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The Green Garden

Stepping through the doors of the Orangery, one is delighted by the sight of a majestic southern red oak tree. Fittingly placed as a testament to the namesake for Dumbarton Oaks, the tree canopies the Green Garden: the highest overlook on the property. The directional pull of the room is toward an outlook where a sloping view of the garden terraces as they descend the slope, as well as the Adams Morgan neighborhood beyond. The dichotomy between urban neighborhood and designed wilderness provides a sense of the “country house in the city” aesthetic so desired by the Blisses.

One of Farrand’s first projects with the Blisses, the design for the Green Garden was drawn from the land and its character, an area that was once used as a barnyard by the Blounts. Farrand replaced the farm wall with the current latticed brick one in 1925. The wall is both an enclosure of the Green Garden room, and an object that beckons a viewer to its edge. Viewing the estate from this perspective allows one to experience the guiding design principle of the property; a whole, single, complete garden, conceived from a constellation of rooms, rather than separate elements.

The wall also holds an inscription designed by Mildred Bliss and Ruth Havey in 1933 and installed in 1935. The tablet begins, “May they see dreams springing from the spreading bough,” and is dedicated to Farrand’s work at Dumbarton Oaks, and her incredibly close relationship with the Blisses.

Since its conception in 1921, the Green Garden has remained a significant room in the garden for a century. Initially, it was a space used for entertaining private guests during the warmer months. As Dumbarton Oaks transitioned to serving as a public-facing institution the Green Garden remained a place for reception and retreat. The Green Garden room is an evocative introduction to the gardens as a whole—it has a welcoming presence, beckoning a visitor to explore.

 

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