- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Celebrate spring with some of the wonderful flower and garden shows in the Washington area. These are great places to spend a day in the fresh air, get ideas for your own gardens and maybe bring home a plant or garden ornament.

One of the oldest of these flower and garden shows, now in its 62nd year, is sponsored by the All Hallows Guild to benefit the gardens, grounds and woodlands of Washington National Cathedral.

Flower Mart 2001 will be held May 4 and 5, rain or shine, at the cathedral. Admission is free. The landmark is at Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues.

More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the flower mart. Games and rides for the children and food for the family are planned. There will be antiques and collectibles, a formal tea, puppet shows, a white elephant sale and a book sale. But the show especially is noteworthy for garden enthusiasts.

More than 100 boutique booths will sell plants of all kinds, garden statuary and accessories. Visitors can tour the cathedral's classic gardens. There are herb and perennial gardens, Gothic sculptures and medieval artifacts in the Bishop's Garden, and native plantings along Pilgrim Way, a newly restored pathway through Olmsted Woods.

Mary Louise Thompson is a docent who leads tours of the Bishop's Garden. These free tours are offered each Wednesday through Oct. 31, weather permitting. Anyone interested in the tour should meet at the small building known as the Herb Cottage at 10:30 a.m.

Guided tours of the Bishop's Garden will not be offered during the flower mart, Mrs. Thompson says, but visitors are invited to stroll through the garden at their leisure.

There is an herb bed around the little herb cottage, one of the oldest buildings on the site. It was built in 1904, three years before the cornerstone was laid for the cathedral, Mrs. Thompson says, and it was a baptistery until 1912. The herb garden around that cottage is one of three in the 4-acre-plus Bishop's Garden.

The Bishop's Garden was designed in 1907 by Bishop Henry Satterlee, the cathedral's first bishop, working with Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., a landscape architect, and Florence Bratenahl, wife of the cathedral's first dean. Mr. Olmsted was the son of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., who designed New York City's Central Park.

The All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to take care of the grounds. It took over the herb cottage and began the plantings.

"Satterlee, Olmsted and Bratenahl designed it to be a garden for the ages," Mrs. Thompson says. "You have sculpture from the ninth, 12th, 15th and 16th centuries; also more contemporary sculpture from 1920 and 1940.

"The same is true of the plant materials," she says. "Old boxwood and yews blend with the sculpture and statuary to make this a garden for the ages. … The boxwood came from abandoned plantations in southern Virginia.

"Newer plants would be herb beds and perennial borders that are replanted every year," Mrs. Thompson says.

"The lower perennial border will be pink tulips underplanted with purple pansies" during the flower mart, she says. "The upper border is a mixed arrangement of tulips like Easter eggs scattered about. Later, that lower border will be all blue or purple-lavender herbs and the upper border will be mixed colors again, of herbs and perennials."

Also in the garden are large blue Atlas cedars sent to Bishop Satterlee from Palestine in 1901, Mrs. Thompson says. Also around the lawn are 100-year-old oaks and beech trees, including an old red oak with several oakleaf hydrangeas under it that were found on river banks in the Carolinas by William Bartram, an early naturalist, she says.

The tours go from the lawn into the shadow house built in 1927, Mrs. Thompson says. The shadow house is a large gazebo with eight views of the garden.

"It is made of stones that came from [President] Grover Cleveland's summer house," which is nearby, she says.

Among the other points of interest on the tour are a large rose bed that was part of a 1926 Olmsted design, a 13th-century Gothic capital from the ruins of Rheims Cathedral in France that has an English sundial set on it, and a small fish pool in the shape of a primitive cross that was designed by Mrs. Bratenahl and named for Saint Catherine.

"The entire Bishop's Garden right above there is built with Aquia Creek sandstone a wall encloses the whole garden from Stafford County," she says. The same stone also was used in Mount Vernon and in several of the federal buildings in Washington.

From the Bishop's Garden, there are 51 steps down to Pilgrim Way, a path garden of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers going through a 5-acre woods. This, too, will be open to flower mart visitors.

The flower mart will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. There is limited free parking, so visitors are encouraged to take public transportation. The cathedral is a regular stop on the Old Town Trolley tour route (call 202/265-3020) and it is a regular stop on several Metrobus routes.

For information, call the All Hallows Guild office at 202/537-2937. The Web site is www.cathedral.org.

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