This morning, I walked to Dumbarton Oaks a sprawling estate, high above Georgetown. Gail Griffin, the director of gardens and grounds there, kindly introduced me to Rigoberto "Rigo" Castellon, a crew leader.
For an hour, he graciously gave me a tour of the impressive grounds. Afterward, I watched him and his co-workers pot plants and arrange the arbor terrace, overlooking a small grove of Kiefer pear trees. A dozen people oversee the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, which were designed by landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand.
About those Kiefer pears: As you'll see in these photographs, the gardening crew has put clear glass bottles around several of them. (Castellon uses twine to hold them in place.) When the pears are ripe — and larger, the gardeners will fill the bottle with brandy. (This tradition is time-honored, I was told.) — David Gura
Dumbarton Oaks, an estate in Georgetown, owned by Harvard University, has a world-renowned garden.
Crew leader Rigoberto Castellon, an émigré from El Salvador, has been a gardener at Dumbarton Oaks for more than 20 years.
The estate features a large "cutting garden," with an array of flowers suitable for bouquets.
Many of the plants at Dumbarton Oaks are grown on site, in a greenhouse that has been recently renovated.
When this Kieffer pear is ripe — and larger, the gardening crew will fill the glass bottle with brandy.
Castellon oversees the potting and placement of hundreds of plants.
Members of the gardening crew makes last-minute alterations before 2:00 p.m., when Dumbarton Oaks is opened to the public.
These large pots frame the arbor terrace at Dumbarton Oaks.
Gardeners fill large pots with begonias, fuschia, and other flowers.
In some quadrants of the estate there isn't much room for improvisation — the gardening crew adheres to original designs by Beatrix Jones Farrand, the original landscape architect at Dumbarton Oaks. On the arbor terrace, however, today's gardeners are afforded more flexibility.
Gardener Donald Mehlman prepares a terra cotta pot for planting.
Gardeners follow this brick path, past the estate's rose garden, to the arbor terrace.