Home & Design

Green Acre #473: Naked Gardening . . .

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

ALERT! Saturday is World Naked Gardening Day! 

Founded in 2007 by a pair of (male) nudists, as a celebration of the body and a way to weed, it has become an international event held the first Saturday in May (or October in Australia and New Zealand, which are topsy-turvy seasonwise).  

The celebration has grown like a weed, without any formal attempt at PR. In 2021, the Orlando Weekly celebrated the town’s inclusion on the top 10 list of places to celebrate, a group that included Austin, Seattle, Atlanta, and Portland.  

A Google search will lead you down many verdant paths. 

Keep it classy, stresses the copy at youshouldgrow.com, though they fail to demonstrate how. More practically, they urge caution around cacti and roses, sharp tools and power tools. Also, being careful about where you choose to squat, being liberal with the sunscreen and, I might add, wearing shoes—particularly if you have naked dogs about. All tips are illustrated with gleeful photos. Enjoy. 

It goes unsaid that naked frolics are verboten at Washington DC’s Dumbarton Oaks, though who knows what goes on after hours. Visions of Gatsby will dance in your head.

Built in 1799 , the Federal-style residence was purchased in 1920 by diplomat Robert Bliss and his wife, arts patron Mildred Bliss, bringing in renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand to create the sensational gardens. In 1940, the entire property was gifted to Harvard University for use as a museum and research center. 

Rambling over 40-some acres, there are terraces and pools, arches, arbors and outbuildings, formal borders, and areas of wilderness. 

It’s an enchanting way to spend an afternoon.    

If you move swiftly, you might still catch the deliciously sweet-smelling wisteria frothing up and over walls and trellises; that alone is worth a visit. Azaleas and dogwood are also abundant along with the last of the tulips and the first of the peonies; these with giant flowers I suspect are Itohs, a fabulous cross between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies with faces the size of luncheon plates. 

There are 27 gardens and areas of special interest to explore, including the orangery with a ficus pumila that covers the walls, the intricate mosaic of the pebble garden, and a fabulous swimming pool that begs for a midnight dip and a coupe de Champagne.

In a week or two the flower beds will be abloom with roses, peonies, allium, lilies, and foxgloves. The citrus plants, jasmine and gardenias that winter in the orangery will move out to the terraces. 

Dumbarton is just enough off the beaten path that you can find a spot to loll about in near total, if fully clothed, privacy. The gardens are open Tuesday through Sunday 2-6pm, with timed admission for crowd control—though I’ve never seen the place overrun.  Day passes are $11. Season passes start at $75. 

Dumbarton Oaks, 1703 32nd Street NW, Washington DC 20009; phone 202-339-6400. Entrance to the gardens is actually around the corner from the official address, on R Street NW.

One thought on “Green Acre #473: Naked Gardening . . .

  1. Mary K. Weddle says:

    World naked gardening? Always a new adventure to try!

    Your photos of Dumbarton are beautiful, Stephanie! You definitely captured what a lovely place it is!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *