Gardens of the Smithsonian

Well, things in the garden here are really starting to simmer down, which means it’s time to get serious about posting on this year’s adventures. Let’s start with the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling, which was held at the end of June in the DC-area.


The first day of the fling was dedicated to the gardens of the Smithsonian Institute. The Institute is known primarily for its museums, which is understandable. But the museums are landscaped with 12 gardens stretching along both sides of the National Mall for a little less than a mile. The flingers were set loose to explore at their own pace.


To be truthful, our energy was limited by the day’s heat and humidity, so we only visited about half the gardens. The first we visited was the Victory Garden, located on the east side of the American History Museum. This was a recreation of the vegetable gardens that were encouraged during World War II.


We had a chance to chat with the staff, who were out watering the beds. Despite the humidity, the soil looked pretty dry. I was taken with the Cardoons, and was surprised to learn that both the flower buds and the stems are edible.


Leaving the Victory Garden, we strolled through the Urban Bird Habitat garden, next to the Natural History Museum. It was full of plants that provide seeds, fruit, and shelter for all kinds of songbirds.


There is a Pollinator Garden on the other side of the Natural History Museum. I was pleased to see a big patch of Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), one of my personal favorites for both birds and pollinators.


There are plenty of arresting sites as you wander the National Mall from garden to garden. Above is a replica of a 6-ton Olmec head found near Veracruz.


The Folger Rose Garden is near the Smithsonian Castle. There were some roses blooming, but what made the biggest impression on me were the robust clumps of Lavender.


The Enid Haupt Garden covers four acres surrounding the Smithsonian Castle. It’s got several areas, including the Islamic-style paradise garden above. It sounds like old Enid was a rather imperious lady, but generous when it came to financing public gardens that bore her name.


Judy and I followed our noses to the area alongside the Freer Gallery, where we were overcome with the sweet scent of the huge container-grown Gardenia plant (above right). We were also impressed by the Angels Trumpets growing to the left.


Near the Sackler Gallery we found the Moongate Garden, also part of Enid’s legacy. This Chinese-inspired garden is dominated by water and granite. I found it peaceful but rather solemn.


If I worked anywhere near the National Mall, I would visit the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden on as many lunch hours as I could. The bench above would certainly be one perfect location to sit alone with my thoughts and a sandwich.


The mix of plants, from hardy perennials to tropicals, is both soothing and stimulating. There is certainly lots to draw your attention.


I loved the curving brick paths.


This is the outside of the American Indian Museum. Don’t you love the design?


The American Indian Museum has its own Native Landscape Garden, which includes the striking wetland garden above. I think that blue flower is Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata).


Eventually we came to the U.S. Botanic Garden at the far end of the National Mall, and spent some time admiring the native plants in the Regional Garden. I was especially taken with the Rudbeckia maxima – on the left in the photo above. (Could I find a place to squeeze some in at home?)

Finally, we waited outside the USBG conservatory for the bus to take us return us in air-conditioned splendor to our hotel.

That’s all for now. More to come on the DC Fling.

27 Comments on “Gardens of the Smithsonian”

  1. I think Jason, you had nice time taking part in the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling, so many gardens you have seen. I liked the Gardenia and Brugmansia, grown up in large pots. The design of building of The American Indian Museum is rather strange, but its garden looks interesting.

  2. Now I know I really missed out this year. Darn. It’s so hard to make choices about trips and garden adventures! Thanks for sharing! I’ve been to DC many times but haven’t focused on the gardens. The pathways at so many of the DC-area gardens seem so carefully planned and architecturally pleasing to the eye. While that’s common here, too, it seems to be almost the rule in DC.

  3. Lovely to have a tour of the Smithsonian gardens from the comfort of my study! I love the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, lots of colour and textures to look at and enjoy. I have noticed many public gardens have dedicated Pollinator gardens now, so there are good things happening in the world too! I like the Pickerelweed in the wetland gardens of the American Indian Museum…and of course the bird sculpture in the Urban Bird Habitat.

  4. What a nice range of gardens in such a small area. The mall area has come a long way over the years, it used to just be long lines of trees and lawn. As far as I can remember the biggest highlight were the huge southern magnolias, which are still cool, but theres been so much added.

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