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Blue streak

The United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C.

by Katie Calvert

The United States Botanical Garden was established by Congress in 1820 to study and grow plants that could help a still largely agricultural nation.

Today, the Botanical Garden offers serious horticulturalists as well as weekend gardeners an instructive and beautiful retreat a short walk from the U.S. Capitol.

United States Botanical Garden reflectionWashington, D.C. has so many attractions. Visitors that are suffering political overload from seeing too many elected officials or experiencing æculture shock” from visiting too many museums may want to stop and smell the roses—as well as many of the other 4,000 plants—that can be found at the United States Botanical Garden (USBG).
Conservatory at the US Botanical GardenThe crowning jewel of the Botanical Garden is the Conservatory.
First opened in 1933, the glass-enclosed building underwent a three-year renovation that restored or refabricated the building based on its original design.
View from Conservatory walkwayThe Jungle (formerly called the Palm House) now includes a 24-foot-high walkway for visitors that want an aerial view of the tropical and subtropical plants in the USBG’s collection.
Desert plants, healing plants, and endangered plants are highlighted in Conservatory displays.
The USBG’s Bartholdi Park is named after the sculptor of the cast iron fountain at its center. Frédéric August Bartholdi (who was designing the Statue of Liberty at the same time) made the fountain for the 1876 International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The fountain was moved to Washington in 1877 and placed in its current location in 1932. A major restoration of the fountain began in 2008.
The triangular park includes many beds that are planted as demonstration gardens or thematic displays; some plantings are seasonal. Backyard gardeners can find lots of inspiration here.
National Garden at US Botanical GardenThe newest part of the United States Botanical Garden is the 3-acre National Garden, which is west of the Conservatory. It was design to be “a showcase for unusual, useful, and ornamental plants that grow well in the mid-Atlantic region.”
Included in the site are the Rose Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the First Ladies’ Water Garden, and an outdoor amphitheater.


Visit other botanical gardens on in London, Brooklyn, San Francisco and San Diego.
Slideshow—all photos on this page

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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson