The Georgetown Garden Tour at 91: Wiser and Spicier

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One of the gardens on this Saturday's Georgetown Garden Tour. Courtesy Georgetown Garden Club.

Down that flagstone path to the white picket fence. Past the neat round boxwoods. Through the black iron gate in the tall brick walls. Inside. Behind the walls. To the private places that only the people who live, or are invited, inside Georgetown’s tightly defended houses ever get to see.

But all is revealed on Saturday, May 11, when the annual Georgetown Garden Tour opens those secret doors and lets people look behind the high walls.

This year’s seven gardens are on the east and west sides of Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown’s great divide, and range from the majestic to smaller, cleverly designed spaces.

The first garden on the tour is — even in the words of the Garden Club’s experts, who’ve seen it all — “truly grand.” It has three distinct “rooms”: an upper “room” with a hornbeam hedge, a sunny middle space with a pergola and a quiet seating area at the bottom of the garden. The middle space has a bubbling horse-trough fountain. Rich in history and character, it is a big space with a big personality.

Garden two features art. The garden’s owners collect outdoor sculptures, which are sprinkled throughout the large space. The owners’ passion is reflected throughout, showcasing both an eye for the new and interesting and a sense of humor. A lap pool for D.C.’s hot summer nights also serves as a reflecting pool. This is a garden designed for parties, with discreet nooks for quiet or (better still) canoodling.

Garden three, newly renovated, makes use of a “borrowed landscape”: it sits on 31st Street above Tudor Place and takes advantage of the historic house’s lovely grounds. Among its distinctive elements are a collection of dwarf evergreens, a modern fountain and a fire pit.

Garden four’s sprawling landscape slopes down to a tennis court. Its sheer size and its lovely meander down from Avon Lane toward Q Street make it remarkable, as do the beautiful plantings and large specimen trees it boasts.

Number-five garden, recently refurbished, is home to a young family. It, too, is designed for entertaining. Modern, with minimal, almost sculptural plantings, it features an interesting hardscape and a pool.

Quiet and peaceful, garden number six is Japanese-inspired and tucked behind an interior courtyard; though only a block away, it feels far from the tumult of Wisconsin Avenue.

Garden seven reveals its secrets through a charming arched door. The owners have redesigned this garden with uncommon plants and an eye for detail. It gets its visual spark from a pine tree, presented almost as a sculpture, and by a big, dramatic fountain.

This is the Georgetown Garden Tour’s 91st year. The tour just keeps getting wiser and spicier, like your favorite great-aunt. The bigger gardens soothe with their expansiveness and abundance while the smaller ones dazzle with their inventive use of space, color and form.

Many of the tour-goers are Georgetown neighbors, primed to see what lurks behind the walls, interested in new ideas for their own spaces and, of course, eager for a gentle snoop.

Perhaps best of all for the folks who live, work and visit Georgetown, the tour raises money for local green spaces, parks and public gardens. Beneficiaries in recent years have included Book Hill Park, Tudor Place’s gardens, Trees for Georgetown, the rose garden at Montrose Park, Rose Park, Volta Park’s Habitat Garden, the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy and the Georgetown Waterfront Park.

The gardens will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, rain or shine. Visitors can buy tickets on the day of the tour at Christ Church at 31st and O Streets or in advance at georgetowngardenclubdc.org.

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