Garden Adventures, Past & Present


Notice where the top of the tree snapped off

By Alexis Del Vecchio,

July 10, 2012

Hello from the Dumbarton Oaks gardens! As one of three Garden and Landscape Studies and Gardens and Grounds “shared” interns, I am lucky enough to spend at least two days a week working in the gardens along with 12 full-time gardeners, 2 garden interns, and Gail Griffin, Director of Gardens and Grounds. We typically work Fridays and Mondays with the garden crews to prepare for weekend visitors and clean up after two days without regular maintenance. As a member of Miguel’s crew, I tend to the western, southern, and outlying portions of the property, including the East Lawn, the area south of the Refectory, in front of the Security Office, around the Guest House, and by the Director’s residence. While the work typically entails clipping, raking, trimming, making many trips to the back dumpster to dispose of plant material, and of course, a lot of watering, we’ve also participated in some more unusual garden work days. For instance, the Monday morning after the recent storm was spent disassembling a large, healthy sycamore branch that had fallen on to the North Vista, as well as cleaning up numerous other large limbs and branches that had fallen onto the garden. Last Friday we also helped Jane from GLS replant a portion of the water garden in the Ellipse. Many of the cattails had outgrown their containers, so we dragged them out of the water, divided them into four and replanted two of the four into larger containers.


Cattails now sit it much roomier pots


Herb Garden (predecessor to the Arbor Terrace) Planing Plan, Beatrix Farrand, 1933

As the GIS intern, my other task for the summer is to build on an existing Geo-database for Dumbarton Oaks that has been developed by former GIS garden interns and Paul Cote. Paul is the Geographic Information Systems Specialist at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and is interested in the preservation and consolidation of Geo-referenced data for an historic site such as Dumbarton Oaks. While past interns have reconciled CAD files from various sources to create the underlying GIS map, a tree database, and a terrain surface used to calculate historic cut and fill, as well as ADA accessible slopes, this year we’re focusing on Geo-referencing archival images, plans and sketches from the garden and its design to create an interactive, on-line exhibit. I’m focusing on the Arbor Terrace and its evolution from barnyard in the early 1700s to the site of Cao Perrot’s ‘Cloud Terrace’ installation today. If all goes well, my next blog post will detail the exhibit and invite you to test it!

About me:

I graduated from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design with a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Prior to graduate school I lived in Los Angeles and worked at a Landscape Architecture office, as well as taught art in Costa Rica. I have a BA in studio art from Yale University.

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