Friday, July 7, 2017

Zoning Out at the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Both before and after my trip to the 2017 Capital Region Garden Bloggers' Fling, friends asked me whether I'd get anything out of it given the significant difference in the climate of that area and mine in coastal Southern California.  To tell the truth, I had some concerns there too.  So when I discovered the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden on the National Mall in Washington DC on the first full day of the Fling, I was delighted to see many plants that are as at home in my USDA zone 10b garden as they were in this zone 7a garden.  Actually, many of the plants in the garden considered annuals or exotics there are perennials in my climate.

Other than the Franklinia, all the tagged plants here - Brassica oleracea 'Lancinato' (dinosaur kale), Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea', Ocimum basilicum 'Magical Michael' and Phygelius 'Yellow Submarine' - will grow in my climate, although some want more water than I'm generally willing to provide


The half-acre Ripley garden is situated between the Arts & Industries Building and the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden on a site that was originally targeted for use as a parking lot.  Architect  Hugh Newell Jacobsen created a curvilinear design featuring raised planting beds that provide a sense of enclosure and a welcome respite from the crowds that fill the National Mall.  Mary Livingston Ripley was the instigating force behind the creation of the garden, constructed in 1978 and subsequently named after her in 1988.



I relied exclusively on my light-weight point-and-click camera on this trip so many of my photos aren't as sharp as I'd like but I hope they give you a feel for the space.  I followed a roughly counter-clockwise path through the twists and turns in this garden, although I jumped around a bit when something grabbed my eye so I can't claim that my photos flow in precisely the same fashion as the garden.

The Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' front and center in this area clinched the fact that I was going to find a lot that was familiar in this garden.  I grow several Yucca, including this one, as well as Senecio mandraliscae and lavender.  I'm not growing Calibrachoa at the moment but it's a common short-lived perennial here.  I've given up growing Nepeta, but only because the neighborhood cats eat it to the ground.

The Yucca, Artemisia, Cotoneaster, and Salvia nemerosa shown here will all grow in my zone.  So will the pretty red Caladium, although I don't think it'd do well in a full sun position in my garden and its thirst might exceed the water available to it.

There's no chance I could grow the herbaceous peony shown here (no longer in bloom),  I haven't had much luck with Asiatic lilies either but, again, that's a water issue.  The other plants in this vignette - Bidens, Veronica, bronze fennel, and Nepeta - do fine in SoCal's climate.

I fell in love with the Crambe maritima on the left but was disappointed to read that it's not suited to my climate - it seems difficult to find large-leafed plants that are.  The hybrid Itoh peony in the center is theoretically possible to grow in SoCal and I know gardeners who've had success with them but that doesn't include me (although I've yet to wholly give up on the one plant I have).  The Yucca rostrata shown here on the right and in several other locations in the Ripley garden have me asking myself why I've never planted it.

Allium, Echinacea, Nepeta, Santolina rosmarinifolia, and Verbena bonariensis were repeated at intervals in this section.  Neither Alliums nor Echinacea do this well for me but they're common in SoCal.

I thought the coral Phygelius here nicely echoed the color of the flowers in the distance


The center of the Ripley garden is occupied by a large fountain and an even larger circular planter.

This was described as an antique Acanthus Fountain constructed of cast iron sometime between 1850 and 1900

Here's another Yucca rostrata!  The other interesting plant in this bed is Solanum quitoense, which I've been tempted to try growing in my own garden.  Its good-sized leaves have velvety purple hairs and purple thorns.  It fruits too, although summers in my area may be too hot to support production.

This is the same bed, photographed from the other side


Beyond the fountain, the path narrows and directs the visitor to the left along a curving path toward an exit in the back.

This bed and the planter contained silver and blue-toned succulents and Dichondra 'Silver Falls'.  I've noticed that many Texas bloggers use this Dichondra extensively in their gardens.  I've added more to my own but I think I'm missing out in failing to use it where in can spill down like water.


This vertical planter containing succulents has a good sized Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' in a pot at its base.  My own Furcraea looks sad by comparison but that's my fault because I've moved it around looking for the right spot for it, which I still haven't found.  If planted in the ground, the plant can get huge in SoCal.

This photo shows how the garden wends a winding path to another street on its far end

Much of the area at the back end of the garden was quite shady.  While I do grow a few hellebores, the ferns and hosta wouldn't be happy in my garden.  I admire the Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) but its water requirements pose an impediment to planting it in my garden.


At this point, I moved back in the direction of the front of the garden.

