One of many beautiful poinsettias at the US Botanic Garden
I’ve been to the US Botanic Garden (USBG) many times and have always enjoyed the beautiful displays that change with the seasons. But in December, I bypass the holiday dazzle of the evergreen-draped lobby, work my way through the steamy medicinal plant and orchid gardens and head straight to the restrooms. There, behind the glass atrium in a quiet passage all its own is the USBG’s best-kept secret: a one-of-a-kind poinsettia display. Continue reading →
Those of us who live near Washington, DC seldom fail to be moved by the majestic buildings and monuments that comprise our capital city. And the United States Botanic Garden, one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America, is one of them. Now at holiday time comes a special treat: the Garden’s annual tribute to the city’s most famous landmarks constructed from, you guessed it, plants and other plant-based materials.
The eye-catching display is part of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s ‘Season’s Greenings’ holiday exhibit that also features seasonal flowers and shrubs, a garden railway with model trains and a top-notch collection of unusual poinsettias. It was created by Paul Busse (most famous for the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show) and his Kentucky-based firm, Applied Imagination. A team of horticulturalists, botanical architects and landscape designers used over 70 different plant materials to build the sculptures.
Model train passes through a botanical Grand Canyon
Botanical Landmarks On A Mini Mall
At the heart of any trip to Washington, DC is a trip to the National Mall. And the botanical replicas, positioned as they are along the broad walkways and twin pools of the Garden Court, mimic the actual ones outside just a stone’s throw away. Each architectural gem is sited high on a mound from which it overlooks its own pint-sized garden vista.
The crown jewel of the collection, the U.S. Capitol, is located to the left of the Court. Measuring seven feet long, the structure is formed of sycamore leaves, willow sticks, acorns and other natural materials. It took over 600 hours to complete. A peek inside reveals the Statue of Freedom and other figures fashioned from beech nuts, corn husks, acorns and pinecone scales.
Facing the U.S. Capitol on the opposite side of the Garden Court is the Washington Monument constructed from sycamore leaves, sea grape leaves and moss. The Garden’s blue-tiled reflecting pool (one of a pair) stretches behind it.
A gourd forms the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. While inside presides a mini President Jefferson with hair made out of lichens.
Sited at the far end of the pool from the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial features an exterior of sea grape leaves and architectural details made from kangaroo pods, sisal rope and grape tendrils among other materials.
The Library of Congress shines amidst a lush green landscape. Its facade is crafted from elm and locust bark. Sea grape leaves make up the terrace.
Library of Congress
There is even a replica of the U.S. Botanic Garden within the conservatory. Surrounded by hydrangeas, boxwood, pileas, freesias and poinsettias, it boasts a facade made from horse chestnut bark and willow sticks.
U.S. Botanic Garden
Located on the opposite side of the pool from the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court building features a frieze made from beech nuts, acorns and silver birch buds.
U.S. Supreme Court
The White House is encircled by a fence made from screw pod rails and cinnamon tops. Its bas-relief columns are formed of palm frond stems and cinnamon curls. There’s a swing-set in front.
If winter’s dull palate is getting you down, the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. offers a colorful respite. Located adjacent to the Capitol Grounds, the Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. I love visiting the magnificent glass Conservatory on gray winter days where I always find plenty to cheer me up. Here, amidst thousands of tropical flowering plants, specialty orchids, carnivorous plants, cacti and succulents, everything seems to be blooming. Continue reading →