Many visitors are surprised to learn that the Smithsonian Institution includes a number of outdoor museums. All have been designed to complement the museums they border and to enhance the overall museum experience of learning, appreciation, and enjoyment. From mid-April through September there are weekly garden tours available (weather permitting).
Located between the Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden is a horticultural display of hundreds of varieties of annual and perennial plants, unique hanging baskets, and unusual trees and shrubs.
Located directly above the National Museum of African Art, S. Dillon Ripley Center, and Arthur M.Sackler Gallery, the 4.2-acre Enid A. Haupt Garden is actually a rooftop garden. It comprises three separate gardens, each reflecting the cultural influences celebrated in the adjacent architecture and the museums below.
The Butterfly Habitat Garden, a joint project with the National Museum of Natural History, features different habitats frequented by butterflies (wetlands, meadow, woodland edge, urban garden) and informational signage about their life cycles and behaviors. Created in 1995 and significantly expanded in 2000, the garden was made possible by funding from The Garden Club of America and the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden adorns the east side of the Smithsonian Castle and the main façade of the Arts and Industries Building. From mid-May through November, roses grace the garden with color and fragrance. Bulbs, perennials, annuals, tropical plants, potted herbs, and evergreens enhance the garden's year-round beauty.
Located on the terrace outside the National Museum of American History's cafeteria, the Victory Garden is typical of vegetable gardens created during World War II, when growing food for home consumption was an important part of the war effort.
The Heirloom Garden at the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, is a treasury of favorites from what may be considered the classic American flower garden. Heirloom varieties, defined as open-pollinated plants rather than hybrids or genetically altered plants, are showcased in the terrace beds at the Mall entrance of the museum.
The grounds surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian are considered an extension of the building and a vital part of the museum as a whole. By recalling the natural landscape environment that existed prior to European contact, the museums landscape design embodies a theme that runs central to the museum returning to a Native place.
Financier Joseph H. Hirshhorn donated his extensive modern art collection to the Smithsonian in 1966, with the stipulation that an outdoor sculpture garden be part of the new museum. Transformed by season, time of day, and even weather, the garden provides an ever-changing backdrop and contemplative haven for viewing over 60 large-scale works of art.
The Courtyard Garden is an elegantly designed outdoor space that invites relaxation and quiet contemplation within the gallery. In 1906, Charles L. Freer, a Detroit railroad-car manufacturer, donated his exceptional collection of Asian art and works by James McNeil Whistler to the people of the United States.
The landscape at the National Air and Space Museum includes more than seven acres of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and herbaceous perennial and annual plants. Set in multiple tiers of walled terraces, the plantings are intended to provide year-round seasonal interest to museum visitors and staff.
The Castle building is surrounded by two exhibition gardens, the Enid A. Haupt Garden and Folger Rose Garden. These gardens showcase containers of plants, 19th century garden furniture, seasonal plantings and fountains.
The Smithsonian Gardens greenhouse facility is the permanent home of Smithsonian Gardens’ Greenhouse Nursery Operations. It serves as the base of production and maintenance of plant material for the gardens and horticultural exhibits throughout the Smithsonian Institution. It houses the Smithsonian Orchid Collection, tropical plant specimens, and interior display plants, and also includes a greenhouse devoted to nectar plants used for the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History.