This meadow-like space with an ample planting of pink yarrow also included a bug hotel

This photo shows the middle of the garden as I approached it from the back section

I'm not sure what the pretty strappy-leaved plant in between the peony and Geranium was - Eucomis maybe?  If that's the case, it's worth growing for the foliage alone.  I was gratified that 2 of the 3 I planted years ago returned after our winter rains but it's not this robust.  I do grow Acanthus mollis (shown on the right) but it too wants more water than it's been getting in my garden.

Soft yellows and lavenders punctuated many of the planting vignettes in the Ripley garden

A subdued but effective plant combination for a shady location.  I'm not sure what that chartreuse shrub is but it provides just the right degree of contrast

Asarum splendens makes a great ground cover.  Regrettably, I've not a chance of growing that.

This combination with the hosta and hydrangea is beyond my reach as well.  I've tried planting Lonicera nitida, which I think is the plant hanging down over the planter's edge on the left, but it's remained puny in my garden.

The hybrid Cistus here, 'McGuire's Gold', reminds me of one I planted recently ('Second Honeymoon') and I love the Carex comans 'Frosted Curls', shown on the right and planted in other locations throughout the Ripley garden.  I'm determined to try that grass-substitute in my garden if I can find it.

This photo brings us back to the very front of the Ripley garden, where the dedication plaque is located.  There's more Yucca rostrata here, as well as Bidens, Portulaca and succulents.  I was drawn to the bright, orange-flowered plant on the far left, which is Jacobinia chrysosthephana, a tropical I find I could probably grow, provided I'm willing to spare it the water it needs.


I certainly can't grow everything I saw in this garden but there was a surprising amount of plant material that is or could be perfectly happy in my area of Southern California.  I loved the exuberant mix of plants I saw in the Ripley garden and it has me looking at my own plant combinations from new angles.  And isn't that exactly the purpose of a garden tour?

In closing, here are some close-ups of some especially pretty flowers, clockwise from the upper left: Lilium asiatica 'Soiree', Jacobinia chrysosthephana, Echinacea 'Leilani', and noID Aurelian lily

There are many more Garden Bloggers' Fling posts to come as I slowly wade through the 900 photos I took.  Stay tuned!


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. Oh, I enjoyed this post, your photos and commentary, so very much! I spent most of that day in a virus- and heat-induced near-coma, so my own thoughts while wandering through here were scrambled. You got so much out of it, and you communicated it so well. Thank you! I think the chartreuse plant is Aralia cordata 'Sun King.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember feeling wilted myself when our bus arrived at the National Mall, Alison. That was the worst weather day of the entire trip I think. I think you're right about the Aralia - thanks for the ID! Monrovia claims I can grow it, provided I give it enough water, but then they claim I can grow Itoh peonies too.

      Delete
  2. Great tour of Ripley garden - thanks for sharing it, Kris. DC gets heat, but also lots of humidity, so they can grow tropicals well. My favorites were the Bug Hotel and the vertical succulent planter, which looks like a textured quilt. Nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That vertical planter was nicely done. Pinterest posts on the Ripley garden show that the planter has gone through a transformation since it was originally created. Perhaps they update it with the seasons.

      Delete
  3. Looking forward to more DC & environs Fling posts, but what an engaging start! This Smithsonian garden was one of the first stops on my last DC garden trip seven years ago. I remember it as pure pleasure: packed full of mostly new and interesting plants, well grown. [That chartreuse shrub looks like a very young Aralia 'Sun King', but maybe not, considering how big that gets. The purple-leafed tropical is almost certainly a Eucomis, which the Ripley and other downtown gardens were using a lot of, particularly 'Sparkling Burgundy'.]

    Most plants there are probably new since that visit -- shamefully long considering it's only three hours away. But even from this close, DC's dramatically lower elevation and warmer winter temps mean that we hillbilly visitors have to make some zone judgments.

    The week of the Fling featured unusually clear air and moderate temps here; it's always hotter in DC, but hope it was a relatively low-humidity week there too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only day that was really uncomfortable from a weather perspective, at least for those of us used to having our heat served up on the dry side, was that first full day on June 23rd, Nell. Given the traffic to the National Mall and back to Reston, I can appreciate the difficulty of day trips into DC, although LA traffic is worse yet in my opinion. However, we were lucky to be able to leave the driving to a bus driver! I know I'd visit The Huntington Gardens and the LA Arboretum more often if I had a bus driver to deal with the traffic through downtown LA.

      Delete
  4. Most excellent post, Kris!

    My very favorite is the Dichondra argentea and other blues/silvers in the urn, très chic!

    Y. rostrata is a good one, I think you need it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't recall seeing Yucca rostrata for sale locally but maybe that's because I usually don't usually look at plants sold in huge pots. The hunt begins (although I suppose I should identify a spot for the plant first!).

