Georgetown Gardens 101
“The garden is simple in layout, with chaos in the beds.” That’s Gwendolyn van Paasschen describing the plantings in her own exquisite garden. I was lucky enough to have this master landscape designer accompany me on the 87th Annual Georgetown Garden Tour.
After apologizing for my floriculture and horticulture illiteracy, we began our journey to eight private gardens. From blooming onions to espaliered gingkoes, and all manner of mulch, with Gwendolyn, every window box and climbing vine along the way had something I’d never noticed before, much less its Latin name.
If nothing else, I will remember the difference between pleached (interlaced branches or vines to make a hedge) and espaliered (a tree or shrub that’s been trained to grow in a flat plane against a wall or trellis, often in a symmetrical pattern).
In the Italianate-inspired garden with sunken terraces, clipped Japanese maples, complex stonework and koi pond, Gwendolyn remarked, “Beatrix Farrand would be comfortable with the creative patterns of brick and flagstone here.” Farrand, the sole founding female member of the American Association of Landscape Designers, was the designer of Dumbarton and many other well known and important early 20th century gardens.
'Honest and intimate' is how Gwendolyn described “this space designed to be lived in rather than for showing off.” There’s a hammock, an eclectic collection of garden pots and the sound of water eminating from the water feature delineating sitting and dining areas.
The mature, deciduous dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in 'The Architect’s Garden,' a Chinese native originating 50 million years ago once thought to be extinct but living specimens were discovered in 1943, in Moudao, China.
This garden was more about structure and balanced layout plants with its grass-covered steps and steel risers, the repetition of grays, blacks, and whites, and unadorned lap pool. Taken all together, this is a composition where everything works. The perfect place to entertain or to sit quietly with a book.
For a magical walk down thirty eight of Georgetown’s garden paths, check out the recently published Gardens of Georgetown, proceeds of which benefit local organizations, with emphasis on the preservation of gardens, parks and green spaces.