Designed pro bono by Wolfgang Oehme in 1983, this small garden (350 x 60 feet) occupies a prominent place on the National Mall. Symbolizing the bond between Germany and the U.S., the plant palette comprises species native to each of the two countries. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan and Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl formally dedicated the garden.
Integrating components of Oehme van Sweden’s “New American Garden Style,” the German-American Friendship Garden contrasts highly textured, diverse plantings with an orderly, geometric form. Colorful combinations of ornamental grasses, perennials, and small trees blend together within precisely defined, geometric beds oriented symmetrically on a north-south axis. Strategically sited benches provide views of the Washington Monument to the south and the White House to the north. Fountains embedded within granite cobblestone-paved circles lie in counterpoint to the rectilinear form of the overall garden. The circles of the hardscape intersect with axial paths, reminiscent of the larger-scale patterns characteristic of the National Mall.
By 2012, the garden required rejuvenation of its plantings, an improved irrigation system, and new sod within its central square. It was at this time that discussions about the garden’s revitalization began and, a year later, a trust fund was established, enabled with contributions from the National Park Foundation and the German Embassy. Oehme, van Sweden & Associates oversaw the garden’s rehabilitation, culminating in a re-dedication ceremony in 2014.