George Washington’s flowering upper garden is a rich cache of petals and blossoms this time of year, with every week (and sometimes day) bringing a new assortment of blooms. Although everything planted there was known to exist in 18th-century gardens, we’re not exactly sure which species Washington planted in these flowering beds except for fritillaria, larkspur and cardinal flower, all of which are on record as sprouting there. So far this year only the fritallaria has bloomed (see above slideshow), and has almost disappeared from the garden already.
We do have lists from orders that were sent to nurseries so we know the types of flowers that were blooming around the estate generally, although we don’t necessarily know where Washington planted them. Red honeysuckle was requisite for the colonnades that connect the kitchen and servants’ hall to the Mansion and can still be seen there today (see above slideshow). “Sweet shrub” or Calycanthus floridus, whose fragrant blooms smell somewhere on the scent spectrum between apples and strawberry jam, was planted in Washington’s botanical garden where he would experiment with plants. Today, one such shrub can be seen and more importantly smelled in the upper garden, with the rest of its floral cohorts.