Washington, DC

Discovering the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

Traveling with Alice

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History

The idea of a National Garden dates back to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson's times. Still, only in 1816 the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences formally proposed creating the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG).

Congress established the Columbian Institute's Garden in 1820, just to the west of the Capitol Grounds, and it operated until the year 1837 when the society ceased holding meetings. In 1842 the Garden renewed thanks to the collection of living plants that the Wilkes Expedition brought back to the U.S. from the South Seas' journey. Eight years later, after being housed temporarily in the Old Patent Office greenhouse, the plants were moved to the site where the Capitol reflecting pool is now situated.

Lastly, in 1933, the USBG relocated to its present position. The U.S. Botanic Garden is consists of the Conservatory surrounded by a two-acre park, the Frederic Auguste Bartholdi Park, the Production Facility, and the National Garden (opened in 2006).

The Conservatory

The Conservatory is the main building of the U.S. Botanical Garden, and it's housed in the Lord & Burnham greenhouse. It hosts economic plants, medicinal plants, rare and endangered plants, orchids, cacti, succulents, cycads, and ferns, and more.

The Palm House structure, which was renamed "The Jungle", now includes a walkway for visitors 24 feet above the floor. There are also various rotating exhibits and seasonal displays. Make sure to check the exhibition page and the "What's In Bloom" page on the USBG website before organizing your visit.

The Conservatory is divided into different sections dedicated to diverse habitats:

  • Garden Court
  • The Tropics
  • Plant Adaptations
  • Garden Primeval
  • Hawaii
  • World Deserts
  • Medicinal Plants
  • Orchids
  • Mediterranean
  • Rare and Endangered Species
  • Southern Exposure
  • Children's Garden
  • West Gallery and East Gallery

The Bartholdi Park

The Bartholdi Park, located just across Independence Avenue from the Botanic Garden's Conservatory, is a two-acre area created in 1932 and named after Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The French sculptor created the majestic centerpiece fountain, also known as the "Fountain of Light and Water," located in the park. A surprisingly graceful masterpiece, considering its gigantic size – it weighs more than 15 tons and is 30 feet high, and it's made of cast-iron. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi is also known for being the creator of the Statue of Liberty.

The park, which is richly decorated with arranged flower beds continuously updated, has been home to a landscape demonstration garden for decades. It was renovated in 2016 following the philosophy of creating a more sustainable designed garden.

The Bartholdi Park is also a quiet place where to find shelter from the sun sitting on its benches or simply enjoying the fresh air while relaxing outside.

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The National Garden

The National Garden, a three-acre area, opened in 2006, was "conceived as an outdoor laboratory for gardening in harmony with natural ecosystems," as the U.S. Botanic Garden official page says.

The Garden showcases ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic region and plants from all over the United States.

It is divided into:

  • The Regional Garden
  • The Rose Garden
  • The Butterfly Garden
  • The First Ladies Water Garden
  • The Lawn Terrace
  • The Amphitheater

When visiting the Amphitheater, remember to enjoy the spectacular view of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory and the U.S. Capitol dome and take some memorable pictures!

Useful information

There is no admission charge to any area of the USBG. The Conservatory is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm; The National Garden is usually open from 7:30 am to 5 pm, while Bartholdi Park is open daily from dawn to dusk.

Check the opening hours schedule before visiting. You will need special permission and permit to use a tripod or draw with an easel or use art materials containing solvents.

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 U.S. Botanic Garden's exceptional collections are arranged in fascinating displays to provide both an outstanding educational experience and an opportunity to relax and sense the beauty of nature.

The large number of plants and flowers displayed are just a small part of those actually housed in the Garden. In fact, the Production Facility in southwest D.C. is utilized for growing and storing plants used for propagation, collection maintenance, or display in future annual exhibits.

The USBG features plant and flower shows throughout the year. Each of them offers visitors a wide range of innovative garden design ideas, up-to-date gardening tips, and botanical information.

For more information visit: https://www.usbg.gov/

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