Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
West Virginia, West Virginia
August 23, 2009
From journal Washington's National Mall
December 2, 2007
From journal Holiday Displays in Our Nation's Capital
December 30, 2006
From journal DC, in the Rain, With an Aussie
July 31, 2004
Just steps from the Capitol Building, the National Botanic Garden has long been a favorite retreat on the Mall. One year, I recall, a section of the Conservatory was given over to an astounding display of orchids, while another exhibit was devoted carnivorous plants. Near the entryway, the Garden Court’s fountains and changing floral displays are an irresistible photo opportunity. The winter holidays are heralded with a riot of poinsettias, while red-white-and-blue plantings trumpet early July. At the heart of the renovated Conservatory, the "Jungle," with its towering palms and paths winding through lush tropical foliage, provides an otherworldly escape for busy legislator and casual tourist alike.
There’s far more to the Botanic Garden, though, than the Conservatory. Just across Independence Avenue lies Bartholdi Park, featuring a lovely fountain surrounded by gardens designed in a classical style. Future plans call for a three-acre National Garden next to the Conservatory at the very foot of the Capitol Building. Along with the gardens of the Smithsonian, National Gallery, and National Park Service, the revitalized Botanic Garden is yet another sign that downtown Washington is undergoing a landscaping and gardening renaissance.
My most recent trip to the National Botanic Garden was to hear a talk by Eric Grissell, author of Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology. Dr Grissell, a research entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, espouses a practical philosophy that advocates balance rather than absolute control in the garden. His basic message is this: insects are not merely pests that gardeners must fight -- they are an integral part of the ecology of the garden, and a good garden displays a richness of both plant and insect life.
It was easy to like Dr. Grissell’s message, which focuses on ‘letting it be’ rather than ‘having it MY way.’ Many gardeners are, simply put, control freaks. Yet the gardener "must ultimately face the garden on its terms or face the alternative of constant vigil or eventual ruin." As he amply demonstrated, there is simply no practical way to win the war with insects. Instead, by cultivating a diversity of plants and habitats, a healthy balance results as the insects, frogs, birds, and other garden dwellers establish equilibrium. In short, by accepting imperfection, we are rewarded with a far richer garden.
Outside the Botanic Garden, I was pleased to find an exhibit devoted largely to insects, The Great Pollinator Partnership, which runs through October 11, 2004. Twelve container ‘pollination gardens’ demonstrate the vital role of pollinators. The graceful displays on the theme ‘Dancing with Flowers,’ were particularly informative. Did you know, for example, that a butterfly garden should contain not just flowering plants but a moist salt lick as well?
Insider Tip: The Botanic Garden stays open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. The walk from the Capitol South metro provides wonderful views of the Capitol Building and grounds en route.
From journal Entomological Excursions