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Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, 1972-ongoing

East or Victorian Fragrance Garden, formerly known as
view Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, 1972-ongoing digital asset number 1
Ripley, Mary Livingston
Landscape architect:
Jacobsen, Hugh Newell
Draper, Janet
Folger, Kathrine Dulin
Smithsonian Women's Committee
Physical description:
1,236 35mm slides (photographs), 164 photographic prints, negatives, and digital images
Digital images
Slides (photographs)
Photographic prints
United States of America, District of Columbia, Washington
District of Columbia
The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden is a half-acre ornamental garden with over one thousand different plantings. Located between the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the garden is immediately south of the National Mall and lies partly over the roof of the 9th Street tunnel, which was completed in 1971. The garden's beginning stems from tragedy; in 1976, a fire destroyed the Litchfield, Connecticut home of Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley. Winter creeper, trained as espaliers by Ripley's mother, were rescued and replanted on the west side of the Hirshhorn's perimeter wall, which had been constructed two years prior. Ripley's wife Mary, a scholar and avid gardener, saw potential in the space as an inclusive garden accessible even to visitors who were visually impaired or in wheelchairs - a garden filled with fragrant plantings on raised beds. For funding, Mrs. Ripley appealed to the Smithsonian Women's Committee (SWC) which she herself had founded in 1966, and of which she was a former president. The SWC agreed and awarded a contract to the architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen in July 1978 for the design and construction. Construction was completed in 1981.
In 1988, the SWC renamed the garden as the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, in honor of Mrs. Ripley's vision for what would otherwise have likely become a parking lot. Kathrine Dulin Folger, a supporter of the Smithsonian Institute and proponent of horticulture, established an endowment fund for the continued care of the garden in 1994. Horticulturalist Janet Draper began tending the garden in 1997, with the goal to expose visitors to a wide variety of ornamental plants coexisting in harmony. In 2009, foot traffic from crowds during the January 20th presidential inauguration of Barack Obama seemingly destroyed the garden. However, spring that year brought unexpected regrowth, demonstrating that this garden's strengths lie not only in aesthetics, but also in physical resilience.
The Ripley Garden's geometry is unusual in that its paths are predominantly curvilinear. This layout is meant to encourage visitors to slow down and enjoy the plantings. The paths and raised beds are constructed of brick. Features include an antique cast iron fountain, benches placed in alcoves, small birdhouses, and a vertical living wall installed in 2013.
Plantings include daylilies (Hemerocallis 'Mango Thrills'), tulips (Tulipa 'Snow Parrot,' 'Zurel,' 'Violet Beauty,' and 'Negrita'), grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'), Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus), and columbine (Aquilegia sp.).
See also Arts and Industries Building -- East/Fragrance Garden for an additional 822 35mm slides (photographs).
Persons associated with the garden include: Mary Livingston Ripley (advocate, circa 1970s). Smithsonian Women's Committee (donor, 1978). Hugh Newell Jacobsen (landscape architect, 1978-1981). Kathrine Dulin Folger (donor, 1994). Janet Draper (horticulturist, 1997- ).
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Access to original images by appointment only. Please direct reference inquiries to Smithsonian Gardens:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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