Tag Archives: U.S. Botanic Garden

Celebrate National Public Gardens Day on Friday, May 12

This Friday is National Public Gardens Day, an annual tradition of celebrating public gardens on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day weekend. Communities nationwide are invited to explore the diverse beauty of their local green spaces and to take advantage of the conservation, education and environmental preservation resources that public gardens provide.

The American Public Garden Association (APGA) manages a database of APGA-member gardens participating in National Public Gardens Day. The APGA is the leading professional organization for the field of public horticulture serving public gardens. People can view the database to see which public gardens are having celebrations in their area but be advised that this is a self-reporting tool, it is up to the members to inform APGA of their plans to provide discounts, promotions, demonstrations, and other great celebratory incentives to visitors. There also are non APGA member gardens that celebrate National Public Garden Day as well so it is best to call your local public garden or arboretum to see if they have planned any special activities.

In the Greater Washington DC area, the following APGA member gardens have special activities for Friday, as posted in the database:

Maryland

Adkins Arboretum

Historic London Town and Gardens

Virginia

James Madison’s Montpelier

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Green Spring Gardens is an APGA member but you will find their activities on their own website at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Washington DC

U.S. Botanic Garden

Smithsonian Gardens

Tudor Place Historic House and Garden

U.S. Botanic Garden’s New Exhibit: You Can Grow It!

img_4450Check out the U.S. Botanic Garden’s new exhibit — You Can Grow It! From February 18 through October 15, you can see tips and answers to some of the questions people ask most frequently about caring for plants in their own homes and gardens, including how to choose the best plant for their space and care abilities. The exhibit will provide answers to common issues about lighting, watering, fertilizing, and pests, as well as how to rescue a plant that experiences problems. If you are unsure of what kind of plant you can grow, you can find tips based on which direction your window(s) face in a four-panel “house” diorama.img_4446

The Conservatory gallery will feature separate sections with tips on topics such as foolproof plants (for those with a less-than-bright-green thumb); today’s popular succulents; tropical house plants; seasonal plants like amaryllis, Christmas cactus, poinsettia, and more; expert care tips on orchids, carnivorous plants, and others; how to propagate plants from seeds and cuttings; and even hydroponics. Outdoors, You Can Grow It! will showcase plants for growing outside including items for kitchen use like herbs and vegetables, container gardening, and more. 

img_4414Throughout the exhibit run, the U.S. Botanic Garden will offer programs, workshops, lectures, tours, and cooking demonstrations to showcase and provide training on gardening at home.

The U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC is open every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free. To learn more about the exhibit, visit www.USBG.gov/YouCanGrowIt. Photos courtesy of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

U.S. Botanic Garden’s Seasonal Exhibit Opens Thanksgiving Day

usbg-holiday-show-lincoln-memorial-and-washington-monumentThis year’s annual U.S. Botanic Garden holiday exhibit, Season’s Greenings: National Parks and Historic Places, will open Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016 and run through January 2, 2017. Immerse yourself in the sights, scents, and sounds of the season with wreaths, garland, trees, and thousands of blooms from exotic orchids to a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties.

Throughout the Conservatory, the U.S. Botanic Garden will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. In this year’s model train show, the trains will chug around, below, through, and above re-creations of iconic national parks and sites in the National Register of Historic Places. See the Grand Canyon, the Gateway Arch, Old Faithful Inn and Geyser, Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore, a 7-foot-tall Statue of Liberty, and many more representing 48 different national parks and historic sites, all made from plants and other natural materials.

The West Gallery will house one of the largest indoor trees in Washington, DC, covered with ornaments celebrating national parks, and the Garden Court will welcome back model landmarks from the nation’s capital including favorites like the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and more – all also made from plant materials. More than 30 varieties of poinsettias will showcase old and new colors, forms, and sizes of this seasonal favorite.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. It is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays in December, the Conservatory will be open until 8 p.m. for live seasonal music concerts and after-dark holiday exhibit viewing. 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20001; (202) 225-8333. http://www.usbg.gov

New U.S. Botanic Garden Exhibit in Washington DC: Flourish Inside and Out

 

Flourish- Inside and Out exhibit logo - U.S. Botanic GardenThe U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) in Washington DC presents a new exhibit Flourish: Inside and Out from May 21 (this Saturday) through October 2, 2016. The indoor and outdoor exhibit, developed with consultation from Chicago Botanic Garden, showcases the proven human-health benefits of interacting with nature. Research has demonstrated that when people garden or otherwise spend time with nature, they experience increased productivity, better physical and mental health, healing, and improved test scores.

