Discovering the Smithsonian Ripley Garden
Discovering the Smithsonian Mary Livingston Ripley Garden was one of those delightful, unexpected surprises. After a long day of walking in Washington, DC, my son and I needed to rest our weary feet. It was past closing time for the museums, but the long summer days beckoned us to keep exploring the city with the couple hours of daylight we had remaining.
As we walked down the National Mall toward the Washington Monument, we happened across this charming garden. The welcome site of shade, benches and a fountain at the entrance were an invitation for a rest and recharge. Tucked between the Hirshhorn Museum on the left and the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building on the right, we walked through the cheerful entrance flanked by two cutout playhouses. We weren't expecting anything beyond what we could see from across the street - a place to sit in the shade. After all, the Arts and Industries Building had been closed for many years, and is currently under renovation again, so we have always walked right past that part of the Mall, perceiving it as kind of a dead space. But it turned out we were wrong!
Just inside the entrance, we found raised brick planter beds sprayed with a proliferation of colorful, flowering blooms. Late June was a good time to see many summer flowers at their peak. The annual and perennial plant assortment ranged from common to unusual. Handy plant labels made it easy to identify the plants names for purchase in my own home garden. The thoughtful combinations of colors, leaf shapes, and plant heights bore the marks of a talented gardening crew, who are as much artists as they are horticulturists.
Garden ornaments provided even more visual punch.
I had suddenly forgotten that my feet were aching. The bends of the garden's curvilinear pathway hid each niche from view. But the floral splendor was so enticing that the only way to see what surprises were around the corner was to ignore the sore feet and keep walking.
My son and I were not alone. Birds, bees and squirrels knew they had found a private little haven, too.
Our continued pursuit was rewarded. Around the bend we found unique presentations of garden art, like this succulent wall.
The garden walk gave me plenty of inspiration for our own home garden. I wished my mom, a talented gardener who lives in the Midwest, had been with me to enjoy it. Since she wasn't there in person, I did the next best thing - I shot frame after frame from different angles to share ideas for her own garden in the short amount of time that we had.
We finally reached the end of the path which exits onto Independence Avenue. I could have spent hours photographing the plants and sitting near the fountain, but we knew it was time to get going. We will definitely come back again. I'm looking forward to stopping by at another season to see the different types of plants on display in spring, winter and fall.
Tuesday tours are available. Check the website here for more details.