Georgetown Garden Tour Q&A, Tips from the Hosts, Garden Guide

Star of the tour this year, Evermay Estate. Enchanting guests for over 200 years, the gardens of Evermay are at 1623 28th St. NW. Photo courtesy Evermay Estate.

In honor of the upcoming Georgetown Garden Tour, we spoke with three home owners hosting the tour this year. They shared their gardening inspirations, best advice and favorite gardens around the city.  

Melissa Overmeyer 

THE GEORGETOWNER: What led you to begin gardening (or like gardens if you don’t garden yourself)? Do you have any specific gardening inspiration? If not, what inspired you to create such beauty in your backyard? 

MELISSA OVERMEYER: My husband and I both love gardening, but we come at it from two very different perspectives! Being an architect, he loves structure and order while I prefer organic chaos. Our garden is a mixture of both. The “Stumpery” in the back garden was inspired by King Charles III’s garden at Highgrove. I love the idea of taking stumps and things that would be discarded and turning them into something I can enjoy. It’a a bit akin to an elephant graveyard in a way, giving honor to our enormous fallen forest friends. It’s a peaceful home for birds and shade-loving woodland species. I’m also still a Girl Scout at heart! I love to pretend I’m on a campout even if for only a few moments in the day. It’s my little secret getaway where I can have a cup of tea and watch the birds.   

THE GEORGETOWNER: Can you share some advice on gardening for those who may be just beginning?

MO: Don’t be fooled when going to a garden center and thinking you can grow everything that’s on display! First, look and see if you have a sunny garden or a shady garden, if you have an irrigation system or if you’ll need to water constantly. Be real with yourself and your plants. Find what will work for your space, and your watering commitment level. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole because it will be very disappointing if they die because they’re in the wrong atmosphere. I have a collection of Myrtle topiaries that must be watered every other day! I must hire someone if I go away for a weekend because they take commitment. I call them my children. Only buy them if you’re willing to be committed to them, otherwise you will both suffer loss. If you find the right plants for you — indoor or out — they’ll bring you endless joy.

THE GEORGETOWNER: What are some of your favorite gardens in Georgetown (or the city as a whole)? 

MO: We of course, love Dumbarton Oaks as it’s at the end of our street! Just around the corner is Tudor Place Gardens. They’re wonderful examples of what can work well in this Plant Zone (7a). We go often to get inspiration and just to absorb the beauty. Of course, there are the Botanical Gardens downtown, but that’s more like a fantasy world. It’s like going on a tropical vacation the moment you walk in the door! I especially adore going to the orchid room in the dead of winter — nothing brightens my spirits like that room when it’s snowing outside. We love seeing the incredible models of famous buildings made from organic plant matter on display during the holidays — it’s a family tradition to visit that each year. We’re so very blessed in this city to have so many beautiful gardens only steps away.    

Beth Crocker 

THE GEORGETOWNER: What led you to gardening?    

BETH CROCKER: I enjoy being outdoors in nature, whether it’s a walk along the river, joining Earth Day cleanup efforts, or creating and nurturing my own garden. The Georgetown Garden Club, with its educational offerings and sharing of ideas, has also helped inspire me in my gardening. They’re a member of the Garden Club of America which also offers educational opportunities and inspiration. The terraced design of my garden was originally laid out by Mrs. Paul Wayland Bartlett, who owned the house starting in the early 1940s. She had previously lived in Paris, so there was a hint of French design in it. When my husband and I renovated the garden about 10 years ago with completely new plantings we found photographs of her work taken around 1942 so we tried to make our changes consistent with the spirit of her designs.    

THE GEORGETOWNER: Can you share some advice on gardening for those who may be just beginning? 

BC: If you have no experience with gardening, it’s important to learn what works best in your climate. The different public gardens in our area have classes that are informative and will keep you from planting the wrong plant in the space you have. They’ll also help you determine your soil content and recommend soil amendments if needed. It’s a lifelong learning process for me.     

THE GEORGETOWNER: What are your favorite gardens?   

BC: My favorite public gardens in Georgetown are Montrose Park because of its history, Rose Park, and Volta Park. The Tudor Place gardens are also beautiful spaces with a rich history. In fact, all the Federal City gardens are spectacular, especially in the springtime.  The magnificent trees around the Capitol, the White House and the Old Executive Office Building are inspiring. This area has the National Arboretum which is a treasure of open space and ongoing preservation of important trees, shrubs, and flowers.    

Florence Auld and Her Gardener, Guy Williams. Guy is principal of DCA Landscape Architects, Inc. at 1315 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 

FLORENCE AULD: My love for beautiful gardens first began when I bought my home on O St. NW, because of the garden that Gail Rodgers had designed. After looking for a home for more than two years (with no intention of living in Georgetown), I walked into the garden with its beautiful trees and koi pond and because of its serenity and beauty, made an offer that day. I lived there for 18 years and enjoyed the garden each and every day.    

