The Friendship Garden surrounds Arbor House at the Arboretum’s R Street entrance. Once a caretaker’s residence, Arbor House is now home to the Friends of the National Arboretum and the National Bonsai Foundation. The garden captures the spirit of a wild meadow, with wide swaths of grasses, perennials, and ferns. Designed to be low maintenance and environmentally friendly, the Friendship Garden celebrates a naturalistic garden aesthetic.
The front portion of the Friendship Garden opened in 1987. Support from the National Garden Clubs, Inc. allowed for the development of the rear garden in 1991 by Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. The pair pioneered the New American Garden movement, characterized by expansive and dynamic waves of colorful perennials and ornamental grasses. In 2019, landscape architect Claudia West led a complete plant community-based redesign of the front garden, which builds upon the foundations that Oehme and van Sweden laid nearly thirty years before.
Two pieces of garden sculpture reside in the Friendship Garden. Demeter, sculpted by John Cavanaugh, can be found near the entrance to Arbor House. Beverly Pepper’s abstract sculpture Split Ritual dominates the back lawn. Look to your right as you drive down R Street for a sneak peak.
TIPS FOR VISITORS
Although the Friendship Garden is as small as any suburban yard, you’ll want to budget fifteen minutes to a half hour to savor all the detail this landscape has to offer. Benches and seating areas are available for you to pause and be inspired to make your garden more environmentally friendly. Wide brick paths make the Friendship Garden easily accessible to all our visitors.