The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. is home to the famed Bishop’s Garden, a fantastic sunken oasis of tranquility and delight. This is a garden meant to sit in, to wander and be alone in. Even when it’s full on weekends one can journey through it’s nooks and crannies and feel serene. The garden was meant to offer a place to meditate and reflect. Looking upward the view of the Cathedral just adds to its glory.
In the early 1900’s the famed National Cathedral Bishops Garden was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted , Jr. and Florence Bratenhal, wife of the second dean. Olmsted was the first to plan the Cathedral Grounds from 1907-1928. The All Hallows Guild explains he,
“designed the Pilgrim Road winding up Mt. St. Alban from Garfield Street, South Road to Bethlehem Chapel where the nave foundation was being laid, and the Bishop’s House (now Church House) garden with its surrounding walls and lawn which included herb, rose and perennial beds. Leaving intact the native woodland and stream on the south slope, he clustered buildings to conserve open space. To provide a sense of historic permanence and tranquility to the close, he designated mature, often evergreen, plantings.”
Florence, who eventually became the Cathedral’s landscape designer from 1928-36 created the All Hallows Guild in 1916 in order to beautify and care for the gardens. According to All Hallows Guild, “Her work includes the designs for the Norman Court entrance to the Bishop’s Lawn, the Pool of St. Catherine and the Pilgrim Steps with adjacent plantings, as well as the landscaping of the College of Preachers and early planting plans for the Bishop’s Garden Hortulus and Upper Perennial Border.”
All Hallows Guild is still providing the care and upkeep of the gardens through the wonderful Cathedral Gardens Herb Cottage shop, Tour & Tea programs and fantastic Flower Mart held each year in May.
Today the Bishop’s Garden is in full care. There are herb gardens, perennial borders, and a large English style open park like space with bench for reading and taking in the Spring and Summer air.
Norman style Architectural elements brought together by Florence Bratenhal brings the Cathedral in the garden space.
There are stairs and pathways that are peaceful and romantic bordered with the wonderful boxwoods Florence Bratenhal put in.
There are wonderful benches and places to sit throughout the enclosed garden that make this place a weekend destination for those who like to relax.
Even better, the pathways and benches are just as exciting and inviting as the flowers. This is a garden that was designed to be walked through and relaxed in.
The over feel of this garden experience is peaceful tranquility. It’s really one of my favorite places to go think. It has both big open spaces to sit and read in and a small places with quiet nooks. One side of the garden is an open grassy area that reminds me of a small English park.
The other side is the floral and herb gardens and Shadow House.
The National Cathedral Newsletter, which featured the restoration of the Shadow House Gazebo this year, states, “The Shadow House was designed by Cathedral architect Philip Hubert Frohman and constructed between 1927 and 1928. It received its name from a medieval term for ‘gazebo’, and is made of locally quarriedCarderock stone that once was part of President Grover Cleveland’s summer home, Red Top.”
There is so much more to explore here and that is why the Bishop’s Garden is getting a more in depth feature in part III of this week to focus on the flower beds themselves. There are some wonderful flowers here! Additionally this week will also feature the National Cathedral itself. Without it we would not have the gardens! Therefore it will get much of the week! One of the big events last year was the splendor of the National Cathedral wrapped in light by Swiss artist Gerry Hofstetter! He brought colorful floral, and other patterned light to the facade as thousands came to see. I for one think that alone deserves it’s own day!
Britt : )