Saturday, 18 October 2014

Autumn at Monticello

Although many of the trees on our route through Virginia and at Monticello were starting to turn, few were yet as vibrant as this one in the grounds.

However, Fall is a busy time at Monticello and we were sorry to find on our arrival in the late morning that the next available house tour was at 5.20!  Too late for us, unfortunately,  but we made the most of the garden, grounds and outside buildings that we could see.

There was a chill in the air today and signs of preparations for colder weather.  Ornamental trees and plants that had been outside on the terraces were safely tucked away in the conservatory.

Many of the large summer flowering plants had gone from the borders but others were in flower - including this rather unusual plant with fruit and flowers at the same time - the Balsam Apple.

There was time for another attempt at the  'Monticello reflected in the fish pond' shot, but the greater number of people there today made it hard to avoid ghostly figures marching through the picture.

There was also time to admire the very clear view of the woods and mountains from the South Pavilion at the end of the vegetable garden..

.. and the vegetable garden itself.

Today's mystery plant was a scented mauve and white climber at the edge of the vegetable garden with a flower that resembled both a large scale wisteria and an everlasting sweet pea..

For the first time in Virginia we saw some tobacco growing..

And at the side of the family graveyard, an extraordinary plant with huge thorns ..

(Trifoliate orange, apparently).

A good day, despite not seeing the interior of the house..

Friday, 17 October 2014

Oatlands Plantation House

Oatlands is a former mansion house home, garden and wheat plantation near Leesburg, now considered a National Historic Landmark and under the care of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 The main house was built of brick at the very end of the 18th century and in the late 19th century the porch was added with wooden painted columns, beautifully carved at the top.  At that time the house was also rendered and painted to resemble stone.

The large, lean-to greenhouse - unfortunately empty apart from a few oversized cactus, is the second oldest greenhouse of its type in the US.

We had an interesting guided tour of the house which focused on its previous owners - quite wealthy and well-connected families who restored it after the Civil War when it's time as a plantation with a large enslaved labour force came to an end.  

No photography was allowed inside the house but the gardens - spread over 4 acres and terraced in two directions, provided some elegant walkways and views as well as beautiful individual plants.

In the grounds were lovely mature trees.  One of them, labelled as the Osage Orange, had very beautiful bark and extraordinary fruit.

The fruit was heavy and the size of a large orange but in fact no relation, being filled with a milky sap and not edible!

I also found my first American conker!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

National Botanic Garden

In Washington today to see the sights, we decided to put our heads around the door of the National Botanic Garden, near the Capitol Building.

It doesn't look very impressive from the outside but there were some interesting plants in the beds in front..

Inside, under a very tall glass roof, the garden was divided into sections - the main area was 'jungle'..

One of the most colourful and scented areas was the orchid garden - it was small, but packed with a variety of different types of orchid..

Outside there was a view of the Capitol building..

The dome is currently covered in scaffolding..

Our next stop was the National Gallery of Art - an impressive 20th Century building in classical style, housing some wonderful paintings.  

We focused on just one floor of the West wing..

There were so many lovely paintings and works of art that we could have photographed but I focused on just a couple of familiar views..

..and Claire's favourite Cezanne..

There was a small exhibition of works by Degas including this sculpture of a young girl..

Our final visit today, after walking around the Washington Monument, was the Enod Haupt garden at the Smithsonian Castle.  There was a small selection of potted exotic plants on show which were shortly due to be transported to overwinter in a greenhouse in Maryland..