About the Urn Terrace

Drawings Historic Photographs

Located east of the Orangery, the Urn Terrace is a long, narrow rectangular garden running lengthwise north to south. The size and shape of the terrace is dictated by the proximity of the Beech Terrace on the west and Rose Garden on the east. The space is also bisected unevenly by the staircase that leads from the Orangery to the Rose Garden. The portion south of the stairs remains much the way Beatrix Farrand planted it, with low, simple, straight lines of boxwood plantings and a single teak bench. However, Ruth Havey significantly modified the rest of the terrace.

Beatrix Farrand originally designed the Urn Terrace as an entry point and overlook into the Rose Garden. To keep the views in the Urn Terrace from competing with the riotous roses in the terrace below, Farrand planted a green palette of grass and small boxwood hedges of no more than a foot in height. Her boxwoods surrounded the central focal point of the terrace—a carved stone reproduction of an 18th century French terra-cotta vase on a column. Frederick Coles created the reproduction in 1929.

Between 1954 and 1960, Ruth Havey made considerable changes to the northern half of the terrace. She began by removing the boxwood hedges and the rectangular panels of grass that flanked the urn. Havey replaced them with a curved Rococo parterre planted with ivy. The central panels were paved with gravel, although sometime later they were replanted with grass. The walkways through the terrace were paved in brick.

With Mildred Bliss’s permission, Havey used the Urn Terrace as a testing ground for the larger Mexican stone mosaic she was constructing for the Pebble Garden. At the base of the urn, Havey placed a circular pebble-paved panel with cornucopia details and small beds of sedum. Vincent De Benedetto helped her visualize and lay out the design. Later, Havey used the pebble technique and pattern on the finalized Pebble Garden mosaic.

Urn Terrace, with vase looking northeast (1) Black and white photograph of Urn Terrace with vase looking northeast in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington, D.C.