America’s Garden Showcase
A short drive along the scenic George Washington Parkway from Alexandria, Virginia, River Farm is acclaimed for its spell-binding vistas stretching down to the Potomac River, along with its creative children’s gardens, beautiful four-acre meadow, and colorful flower displays. It is a favorite site for weddings, family picnics, bird-watchers, and painters.
A series of smaller gardens offers an ever-changing succession of color and interest throughout the year. Plants in each section of the garden are coordinated by color, season of bloom, size, and texture. They have also been selected for resistance to diseases and pests.
White House Gates
At one end of the Perennial Border stands a set of historic White House Gates. These gates were first installed at the White House in 1819, as part of the reconstruction project to repair damage from the War of 1812. They stood for more than 120 years at the northeast entrance to the White House before being removed during a renovation project. The gates found a second home on the River Farm property and remained in relative obscurity for more than 50 years. In 2004, the Society undertook restoration and conservation of the gates to return them to their original splendor.
River Farm’s manor house is home to the Society’s Administrative and Membership offices. The lower floor is open to the public and features a charming parlor with a stunning river view, and a beautiful ballroom. Rotating exhibits by area artists are often on display in these rooms. The manor house is a popular venue for weddings, corporate events, meetings, and memorials, and is available for rental.
The plantings in front of the manor house consist predominantly of native shrubs and trees, including Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii), and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). An underplanting of mixed perennials and annuals provides seasonal color, and is especially eye-catching in spring when thousands of bulbs are in bloom.
The bluestone terrace beside the manor house is framed on one side by a stately hedge of English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) containing specimens nearly 100 years old. Perennial and annual display beds behind the manor house provide seasonal color and interest.
André Bluemel Meadow
The André Bluemel Meadow is a naturalistic four-acre area that includes many species of native grasses and wildflowers. A large black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) in the middle of the meadow is believed to date from the time of George Washington’s ownership of River Farm. Red foxes, bluebirds, marsh hawks, ospreys, and bald eagles are often sighted in this area, as well as numerous butterflies and other insects. Learn more about the meadow.
A sunken brick Ha-Ha Wall borders the western side of the meadow area. In England, these walls were introduced in the 18th century to keep livestock and wildlife out of manor gardens without erecting a noticeable fence to spoil the view.
The Wildlife Garden features a small pond that is home to frogs, goldfish, and turtles. Surrounding the pond are plants that provide food and shelter for pollinators and birds, grasses, perennial, and shrubs that make berries.
River Farm’s popular Children’s Garden, initially developed by school groups and professional landscape designers, is made up of more than a dozen, small, themed gardens designed to stimulate children’s interest in plants and nature. With the help of many volunteers and a dedicated staff, these gardens delight the child in all of us.
The Garden Calm
The Garden Calm is planted with shrubs, trees, and perennials that prefer full or part shade. The large tree that provides most of the shade for this area is an Osage orange (Maclura pomifera). This particular tree is estimated to be 200 years old.
The Green Garage®
American gardeners have many opportunities to make environmentally conscious decisions. The Green Garage® is an educational display at River Farm to showcase the tools, equipment, materials, and techniques that support sustainable gardening. The goal of the Green Garage® is to encourage gardeners to take a leading role as stewards of the earth by helping them make well-informed, responsible decisions about how they garden.
An orchard of apple, pear, and Japanese persimmon trees produces a beautiful spring display and bears an abundant crop of fruit in late summer and fall.
Experience Our Gardens
Take a look at some of what River Farm has to offer.