A sizable walled property on the hills of Upper Georgetown, Tudor Place could easily be mistaken for one of the luxurious homes that the neighborhood is known for. I only discovered the entrance when parking to visit nearby Dumbarton Oaks, and I cannot help but compare the two. Both are wealthy estate houses with elaborate formal gardens that blend into the hillside once overlooking the Potomac River. But where Dumbarton's elaborate gardens seem to boast wealth and excess, Tudor Place has the intimate feel of a large family home tucked into a poetic wooded enclave.
With money from family ties to George and Martha Washington, a prominent family built Tudor Place as a hybrid farm and country home. Over the years, the orchards and horse stables would be replaced by numerous garden features and recreation areas. I was immediately enraptured by the billowing cloud of green bushes in the Boxwood Circle, which greets visitors near the entrance. Originally kept as a short clipped hedge, it has been allowed to mature into a massive, undulating wonder that proudly asserts itself as one of the oldest plantings on the grounds. One family tended the property for six generations, which resulted in the preservation of several heirloom plant species, such as the sweet musk roses found throughout the west garden. There are many such species that were able to thrive and remain in their original locations for decades.
In a refreshing break from tradition, Tudor Place not only rigorously catalogs and preserves records of items inside the house, but considers all of the trees and plants to be part of a "living collection" and just as important a part of its history. The staff is undergoing a massive accessioning of around 400 different trees into their museum's collection, and many of the older species of plants are scheduled to be included as well. One such tree is the Tulip Poplar, which towers over the South Lawn with its heavy lower branches propped into place, and is thought to be over 200 years old (it is designated as a Millennium Landmark Tree). A path exiting the sunken splendor of the orderly Bowling Green, overlooks The Dell, a hillside given over to an array of native trees and shrubs that offers a glimpse into the wooded landscape of the past.
Final Rating: While Tudor Place may not come across as overly ostentatious, its array of gardens still manages to impress in their elegant design and balance of formality and naturalistic styles. The design seems more structured in the center and then gradually dissolves into the gorgeous natural landscape. The western central side of the garden is all straight lines and patterns and then the East Lawn is all curves and organic shapes created by the grassy clearing. The complex wood structures making up the Gazebo and Dining Terrace give way to the wide expanse of the South Lawn that allows you to appreciate the older trees and large bushes that edge the grass. Overall, Tudor is an under appreciated garden that's worth a visit. FOUR BLOOM RATING