Hey Smithsonian - Who was Mary Livingston Ripley and why is your garden named for her?

As summer comes to close, we are preparing ourselves for the beautiful gardens we enjoy during the warmer months to slowly slip away for the fall/winter. This got us thinking about the amazing Mary Livingston Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian Institution. But who was Mary Livingston Ripley, and why is the gorgeous garden of hanging baskets and flower beds named for her? We once again asked the experts at the Smithsonian for the story.

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden was the inspiration of Mrs. S. Dillon Ripley, lifelong plant scholar-collector, active gardener, and wife of the Smithsonian’s eighth Secretary. Mrs. Ripley conceived the idea for a “fragrant garden” on the eastern border of the Arts and Industries Building – a location that had previously been designated to become a parking lot. In 1978, Mrs. Ripley convinced the Women’s Committee of the Smithsonian Associates, which she founded in 1966, to support the garden. Fast-forward to 1988 when the Women’s Committee recognized their founder and friend by naming the garden after her.

Flowers in the Smithsonian gardens
Mary Livingston Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian

If you’ve never visited the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian, add it to your must-see list. “Our goal is to engage, inform and inspire our visitors in each of our gardens.  The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden does this and more.  For plant lovers this garden is heaven; for those who want to sit and rest between museums this garden is the ultimate in tranquility and for those who want to see a little wildlife this garden with its many birds, bees and butterflies does not disappoint.,” remarked Barbara Faust, Smithsonian Gardens Director.

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

In 2018, WorldStrides became the approved domestic educational travel provider of the Smithsonian. This blog is part of a series, “Hey Smithsonian!” where we ask our friends at the venerable institution questions that dig deeper into this special place and all it has to offer!

Article written by Ellen Sewell

Ellen Sewell
Ellen’s background is in digital marketing, and she has a passion for travel and experiencing new places. When she’s not scrolling behind the screen sourcing content, Ellen enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever.

Related Itineraries