Takoma Park and Silver Spring garden clubs donate to revive trampled Smithsonian Gardens

The crowd at the Women's March on Jan. 21 spilled into the Smithsonian Gardens, resulting in trampled plants.

by Kathy Jentz

Imagine, if you will, hosting a garden party for 10 people, then 1,000 show up in your small yard. How would your plantings look after that festive event? Now magnify that by 100 and you can start to picture the state of the Smithsonian Gardens the day after the recent Women’s March on Washington.

The devastation could have been worse. After the first Obama inauguration, crowds trampled the Ripley Garden and surroundings. The staff learned their lesson and this time put up fences and signs to guide inauguration participants around the landscapes. The fences held for the smaller crowd on Trump’s big day, but the unprecedented waves of humanity who attended the Women’s March were no match for the flimsy barriers.

During the height of the event, I remember thinking to myself, “What am I stepping in, and where is the street?” I just followed the rivers of the crowds and had no idea what was beneath my feet until I felt a curb edge.

“People tried to crowd into the stage area and were not attentive to where they walked or to plants and shrubs underfoot,” said local gardener Carol Edwards. “Many participants were just waiting to march to the Ellipse at 1 p.m. and got bored as the start time was delayed. People were polite, orderly, and focused on peaceful demonstration. When more than half-million people are in a limited space with a long wait, the grounds are bound to be trampled. There is no way around it. In my view, this is what democracy looks like on the National Mall, and the Smithsonian and National Park Service should establish a targeted fund for restoration of the grounds after jumbo events. I would be happy to make a contribution to such a fund. I love gardens and I love my Constitutional right to assembly and to petition our government. I am hopeful for both.”

Right after the march, the Smithsonian Gardens staff posted this plea on their web site:

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people visited the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the many Smithsonian gardens welcome visitors to the Smithsonian museums. Due to the overwhelming crowds, several of these gardens were adversely impacted and suffered damage in the form of trampled or ruined plantings. Please help Smithsonian Gardens restore these beloved spaces with a donation in any amount. Your contribution will aid us in making sure these gardens are revived in time for the coming spring season.

Thank you,
Barbara Faust, Smithsonian Gardens Director

It has since been taken down and we can only speculate that the current administration’s hostile environment to free speech among Federal employees* has caused them to be reluctant to draw more attention to themselves. Therefore, we local gardeners and marchers will do it for them.

I checked in with Smithsonian Gardens staff a few days ago and so far they have gotten $9,000 in donations due to the publicity we put out via social media this week. That is terrific! However, the damages incurred are estimated to be $100,000, so we need to get the word out more.

Two local garden clubs, Takoma Horticultural Club and the Silver Spring Garden Club, are donating $250 each on behalf of their many members who participated in the march. If you would like to donate as well to the garden recovery, here is how:


DONATE BY CHECK (Download and print pdf form):

Note that although donations are going through Office of Advancement (the reason it says Smithsonian Research on the receipt), all the funds come directly to the Smithsonian Gardens account.

To view photos of the gardens at their peak, please visit DCgardens.com and Gardens.si.edu.


*Employees of both the USDA and EPA were recently commanded not to speak to the press.

Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine (washingtongardener.blogspot.com) and is a long-time D.C.-area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at www.washingtongardener.com and welcomes your gardening questions.