“Plants enrich our lives,” says Ari Novy, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden. “In addition to providing the food we eat, clothes we wear and air we breathe, they also have profound and subtle impacts on our heath. The act of gardening has positive physical and emotional impacts on our well-being. Research shows amazing benefits of simply talking a walk in planted areas, such as parks, gardens and natural landscapes. Even a window view of plants has been shown to decrease convalesce time in hospital patients. Through Flourish: Inside and Out, we invite visitors to immerse themselves in the healing world of plants while demonstrating how everyone can bring the power of plants into their lives.”

The East Gallery of the Conservatory will feature indoor vignettes showing how plants can bring the outdoors inside in various settings such as offices, homes, schools, and waiting rooms. Each section will feature ongoing programs such as Green Bronx Machine that is growing greens and other vegetables in classrooms and examples of tools and techniques for indoor plant care.

Outdoors, Flourish: Inside and Out will engage many senses – the front Terrace will feature plants to stimulate the senses of smell, touch, sound, and sight. For visual appeal even at a distance, colors will transition around the Conservatory in a rainbow of warm to cool colors.

The east Terrace beds will profile organizations that use horticulture and gardening in a therapeutic manner with diverse audiences including veterans, current- and formerly incarcerated youth and adults, and people with physical and intellectual disabilities.  These programs promote healthy lifestyles, supply horticultural therapy, provide horticultural job training, and offer gardening-based recreation. Programs profiled will include St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Melwood Horticulture Program, Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest, the Rikers Island GreenHouse program by the Horticultural Society of New York, and Denver Botanic GardensChatfield Farms.

Additionally, the exhibit will showcase accessible gardening with beds of varying heights and designs to enable people of all abilities to garden. Features will include beds and planters for standing, sitting, and wheelchair use and a tool shed featuring adaptive and ergonomic tools.

Throughout Flourish: Inside and Out, the USBG will offer programs, workshops, lectures, tours, and cooking demonstrations to showcase and provide training on gardening at home and ways plants and nature can enrich daily life. The USBG is also working with the National Park Service (NPS) to share how their Find Your Park program can help visitors connect with nature in national parks, as well as collaborating on veteran-related horticulture programs with the NPS American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial adjacent to the USBG. Visit www.USBG.gov/Flourish to learn more about the exhibit and associated programs.

Text and image courtesy of the USBG.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Emerald Creeper

emerald creeper (4)Emerald Creeper is not something that grows in my Northern Virginia garden but I was lucky to see it flower last week so I just had to share these photos with fellow gardeners on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Known for its turquoise colored flowers, which is an extremely rare color in the plant world, Emerald Creeper produces dozens of long pendent trusses, also called pseudoracemes, with claw-shaped flowers.  In fact, the only way I was able to see such an exquisite flower was by visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory in Washington DC. Few botanical gardens have the Emerald Creeper, which is rapidly becoming an endangered species. Native to the Philippines, this tropical vine lives in rainforests that are being decimated.emerald creeper (2)

A member of the bean family, Emerald Creeper produces pea pods about 2 inches long but these are even rarer to see. The vine is pollinated by bats that hang upside down on the inflorescences to drink the nectar. Because there are no bats in glass houses, staff would have to mimic the way the bats enter the flower in order to hand pollinate.

emerald creeper (8)

 

The botanical name intrigued me.  Strongylodon macrobotrys comes from the Greek word “strongylos” which means “round,” and “odontus” which means “tooth” and refers to the rounded teeth of the calyx. In the specific epithet, the Greek word “macros” means “large” and “botrys” means “grape-like clusters.” I can see all of that but “grape” escapes me!

U.S. Botanic Garden’s New Exhibit: Mediterranean Room

pelargonium (2)

Pelargonium

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG), in Washington DC, has just opened a new exhibit: the Mediterranean room. Part of the Conservatory, this room is full of plants native to or commonly cultivated in Mediterranean climates, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters with only occasional frost. Five areas have a Mediterranean climate: the Mediterranean Basin, California, Chile, South Africa, and Australia. These areas produce a wide range of foods reflected in Mediterranean cuisines: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and unsaturated plant-based fats. Eating a Mediterranean diet has been associated with health benefits such as longer life spans, lower average body weights, and reduction of risks of heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.

