Georgetown Garden Tour Is Living History

July 26, 2011

Gardens are living tableaux that change with seasons and with owners. But for a few hours in May, the Georgetown Garden Tour permits visitors to peek at the constantly evolving private gardens of the neighborhood.

Saturday May 7th marks the 83rd annual Georgetown Garden Tour (10a.m. to 4p.m., sponsored by the Georgetown Garden Club). Large and small private gardens in both the East Village and the West Village will open their doors to visitors throughout the day, accompanied by garden accessories features by Bo and Alison Jia of Middle Kingdom porcelain arts, and the secrets to Persian cooking by local cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij. Tea and light refreshments will be served from 2 pm to 4 pm at nearby Christ Church.

The Georgetown Garden Tour is a self-directed walking tour that leads visitors to nearby private gardens that are formal or eclectic, large and small, but which all reflect their owners and designers. Tour volunteers expect about one thousand curious gardeners on Saturday to participate, rain or shine.

Originally started by the matrons of Georgetown society, the garden tour was put in place to help fund a school for the neighborhood’s domestic staff—The Children’s House, which still stands on N Street. Local historian and co-chair of this year’s Garden Tour, Edie Schafer, explains that starting in the 1920’s, Georgetown society supported the school with activities that included the Georgetown Garden Day. After many years, The Children’s House closed, but the Georgetown Garden Tour soldiered on, supported by the efforts of a few committed volunteers, including Schafer. In the late 1990’s Schafer and the other tour organizers combined forces with the Georgetown Garden Club and the current incarnation was born.

This year about fifteen club members join Schafer and co-Chair Jane Matz in identifying nine homes for the 2011 garden tour. The homes selected as part of this year’s tour range from an old farmhouse on a hill, to a garden that embraces an unusual Georgetown home with a lap pool tucked into geometric pavings. East Village gardens include the former home of Abraham Lincoln’s son and the Evermay estate.

Garden Club members responsible for selecting gardens for the tour explain that prospects are identified by word of mouth. To be part of the annual garden tour, gardens may be large or small but should reflect a point of view and the personality of the owner. A garden with unusual plants or one that cleverly breaks up the omnipresent rectangles of Georgetown lots can be very attractive. Several years ago, the tour even included a “plastic garden” on Cambridge Place, which was carefully crafted to fool viewers into seeing a living space.

Helen DuBois has been a Georgetown Garden Club member for nineteen years, and her garden will be part of the 2011 Georgetown Garden Tour. DuBois does not want to give away too much, but she is delighted to open her garden on 35th street across from Visitation as a stop on the 2011 tour. She explains that her garden can be appreciated by both experienced and novice gardeners and that she hopes it will be an inspiration to visitors looking for ideas to enhance their own garden spaces.
Selecting the gardens begins about seven to eight months before the tour date. Some of the gardens invited to participate have been identified earlier, but owners ask to be included the following year because they want extra time to prepare their garden.

Past projects supported by proceeds from the Georgetown Garden Tour include Trees for Georgetown, Tudor Place, Montrose Park and Book Hill. In addition, local urban students have participated in outdoor activities in partnership with the Student Conservation Association and the Georgetown Garden Club.

The sixty-member Georgetown Garden Club is an active member of the Garden Clubs of America. This year the Georgetown Garden Club’s congratulatory “stakes project” has been suspended. In past years, these mysterious stakes appeared in visible plots, tree boxes and front yards signaling the garden club’s appreciation for the gardener’s efforts to beautify Georgetown. Because of the controversy around how to care for the trees in the tree boxes, the Garden Club has decided to take a hiatus on this tradition.

Tickets for the Georgetown Garden Tour are $35 and are available by calling 202-965-1950, or visit Tickets are also available at Christ Church on the day of the tour.

What’s Your Smart Phone App-titude?

May 23, 2011

Once — it now seems a time long, long ago in a place far, far away — you picked up a phone, dialed a number and actually spoke to someone. How naïve we were. Then came texting. How quaint! Today, it is all about that “app,” those programs that bring your smart phone to life and have made good old telephony all but redundant.

From social phenomena like Four Square (essentially a homing beacon that screams “I’m over here!”) to mobile GPS to help you get to that Four Square friend; from apps to run your business to iFart (yes, one app will let out unsociable sounds and now even smells from your phone — set it on your friend’s phone and watch the fun), there are more apps than you will ever get to try. It is estimated there are about 150,000 iPhone apps and at least 15,000 Droid apps (Droid is Google’s answer to the iPhone operating system).

So we thought it would be interesting to see what Washington’s media community uses or, as we found out, doesn’t use.

Kate Michael
Blogger, K Street Kate
I use Twitter for many reasons: to help tell people what is going and where I am, and to share information that is useful to my followers.

Carol Joynt
Multi-media journalist
Interesting that you should ask. I’m just back from a spring break getaway with my son and the iPhone saved our you-know-whats in two critical instances, both having to do with traffic … Special mention to the WTOP “Glass-Enclosed Nerve” app.

Kiki Ryan
Reporter, Politico
I love the Google maps app. Whenever I take road trips, I am obsessed with watching the blue blinking light as the car moves. And because I am obsessed with the Food Network shows about the little diners with weird fried food, I’m always searching for them on Google maps when I’m driving in the middle of nowhere thinking I may come across one.

Kitty Kelley
Author, journalist
I can barely handle my cell phone. I haven’t progressed to smart phone apps yet.
Give me another five years.

Jeanne Jennings
Marketing consultant, author
[My favorite] would have to be the Facebook app for my Blackberry. It makes it easy to keep up with friends and family when I am traveling. The interface is clean and intuitive — it’s a great example of how to “boil down” a website for viewing on a mobile device.

Ben Bradlee
A smartphone what? I don’t even have a cell phone.

John Donvan
ABC News correspondent
Google maps on Droid allows me to speak in a request while driving and it finds the route and starts speaking back directions. It has built-in GPS navigation that fills a gap that I had of wanting: not to have to stop and pull to the side of road and enter an address. And it gets you there.

Bill Press
Talk radio host
I’m fairly new on iPhone and don’t have any apps but the most basic ones. Someday, but not yet!

Robert Allbritton
Publisher, Politico
Why, the Politico iPhone app, of course! Second is the Apple Remote app, because I can run the house stereo, which is hooked up to iTunes. Other than that, I use a Blackberry. Not exactly sexy answers, but they are very honest. I’m all about functionality. I am very excited about the new “Metro” project app we are working on for local news in the D.C. area, but it is unreleased.

Sonya Bernhardt
Publisher, The Georgetowner and The Downtowner
My favorite is the Google Mobile app. The best feature is the voice search, which lets you find whatever location you’re looking for — in the car, on the street or elsewhere — just by talking into the phone. It also plugs in with Google maps, giving you exact directions to what you searched for from wherever you are.

Amos Gelb is the director for the George Washington University’s Semester in Washington Journalism program. Contact him at

Claire Sanders Swift is a former broadcast producer turned national media specialist. Contact her at
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