      Delete
  5. A great detailed tour with lots of ideas to translate into my climate too. I am already considering how to copy that urn with dichondra.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking maybe I need to buy a really tall pot just to have something I could plant with a trailing 'Silver Falls' Dichondra, Shirley!

      Delete
  6. What a treat it is to see the fling gardens through a variety of lenses! Yes, you need a Yucca rostrata or three and Solanum quitoense is such a cool plant that will grow huge. Sounds like it's time for a trip to a nursery:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Finding the Yucca may be a challenge, Peter. A quick search of possible local outlets yielded nothing so far, although Plant Delights will provide one in a 3.5-inch pot by mail order. I'm not sure I have the patience to wait years and years for it to grow to a landscape-worthy size, though. On the other hand, Annie's has that Solanum and she has a sale going on this week so that order is already in the works!

      Delete
  7. I'm so glad you found lots of transferable ideas. And though I've been growing Crambe maritima for years, I have to admit I've seen it look a lot better in other gardens, including this one you visited!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know I thought I'd recalled you mentioning that Crambe in one or another blog post, Denise. I was surprised when the Sunset guide cut its range off at Sunset zone 17.

      Delete
  8. Kris, I loved your tour and commentary of the Ripley Garden. Glad you identified the Brassica oleracea 'Lancinato' (dinosaur kale). I failed to take note of plant names, so appreciate your thoroughness. Nice you picked up many ideas for your own garden here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was just lucky that my camera picked up many of the plant tags, Susie. Otherwise, I would have been doing a lot more guesswork.

      Delete
  9. well done Kris ! I have to say that I always enjoy visiting public and private gardens on the east coast in spite of the fact that there are so many plants I just can't grow well here-including the tropicals that they grow as annuals. My nights are too cool.I have been pleasantly surprised by some things I've tried .I am mad for Crambe maritima but I'm damned if can find one-even Annies doesn't have it. A friend has told me it's easy from seed. Y. rostrata--aren't you about due for a trip to Seaside ? I bet they have it, and also the nursery north of SB --Terra Sol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Seaside and Terra Sol are good ideas for the Yucca search, Kathy! I usually make one of my a semi-annual visits there in the fall.

      Delete
  10. The Mary Ripley Livingston Garden was my favorite of all the gardens we visited on the National Mall that day Kris. Mixed borders always get my attention and this one didn't disappoint. And what a great location with that great red brick building as a backdrop! You captured it perfectly. Fortunately the weather that first day didn't hang around for the rest of the weekend. Humidity like that can be tough-even for a lifetime east coast dweller like me. BTW, Dichondra is one of my favorite "spillers" in mixed containers. It cascades perfectly and puddles on the ground around the base of the pots.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I admit that I felt like I was melting that afternoon, Sue. Re the Dichondra, I have a succulent planter hanging from a tree that I'm thinking is in need of an overall, which could be just the thing to show that plant off. I just need to find a new liner that the birds won't tear to shreds when gathering nest material.

      Delete
  11. An excellent post about the fling, almost like we were there as well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great garden and worth a visit, virtual or otherwise!

      Delete
  12. You've done such a great job of capturing the richness of the Ripley Garden; it is such a gem. When I'm in D.C. for a day, I like to spend some time there, just hanging out on a bench with a book and soaking in the peace and beauty tucked away there. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kept thinking that, if I worked in DC near the National Mall, I'd take my lunch in the Ripley garden sitting on a bench whenever possible, Jean. It was in the midst of the hustle-bustle but somehow managed to be separate from it too.

      Delete
  13. There was so much to see in this (relatively) small garden, and it seems you saw it all! That Aralia cordata 'Sun King' is a great plant. I've got one in a container (no space in the ground) and it does great.

    If you do resort to mail order for a Yucca rostrata try our Cistus Nursery up here in Portland. At least the shipping will be cheaper than Plant Delights. Then again I really hope you do find one locally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really love that Aralia and it's supposedly suited to zone 10b but its water needs would required putting it in a pot and I'm not always as dutiful as I should be in watering pots. I do hope I can find the Yucca somewhere within my usual nursery/garden center travel range but I'll keep Cistus in mind as well. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Delete
  14. It was so awesome to finally meet you! I wish I'd been less busy running everything so I could have hung out with everyone more.I love this garden, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know how busy you were during the Fling, Tammy. I was glad just to meet you in person and share a little time with you. Thanks again for bringing off a great event!

      Delete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions. However, with apologies to bona-fide commentators, due to a significant increase in spam, I've eliminated the option to post comments anonymously.