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A Century in the Gardens

In June of 1921, Beatrix Farrand began her work designing Robert and Mildred Bliss’s home in Georgetown. Writing in June of 1922, about preliminary plans, Farrand recognized in the property and her clients a garden of possibilities: “The Oaks offers opportunities for development on so many different lines that it is difficult to know which to emphasize most strongly in the beginning.” Farrand goes on to detail a vision that she would come to work on for the next twenty years.

The Garden Centennial recognizes a century of stewardship and preservation of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens through celebrations and exhibits. We will explore the different ways the gardens and landscape as a work of art has been utilized, with thoughts on the next hundred years. Using digitally accessible materials, curatorial newsletters, and in-person exhibitions, the Garden Centennial commemorates one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

Banner photographs by Sahar Coston-Hardy


A Virtual Walk through the Gardens

The digital exhibitions of each garden room, released on a monthly schedule, include design timelines, object and archival highlights, as well as new narratives of the place so many of us know so well. The exhibitions follow a progression through the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, suggesting a walking tour of the garden rooms.


Writing the Gardens

Accompanying the garden room exhibition is an essay series in the Oaks News drawing on scholarship from a range of disciplines, revisiting materials from the last century, as well as notes from the curators on the process of curating the Centennial. Read the most recent articles below, or browse the entire series.

Dec 03, 2021

The Formation of the Garden and Landscape Studies Program (1952–1991)

Transforming Mildred Bliss’s vision into an academic program
Nov 02, 2021

Nurturing the Gardens: The Dumbarton Oaks Greenhouse

Cultivating and caring for plants year-round
Oct 07, 2021

Choreographing Moments of Repose in the Gardens

Preserving historic furniture designs, from sketches to 3D computer models


A Celebration in Print

In addition to the digital exhibition, Dumbarton Oaks is publishing two books that both honor and celebrate the gardens. One, by Jonathan Kavalier, Director of Gardens and Grounds, revisits Beatrix Farrand’s Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks, while the other is comprised of eight essay contributions on the concept of “the garden as art” and a series of newly commissioned photographs by landscape architecture photographer Sahar Coston-Hardy. 


Garden as Archive

As Dumbarton Oaks looks forward to reopening after a year of closures due to COVID-19, the Centennial will have in-person exhibitions in the galleries, as well as the Catalogue House in the gardens celebrating the Bliss-Farrand collaboration, alongside the designers, artists, scholars, and humanists who have spent time walking its many paths.