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From the Archives

Posted On April 04, 2013 | 16:15 pm | by noahm | Permalink

“We shall hurry back so as to be here to watch the garden put on its spring garb.”

Robert Woods Bliss wrote the above to his friend Royall Tyler on March 7, 1934 from Montecito, California. Bliss had retired from his foreign service posting as U.S. Ambassador to Argentina in April 1933, and the Blisses had returned to Dumbarton Oaks to take up full-time residency for the first time that May. March of 1934 was the first time that they would see the spring bulbs and forsythia begin to bloom at Dumbarton Oaks, the direct result of Mildred Bliss’s long-distance partnership with Beatrix Farrand in the design and planting of the gardens that had begun in 1921.

Royall Tyler also would make his first visit to Dumbarton Oaks in June of 1934. Upon his return to France, Edith Wharton, the mutual friend of Tyler and the Blisses, wrote her niece, Beatrix Farrand, on July 3:

Tyler family is staying “under my roof.” Also Mary Berenson, on her way to I Tatti. Royall is very full of his American tour, but he talks much less of the New Deal than of – the Bliss garden! On that subject he is insistent & lyrical, & yesterday he wound up his second or third account of it with: “It’s worthwhile to cross the ocean to see what your niece has done.” So there!

And four days later, on July 7, Wharton again wrote Farrand:

Royall Tyler, who has just left, says that Mildred is spending the whole summer in Washington in order to enjoy your garden. He did not seem to think it an excessive price to pay for that privilege, but I own that, with the temperature here at 80 today, I should be unequal to it myself.

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives retains copies of this correspondence as well as 305 historic black-and-white images of the gardens, ca. 1928–1934; 1,025 color transparency images, ca. 1960s–1980s; and 1,298 color digital images, ca. 1990s and later.

Brick walk with daffodils (1)
Digital color photograph of Mélisande's Allée leading to the Lovers' Lane Pool, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington, D.C.