Why You Should Visit The US Botanical Garden This Summer
Located in Washington, D.C. on the Capitol grounds, the United States Botanical Garden has a rich history in addition to its beautiful grounds.
Although the idea of a National Garden dates back to the times of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. Botanical Garden (USBG) traces its origins to the year 1816, when the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences formally proposed the idea. Congress established the Columbian Institute’s garden in 1820, just to the west of the Capitol Grounds, and it operated until the year 1837. The garden proposal revived itself in 1842, after the Wilkes Expedition brought a collection of living plants back to the U.S. from around the world; eight years later, after being housed in temporary greenhouses, the plants were moved to the site of the previous Institute’s garden.
Finally, in 1933, the USBG moved to its present location. There you can find the Conservatory (along with two acres of exterior grounds), the Frederic August Bartholdi Park, and the Administration Building. The newly developed National Garden is scheduled to open in October 2006, and will add three more acres to the USBG complex.
So, what can you expect to see at the USBG? Well, first of all, there’s the Plant Collection at the Conservatory, which was recently renovated to the tune of 33 million dollars. The Conservatory maintains a beautiful, fascinating living plant museum with a total of about 26,000 different plants, all used either for exhibition, study and/or exchange with other institutions. There are economic plants, medicinal plants, rare and endangered plants, orchids, cacti and succulents, cycads, and ferns, to mention just a few! The Palm House structure, which was renamed The Jungle, now includes a walkway for visitors at 24 feet above the floor. There are also various rotating exhibits as well as exhibits that come and go, so before you visit – or when you get there – check them out so that you won’t miss anything visit the “What’s In Bloom” page on the USBG website: www.usbg.gov.
Outdoors, you will find the Bartholdi Park. Created in 1932, it was named after the man who built the historic fountain at its center – Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The geometrically arranged flower beds in the Park are continuously updated to reflect trends in American gardening. The famous Bartholdi Fountain is surprisingly graceful, considering its mammoth size – it weights about 40 tons and is 30 feet high. In addition to being a beautiful place to walk around, the Park also serves as a home landscape demonstration garden, and showcases innovative plant combinations with a variety of styles, designs and themes.
As of October, 2006, the USBG will be opening the newly built National Garden. This garden will stretch over three acres, and will include the Rose Garden, the First Ladies Water Garden, the Butterfly Garden and an Environmental Learning Center, to name just a few.
There is no admission charge to any area of the USBG. The Conservatory is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, while Bartholdi Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Handheld still or video cameras can be used at any time; however, if you want to use a tripod or draw with an easel or use art materials containing solvents, you’ll need special permission and a permit. Although there are a limited number of metered parking spaces within a short walking distance of the USBG, public transportation is your best bet – both Metrorail and Metro buses have lines that go straight to the USBG. The site offers full accessibility for those with special needs, as well as handicapped parking.
The Garden’s outstanding collections are arranged in fascinating displays that provide not only an educational experience but an opportunity to relax and absorb the beauty of nature. The USBG features plant exhibitions and flower shows throughout the year. Each show offers visitors a wide range of ideas on innovative garden design, up-to-date gardening tips and botanical information.