Our Georgetown homes can create real challenges regarding gardens because of their close proximity to our neighbors. When Frank and I decided we needed a larger home we looked at our home on N St. NW. For me it was a non-starter because of the apartment building which overlooked all of the gardens on the entire block of N St. It was only after our architect Doug Rixey suggested that we install a privacy screen with arborvitaes that we decided we could create the oasis we both desired.   

I was fortunate to have such a talented landscape design professional in Guy Williams, who was able to create the serenity we were seeking. We had incorporated the garden into our home by adding opening doors from our home to the garden. We also had another challenge at our front door — the entranceway, which overlooked our neighbors’ trash cans. Joan from Cityscapes Landscaping suggested we solve the problem by creating a screen with greenery. It’s all about finding the solutions that work to create that special garden. I’ve been fortunate to have had extremely talented individuals who’ve created mine over the years.   

Florence Auld and her husband incorporated their garden into their home by adding doors from their house that directly enter the garden.  

Guy Williams’ Advice to Gardeners: 

Have patience. Gardens and plants do not always cooperate with your plans for them. Look and see and really notice nature and its details — look at what plants grow where, sun versus shade, moisture levels and soil types. Begin to see patterns and use that observation and knowledge in your plant selection and design.  

Some of Williams’ Favorite Local Gardens: 

No list would be complete without Dumbarton Oaks. What a marvelous experience it is, one that I never tire of. I could not even begin to count the number of times I’ve been there, but I started going there in 1983 when I moved here after college. It’s a source of inspiration. The Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral is another favorite.  

Backyard garden of Florence Auld and Frank Marshall on N Street. Photo by Allen Russ.

What’s on the Georgetown Garden Tour  

Besides the stately, magnificent Evermay Estate, here’s a selection of the gardens you can visit on Saturday, May 13.  

3026 N St. NW  

The garden at 3026 N St. NW was originally part of the Rock of Dumbarton grant held by the Scottish emigrant and founder of Georgetown, Colonel Ninian Beal in the early 1800s.  

The property now known as 3026 N Street NW consists of parts of three parcels of land: Lots 2 and 3 in the original 1752 survey of Georgetown and Lot 9 in Beall’s Addition.  

The brick house as it exists now was constructed circa 1831 for the daughter and son-in-law of the then-owner of the Laird-Dunlop House at 3014 N St. NW next door. It was a two-and-a-half story dwelling with a pitched roof and attic dormer windows. The Victorian tower and façade and third floor were added in 1888.  

The current owner grew up as a child on the property in the 1950-60s and returned with his family after an absence of many years. Among the several surprises discovered in renovating the property was a previously unknown (but vacant) 18th or 19th century brick vault beneath part of the garden and fire insurance maps showing that where the pool is now stood a wood-frame alley dwelling bouse during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  

1330 30th St. NW 

This handsome frame house was built circa 1840. One of its earliest owners was George F. de la Roche, a civil engineer who, among other projects in Georgetown, designed Oak Hill Cemetery for William Corcoran in 1850. Another prominent owner was architect and preservationist Wynant D. Vanderpool.  

2911 O St. NW 

This charming late 19th century house and garden was transformed by previous owners to reflect their interest in Haiti and New Orleans. The landscape firm of Oehme van Sweden installed the water feature and a variety of plants and trees that still remain; the former garage was turned into a studio and garden room with a Haitian inspired facade that mirrored the rear facade of the house. The current owners and Amy Chaffman, of the Pampered Garden, have retained aspects of the Oehme van Sweden design while adding color and other elements to the previously all-green garden.  

1570 34th St. NW 

The Federal-style house was built in 1938 along with surrounding houses. The charming side garden was recently reworked by Fritz & Gignoux, incorporating a fountain purchased in an antiques store in New Orleans.  

3265 N St. NW 

This is a fine example of a Federal row house, part of an intact row of six nearly identical houses, known as Smith’s Row. Built circa 1811-1815, the block, during the 19th century, was once said to be “the finest street in town.” Prominent residents of this house include Henry M. Sweeny, the last mayor of Georgetown before it was incorporated into the District in 1871. In the late 20th century, the house served as a location for the film “Dave,” starring Kevin Kline as fictional President Bill Mitchell. The garden was recently redesigned for the current owners by Guy Williams, DCA Landscape Architects.  

This renovated home needed a garden design that could provide a living backdrop ripe with visual interest. The garden created is an extension of the interior, supporting great functionality and displaying an ever-changing play of light, texture, layering of details, and seasonality in its plantings. The garden is 28 feet wide by 37 feet deep, with a carriage house at the back.  


The Complete Garden Tour List for 2023 is:  

S&R Evermay Foundation  


1623 28th St. NW    

Florence Auld and Frank Marshall  

3265 N St. NW  


Kathleen Butler  

1570 34th St. NW  


Anne Emmet  

1330 30th St. NW  


Beth and Tom Crocker  

3026 N St. NW  


Melissa and Dale Overmyer  

3264 S St. NW   


Robert Luskin and Charlotte Fallon  

2911 O St. NW  


Matt Talley and Ricky Hamilton  

1512 34th St. NW   





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