The Herb Garden

As part of Dumbarton House’s efforts to interpret the historic house and grounds, a landscaping plan was adopted in late 2009 which, among other things, called for the creation of a historically-appropriate herb garden. Dumbarton House Advisory Committee member Guy Williams of DCA Landscape Architects, Inc., designed the garden and researched which plants would be appropriate for the recreation of a 19th-century herb garden. DCA Landscape Architects is an award-winning Georgetown-based firm which plans and executes projects ranging from small gardens to large-scale master planning and estate planning.

Plants would fall under one or more of several general categories of use, ranging from culinary and medicinal to aromatic and economic. The result is a landscaped herb garden with over 40 different plants, herbs, and flowers which in the 18th and 19th centuries were used in everything from herbal teas to soaps and perfumes.

Below is a list of all the plants that can be found in our herb garden. Click a plant to see more information about its uses and characteristics. Much of the information about the plants in our gardens comes from Herbs & Herb Lore of Colonial America, published by the Colonial Dames of America.

Angelica – Angelica archangelica Germander – Teucrium chamaedrys Peony – Festiva Maxima
Basil – Ocimum basilicum Globe Amaranth – Gomphrena globosa Peppermint – Mentha piperita
Beebalm – Monarda didyma Hellebores – Helleborus niger Pinks – Dianthus gratianopolitanus
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia fulgida  Hyssop – Hyssopus officinalis Quince – Cydonia oblonga
Borage – Borage officinalis Indigo – Baptisia australis Rhubarb – Rheum x hybridum
Candytuft – Iberis sempervirens Iris, Crested – Iris cristata Rosemary – Rosmarius officinalis
Catmint – Nepeta cataria Lady’s Mantle – Alchemilla mollis Rue – Ruta graveolens
Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis Lavender – Lavendula officinalis Sage – Salvia sclarea
Chives – Allium schoenoprasum Lavender CottonSantolina incana nana Spearmint – Mentha spicata
Dill – Anethum graveolens Lily-of-the-Valley – Convallaria majalis Sweet Woodruff – Galium odoratum
Evening PrimeroseOenothera fruticosa Marjoram Thyme – Thymus vulgaris
Fairy Wings – Epimedium species Oregano – Originanum vulgare Wormwood – Artemisia absinthium
Foxglove – Digitalis species Parsley Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

In addition to the plants, the herb garden also features a beautiful Regency-style bench, donated by the DC Society of the NSCDA, and sundial, donated by the Dumbarton House Board, Staff, and Volunteers. Both the bench and the sundial were donated in memory of Dumbarton House’s beloved late groundskeeper Kevin Christen. For nearly 20 years, Kevin served as Dumbarton House’s groundskeeper, caretaker, and all-around friendly Georgetown neighbor. Kevin passed away in December 2010 during the final planning for the herb garden, but his legacy lives on in the historic site’s gardens and grounds.

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