April 6, 2011
It seems that the weather is finally breaking and spring temperatures might be here to stay. So, the ATM blog team has come up with a list of the five best kept secret gardens and getaways around the Smithsonian Institution. Get the jump on summer and discover some great new places to take in the beautiful weather, warm your face with sun, enjoy a meal with a co-worker, or rest a bit between museum visits. The warm weather rush is upon us, so get out there and explore.
1. The View From Outside- It is said that the gardens around the Smithsonian Institution are more like “living museums,” whose beauty and design augment and complement the brick and mortar structures surrounding them. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Courtyard at the Freer Gallery of Art. Commissioned by Charles Lang Freer and designed by Charles A. Platt in the American Renaissance tradition, this garden is visible from the galleries inside and provides a quiet respite for visitors passing through its doors. Come for the art, stick around for the ambiance.
2. A Plant Lover’s Dream- When visiting the museums, take some time to just walk around and enjoy the scenery. Meander between Independence Avenue and the Mall, and you may find yourself in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. Tucked between the Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, this courtyard promises a quiet retreat from the crowds on the street. Named after Mary Livingston Ripley, wife of former Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, this garden was envisioned as a “sensory garden for the enjoyment of handicapped and other visitors to the Smithsonian.” The brick walkways encourage visitors to slow down, and with the variety of plants and bulbs—at last count numbering more than 1,000—there’s plenty more to smell than just the roses.
3. Plants and Animals- The next time you’re at the National Zoo, visiting some of your favorite animals, don’t forget to check out the diverse plant life that coexists with them. Attached to the Invertebrate Exhibit is the Pollinarium, a greenhouse with twoflower passionflower, blue porterweed and other flowering plants pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. (If you don’t know what any of those flowers are, that’s all the more reason to go). Step right outside and into the Butterfly Garden, where you never know what butterfly species you might see.
4. In Case of April Showers- If you do find yourself trying to dodge those sporadic April showers, duck into the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a snack while admiring the amazing architecture in a place that Walt Whitman once called, “the noblest of Washington’s buildings.” The glass and steel canopy holds 864 panels of blown glass from Poland—no two of which are a like. The courtyard itself is surrounded by marble planters filled with trees, shrubs and flowers. Warm and dry all year around, it’s an ideal great way to wait out the rain.
5. Escape from New York- New York City is known for never sleeping or slowing down. But even native New Yorkers would be hard-pressed to walk by the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and not take a peek inside. Located on Fifth Avenue at Ninety-first Street, visitors and passersby can enjoy the lush gardens once lovingly tended to by Louise Carnegie. So, take a load off, the bustling city will be there when you get back.
The Mall is teeming with amazing gardens and out of the way courtyards. Take some time to explore exhibits outside the museums, tour the gardens, and see what other secrets the Smithsonian is hiding in plain sight. What fun would it be if we gave them all away?
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