neither of which are extant, and out of Dumbarton Oaks to the Clifton Hillside.

The Trompe L’Oeil

Ruth Havey designed the Trompe L’Oeil, also called The Perspective, for Beatrix Farrand’s office in 1937-1941. The ornamental panel offered a false vista at the end of the path east from the Lilac Circle. The path, called the Orange Walk on a 1923 Berrall survey, terminated in front of the Trompe L’Oeil. The panel featured a central image of a fountain constructed of abalone shell mosaic surrounded by polychromed cypress and iron. Carved decorative swags and a lyre topped the false vista. Simple panels of wooden lattice on either side of the central design distracted the eye from the steep drop behind the fence to Lover’s Lane. At the base of the Trompe L’Oeil, Farrand planted chiloe strawberry and honeysuckle. Osage Oranges flanked the design.

The Trompe L’Oeil did not stand up well to the elements. In 1954, Havey set about repairing the abalone shell. Mildred Bliss preferred to replace the shell with mother-of-pearl, but the switch was not completed. Repairs were necessary again in the 1970s and 1980s. Today the Trompe L’Oeil shows signs of wear, especially in the fading of the paint.