By Stephanie Boyle, Director of Education, and Jerry Foust, Historic Site Director
Summer in Washington, DC can be a roller coaster with weather oscillating from arid to humid, cool to hot, and dry to wet. It’s hard to know what the weather is from one part of the day to the next. Nevertheless, the gardens at Dumbarton House, your National Headquarters, grow on. The spring flowers and trees in bloom have given way to a more verdant palate and the summer season has brought a greater number of people out to enjoy the site.
As June is coming to a close and July is set to begin, a number of blooms dot our landscape. The feature flora for June right now is the Monard Didyma (Bee Balm). Native to eastern North America, it was made into tea by Native Americans and European settlers to alleviate fevers and chills. The leaves emit a minty aroma and the bright scarlet tubular flowers entice the senses in our herb garden. But the bee balm is not alone in the herb garden; foxglove, primrose, cat mint, and Greek oregano are all flowering in the herb garden as well.
The Hibiscus Syriacus (Rose of Sharon) is another bloom to which we are being treated. The North Garden is anchored on the northwest corner by our huge Rose of Sharon tree and it is loaded with blooms. Our “Red Heart” variety features white trumpet shaped flowers with a ruby red center and although it is a favorite of hummingbirds, I have yet to see one feasting on the nectar of this beautiful tree.
The birds are not the only ones enjoying the peace and tranquility of our gardens however. We have a bunny (nicknamed Ninian) who has taken up residency in our North Garden. It can be seen running around and munching on clover in our backyard most every day of the week.
Before the school year ended, we welcomed 5th grade DC Public School students for our Farm to Table field trip where students learn how food travels from the farm to kitchen tables in the 1800s and today. During their trip, they take an interactive tour of the herb garden and plant seeds to take home. This program integrates science, social studies, and nutrition to teach students about food production, healthy eating, and recycling.
During the spring and summer we make full use of the grounds for public events as well. Our Sunday yoga series, now in its 5th year, kicked off in June and will continue through August. This is a great way to engage our local neighbors and get them to see Dumbarton House as a beautiful oasis in the bustling city.
Dumbarton at Dusk, our evening third Thursday program, is another way to open our grounds and museum in the evening. Attendees have the chance to tour the museum and then enjoy the North Garden for music, food, and drinks.
And finally, one of our favorite outdoor programs, the Jane Austen Film Festival, kicks off in July with Wednesday evening showings of 5 Jane Austen Film adaptations. Each year this film series brings 1,000+ guests to Dumbarton House to enjoy our beautiful gardens and grounds!