Exploring the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Strawberry Begonia

Last week we took a short trip to Washington, D.C. for a long weekend to attend our friends’ wedding ceremony, while also squeezing in some site-seeing. Our main goal was to visit one of our favorite of the Smithsonian Art Museums, the Renwick Gallery, right near the White House, but when we got there we found it was undergoing renovations and closed to the public through next year. Disappointed, and with only a little time left before we had to get ready for the wedding that evening, we headed over to the National Mall.

Bleeding Hearts

After checking out the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden we came across the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, an almost secret garden tucked between the Hirshorn and the Arts and Industries buildings.


This small but lush garden with a winding pathway was fun to explore, full of beautiful plants and flowers, including some I had never seen or heard of before.


I took a bunch of photos of some of my favorite leaves and flowers there to take home with me for inspiration. One of the flowers I found especially interesting was the Aristolochia Grandiflora, or Pelican Flower.

Aristolochia Grandiflora (Pelican Flower)

Apparently this flower has a horrible odor so that it can attract flies deep into its pitcher to pollinate it, but I wasn’t able to get close enough to smell it for myself. Nearby was a very attractive but deadly looking plant called a Solanum Quitoense, from the nightshade family.


I learned that Mary Livingston Ripley was the wife of the Smithsonian Institution’s eighth Secretary, and she persuaded the Women’s Committee of the Smithsonian Associates (which she founded) to create and support this garden.

Bee on Coreopsis

This area was supposed to be a parking lot, but Mary Livingston Ripley wanted it to be a fragrant garden instead.


I could have spent hours inspecting all the plants in the Ripley garden, and I’d love to go back and see how different it looks as the seasons change.




Carmencita Castor Bean Plant

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