Tag Archives: United States Botanic Garden

The Birds and the Bees

22 Jun

I’ve written quite a lot about flora lately, so today it’s all about showcasing some local fauna: a few of the birds and bees (and a bug and a chipmunk) that I have had the pleasure to encounter in the past couple of months.

A cardinal in flight in our backyard…

A robin at Brookside Gardens in an optimistic (but ultimately futile) bid to score twine for its nest; a makeshift bird beach at the US Botanical Garden

A Canada Goose guarding his territory at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens; and a bee coming…

…and going.

And finally, a dragonfly and a chipmunk, each going about their business earlier today at Brookside.

The Remains of the Season

22 Mar

Last weekend, a stroll around the National Arboretum revealed that, yes, spring has arrived and may soon work its way a few miles north and visit my garden, too:

Dwarf Dutch Iris


While I am waiting for Spring 2014 to put in an appearance in my garden and usher in the new , I wanted to give a shout out to the some of the remains of 2013, all beautiful in their own way:

Dried Pomegranates, US Botanic Garden

Rose of Sharon seed pod, my garden

Azalea seed pod, my garden

Dried Fruit of the Sweetgum tree, US National Arboretum

A Symphony of Orchids

22 Feb

If I have a green thumb at all, it is mostly due to luck. But that luck always runs out when it comes to orchids, with my green thumb (and the orchids) turning a dreadful brown. My mother, on the other hand, is an orchid whisperer. She has only one orchid at the moment, but it is lovingly tended and reciprocates in kind. When she is away, it is my task to water it, and I live in fear of killing it. Thus far, that hasn’t happened. But I can’t help but think it is aware of (and does not appreciate) my inferior ministrations.

Despite my ineptitude, I very much appreciate the ethereal beauty of orchids. So today, my mother and I headed to the opening day of a two-month exhibit, Orchid Symphony, at the U.S. Botanic Garden. It features a dazzling array of orchids in the Garden Court, set against a backdrop of classical music and the sounds of water cascading from fountains. Combined with the fragrant smell emitted by many of the orchids, it is a feast for the senses. But the exhibit goes beyond the Garden Court, with different types of orchids (jungle orchids, desert orchids, and orchids used for medicinal and gastronomic purposes) scattered throughout the Conservatory. Yes, that’s right: orchids are used gastronomically–or at least, one type is used very widely: vanilla is a member of the orchid family!

Altogether, there are more than 20,000 species of orchids (they outnumber birds 2 to 1, and mammals 4 to 1). Here are just 10 of them (hover over the photos to see the names):





Beyond Flowers

6 Apr

Yesterday, a daffodil finally bloomed in my garden–the very first flower of the season. Because of the cold snaps we have had, the garden is weeks behind schedule.  There are buds aplenty, but with only one lone flower, there isn’t a great deal of interest just yet.

So we went to see what was happening at the US Botanic Garden, where the Conservatory was brimming with tropical plants in bloom, and the outdoor gardens featured an assortment of early-spring flowers. As lovely as they all were, I found myself drawn to other parts of the plants–the peeling, ribbed, spiked, thorny, and veined bits.

They reminded me that flowers aren’t the only things that add excitement to a garden: bark, branches, foliage, and many other parts can be just as captivating. Especially when there are no flowers to be had…. And, admittedly, even when there are.

Iris Rhizomes                                         Leaf of the Quinine Tree

Branch of the Madagascan Ocotillo Tree

Bark of the Quiver Tree