River Farm

Historic Site
River Farm photo
Barry Stahl, courtesy of the American Horticultural Society
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Editorial Review

With such a resident as the American Horticulture Society, it is little wonder why the grounds of River Farm are so beautiful and diverse. Once owned by George Washington, the mansion and its grounds are set on a bluff overlooking a meadow that leads to the shores of the Potomac River.

Although the grounds have 350 years of recorded history, they aren’t stuck in one particular period. Rather, the society has used the area to show off progressive gardening techniques. A tool shed has living greenery on its roof, and a teaching garden serves as an outdoor classroom for budding gardeners.

Still, there is plenty of horticulture history on the grounds. Take the “ha-ha wall,” a tall brick wall that separated two terraced levels: The top allowed the homeowners to have unencumbered views of the Potomac; the second level was for the livestock.

There is also a remarkable Osage orange tree whose seedling is thought to have come from the Lewis and Clark expedition. A national champion based on its size, the tree is believed to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to the Washington family.

Amy Orndorff, April 20, 2012