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First time visitors to Washington D.C. usually take in the Capitol Mall, White House and other well-known historical landmarks in the nation's capitol.
Lesser known, perhaps, on the tourist guide is the United States Botanic Garden, an oasis of beauty and color as well as a storehouse of gardening information. It is located on the southeastern corner of the Capitol Mall, just at the bottom of Capitol Hill.
Confirmed, as well as aspiring "green thumbs," could pick up plenty of horticultural pointers here. The garden sponsors free classes on a wide spectrum of flower, herbs, fruit, spice, and vegetable subjects. Most classes are held in the spring and summer.
The Botanic Garden is a living legacy created by the U.S. Congress in 1842. Since its humble beginnings in a single green house, it has grown into a national showcase with more than 38,000 square feet of displays under a single roof.
The Botanic Garden is under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee of The Library of Congress, but is administered through the office of the Architect of the Capitol. The Garden is open daily, free of charge, from 9 a.m. in the summer. Group tours of the Garden Conservatory, a huge glassed structure located at the eastern end of the National Capitol Mall, are conducted throughout the year. The present Conservatory was erected in 1933 and houses sub-tropical, tropical and desert plants in a steamy or dry environment. Self-guided walks through the Conservatory offer a pleasant treat to any Mall visitor.
The garden is located near the Frederic Auguste Bartholdi Park, a sculptured display of bulbs, annuals and perennials, which is part of the Botanic Garden. The historic Bertholdi Fountain, named after the park's designer, is a focal centerpiece of the area.
If you are interested in attending a class at the garden during a stay in Washington, write to: U.S. Botanic Garden, Public Program Office, 245 First St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024, or call: 202/226-4082, or register online at www.usbg.gov.
It is wise to register in advance; the classes fill up fast. The same one-hour class is repeated twice each day, at noon and 2 p.m. on the scheduled date, unless otherwise noted. Most classes meet Thursday, Fridays, or Saturdays, perfect for the weekend layover.
If you have plant questions contact the nationwide plant information service from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (EST), Monday through Friday at 202/225-8333, or write to: U.S. Botanic Garden at the above address.
The garden staff also conducts a few lectures at the Botanic Garden Library on the second floor of the administration building in the Frederic Auguste Bertholdi Park, and also at the U.S. Botanic Garden Poplar Point Nursery at 700 Howards Road, SE.
The Poplar Point Nursery is a work facility. If a class is held here, dress informally and be prepared for work. The nursery supplies many of the shrubs and flowers used in the National Mall landscape.
In addition to the regularly scheduled classes, the garden sponsor's plant and flower shows throughout the year.
What to See - Eden On The Mall
The Botanic Gardens reopned in December 2001 after four years of renovation. Their new hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and their new website is www.usbg.gov
Within the Botanic Gardens you will visit the Medicinal plant section with thousands of medicinal plants arranged from their region of the world. The Children's Garden features bamboo groves, a maze, sunflowers, and plants that children can touch. The World's Deserts is an array of cacti and desert plants from two hemispheres. The Orchid room sees a change of orchids several times a week. Did you know that orchids have no scent? Take the Canopy Walk 24 feet up in the air above the floor of the tropical jungle and under 22,000 panes of glass. The Meditation Garden is a great spot for tuning into the firmament. A National Garden is also being planned for the future. as well as a new learning center.
By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.