“We are thrilled to showcase the amazing flora of Mediterranean regions, which are some of the most diverse habitats in the world,” said Ari Novy, executive director. “Beyond their ecological value, the Mediterranean regions have given us some of nature’s most enjoyable bounty including olives, figs, and wine. The fruits of the Mediterranean have truly enhanced both our health and cuisines.”

kale lettuce thyme viola

Kale, Lettuce, Thyme, and Violets

fig tree

Fig Tree (Ficus carica)

This particular conservatory room has not had a new thematic exhibit in 15 years. The idea germinated several years ago when staff horticulturist Adam Pyle suggested that many of our foods and edible plants come from the Mediterranean region. Additionally, this cuisine has the highest number of foods that people recognize today. In an era where the number of people who produce food has reduced dramatically while the number of people who live in urban areas has increased, most people are not connected to food production, agriculture, and gardening. However, there is a high degree of “relatability” with Mediterranean foods–many people recognize citruses, pomegranates, olives, grapes, and figs, and culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

The Mediterranean room is bright but not hot, colored in soft yellows and blues to complement the yellow and blue tiles of the fountain. On one side is an urn modified to be a fountain and a tiled basin of water and on the opposite side is a 53-foot mural painted in hues of blue against a yellow wall.  Rolling pastures, fields of grain, tall cypress trees, and ribbons of blue and purple flowers evoke images of a sunny Mediterranean country.

Arbutus 'Marina'

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’)

Visitors may recognize common culinary herbs in terracotta pots: rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, parsley, and cilantro. More unusual herbs include rue, absinthe (Artemisia absinthium), golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium aureum), and fern leaf lavender (Lavandula pinnata). Edibles such as lettuce, kale, and spinach are grouped together in shallow containers. In the ground are fava bean plants, pineapple-guava (Acca sellowiana), bay laurel, fig, pomegranate, olives, and several different types of citruses.

To highlight the yellow and blue tiles in the fountain, flowering plants are strategically placed across the room from the purple-flowered pelargoniums, light lavender heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens ‘Marine’), yellow and peach snapdragons, and pendulous yellow blossoms of the tall flowering maples (Abutilon). One arch is covered with bougainvillea not yet in bloom but the other arch is covered by a black coral pea vine (Kennedia nigricans) blooming with slender black flowers. The sweet pea shrub (Polygala x dalmaisiana) has beautiful purple blossoms and the strawberry tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’) has bunches of cream flowers, very similar to a Pieris.

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Black Coral Pea (Kennedia nigricans)

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Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala x dalmaisiana)

The Mediterranean room is only the beginning of USBG’s next foray into communicating the importance of food production and agriculture. Devin Dotson, public affairs and exhibits specialist, envisions many activities this year from additional signs highlighting specific plants, special tours, food programs, storytelling, and cooking classes. This new exhibit builds upon and continues USBG’s interest in reconnecting the public with food production and agriculture and the pivotal role all botanical gardens can play in educating people about agricultural and the future of food. USBG has had several exhibits in the past communicating the importance of plants through food such as its Food for Thought exhibit, Amber Waves of Grain, and Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots. The USBG is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. The Conservatory is located at 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, on the southwest side of the Capitol. More information is available at http://www.usbg.gov.

Abutilon 'Canary Bird'

 

Discovering the Chocolate Bean at the U.S. Botanic Garden

cacao (5)I was downtown last week for a meeting and took time to wander around the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG). I took many photos of which I will share later but wanted to mention one of the many important reasons why people should support their public gardens and conservatories. I was in the building, resting on a bench opposite the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) — yes, the chocolate tree. The cacao tree is a small tropical tree with large, ovoid, orange/yellow fruit, similar to papayas.

cacaoI was admiring the tree as any chocolate lover would when Dr. Susan Pell, Science and Public Program Manager at USBG, began a short talk about the tree to visitors in the area. Using her pruners, she sliced open one of the fruit, called a pod, stating that “each pod has about 20 to 60 seeds.” However, the opened pod revealed a white pulpy mass – no seed in sight. She then put a segment of the pulp in her mouth to chew and remove the pulp so she could show us the enclosed seed in her hand. I asked if one could eat the seed but she said it would be too bitter. cacao (3)The seed, also called a bean, is high in fat, also known as cocoa butter. To decrease the bitterness, the seeds are fermented, causing the seed color to change from purple to brown (hence bean). In factories, the beans are toasted and ground until they become liquid (from the high fat content). From then, the liquid is used to make various forms of chocolate in a more solid state. In all my years of eating chocolate, this was the first time I saw the inside of a cacao pod and a bean so it was a fascinating, serendipitous experience that could have only happened at a public conservatory. In fact, the only way I could have seen the pods is by staff working at the conservatory because the small flowers, which bloom directly on the trunk, are pollinated by a type of fly that does not exist within the glass. Staff have to hand pollinate the cacao tree to ensure fruit. Not only was I fascinated but all the other people around Dr. Pell were equally interested and we learned more about the origins of chocolate that day. Support your local public gardens and conservatories! cacao (6)