A Break with History

I readily admit that history was not my favorite subject in school, most likely because of the manner in which it was presented.  Having a great tour guide in John while at Gettysburg several weeks back changed my entire perspective and we have immersed ourselves in bygone times ever since.  We couldn’t be in a better place for it either, Washington DC.  But a girl needs flowers now and then and hubby was happy to tag along when he learned my desire for them came without a price tag. 😉

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

With all the hustle and bustle felt while walking along the mall in DC, it was hard to imagine a lush oasis just 2 miles from the Capitol, but here it was, the National Arboretum, and like many places in this vibrant city, it is free to the public.  Established in 1927, this research arm of the Department of Agriculture is “dedicated to serving the public and improving our environment by developing and promoting improved floral and landscape plants and new technologies through scientific research.”

These 446 acres and 10 miles of winding roadways are the perfect place to breath in a sweet-smelling bouquet of fragrances and hues, compliments of Mother Nature.  Open year-round, there is something to delight no matter the time of year, but spring and fall surely offer the most arresting backdrop of plantings, thanks to the dedicated volunteers who do most of the gardening.

Koi pond at USNA - photo credit www.fona.org
Koi pond at USNA – photo credit http://www.fona.org

I was hoping to see the huge koi pond surrounding the administration building when we arrived but unfortunately it had been drained for construction.  What began as a disappointment quickly dissipated as I stepped into gardens of brilliant colors, unusual plantings, and verdant rolling hills.

One of the first scenes to catch your eye is a series of Corinthian columns (22 to be exact) standing on a grassy hilltop, on this day against an azure sky filled with billowing clouds.  These are the National Capitol Columns, once supporting the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol, removed during the Capitol expansion in 1958.

The Azalea Collection seems to be the favorite of the park, with a riotous explosion of color in the spring and landscaped trails that take you to the top of Mount Hamilton, with a view through the budding trees of the U.S. Capitol.

But a stroll through Fern Valley offers contemplative stillness among a cascading forest of ferns and Liriodendron blooms strewing the pathways.

Or perhaps you like things scaled back a bit, a world of miniatures, carefully nurtured for more than a hundred years.  If so, the Bonsai Museum is not to be missed.

I loved it all, but perhaps one of my favorites was at the pond on Azalea Hill, teeming with beautiful little croaking frogs, my all-time favorite amphibian.

For us the National Arboretum was a wonderful respite to escape the hectic pace of a metropolitan city, submerging ourselves in a much-needed nature fix. 🙂

78 thoughts on “A Break with History

  • Of course, it’s not like hiking, but I can see that it was a beautiful stroll through those gardens. That place must be huge. Thank you for sharing. Great pictures of those flowers and the frog, by the way.

  • How beautiful, LuAnn! I can feel the peacefulness through your words and photos. And the quote from Rachel Carson is just perfect. I’m glad you have a nature respite not too far away — history is interesting (as we’re both discovering) but like you, my soul needs frequent immersion in nature. I’ve never seen liriodendron — it reminds me of a tulip — and your little frog buddy is so cute.

    • Thanks Laurel. Thank goodness we can find these little bits of nature back here. The biking trails have been great but a bit more green to get out in and hike around would be wonderful.

  • Love the frog pic. Super cute! Are you guys hosting soon? Must be just around the corner, but I can’t recall exactly which month you start. I’ll be interested in your experiences.

  • That is by far the most beautiful arboratum I have ever been to. Glad you had a perfect day for your visit. What an amazing place.

  • I’m thinking they should have some flowering vines climbing up those columns. What a delicious place in the midst of the teeming city. The friend I visited a couple of years ago wanted to take me there, but I was really short on time. Barely spent a day in DC (though, honestly, that was quite enough!) 🙄 Your images make me realize what I missed…. so very lovely.

  • Great story, LuAnn. Yep, studying History in school was usually not very interesting or entertaining. This actual hands on approach where you actually experience history and nature first hand and in person really increases a person’s interest and perspective. We used to do this as much as possible when I was teaching, but unfortunately, teaching for a test and constant testing in today’s world has gotten in the way. It is so neat that the two of you are getting to experience all of these things first hand in the D C Urban setting. Enjoy, enjoy. Rog and Gayl

  • Thank You, LuAnn, you have soothe my soul with your words and great captures. We missed National Arboretum while there as we were so immersed in our history lessons. Glad you found a natural colorful place, nature made not man made.

    • Thanks Lisa. It was a nice find for us as we are badly in need of a nature fix. Reading your posts and many others who are out west has made us a wee bit homesick.

  • Great header shot! I’m with you….I was never found of history and even now I tire of museums quite easily. Now this arboretum…..wow, what a find. I could stroll that place for hours. Your photos are stunning. Seems you are enjoying that new camera 🙂

    • We had the idea that we would visit many museums while here but I am already tiring of them. I have not had the right landscape for photography and probably won’t until we head further west. Thank goodness for the National Arboretum.

  • I’ve been to DC many times but never to the National Arboretum. What a delightful place! Your pics definitely make me want to visit.

  • What beautiful photos. I am really enjoying your travels through our country’s history. I had no idea we had a National Arboretum…very lovely!

    • I didn’t either Emily, until we arrived in DC. The history part has been great but we are missing nature at her finest…desert, mountains. The bike trails are pretty awesome around here so 30-40 mile bike rides are easily done. 🙂

  • This must be a magical place to tour through… the photos sure make it a great attraction. 446 acres is a big piece of property…
    I hated history at school as well, could never fathom why when I lived in Africa, I needed to know all about the British Kings of old… I had no need of that information, but out of school I’ve found our own countries history so interesting specially when one can visit the sites of old battles and pioneering routes… now that is what we should have been taught… Who cared if king Henry had 100 wives and cut off all their heads instead of divorcing them, sure meant nothing to me…

    • Totally agree with you Bulldog. Our friend John made Gettysburg come alive for us and the reading he suggested has made it that much more interesting.

      I am hoping that you have gained back your energy and are once again enjoying life to its fullest. 🙂

      • Thanks LuAnn… still not back up to full speed but getting there, the Dr feels it will still be another 2 to 3 months… hey but I’m back out there pretending to be fine and that’s all I need… when I puff and pant I don’t do it very quietly, but that is just to bad for those in the vicinity…

  • Free stuff is always great especially when it brings you new things…history in schools is terrible over this side of the pond as well, there is no freedom only read, remember, forget policy…I love those sort of peaceful gardens that are close to civilisation yet calm. As ever great pictures and yet another glimpse of America I never see in the movies. I love the new header of the blog, very natural and vibrantly green.

  • That is one beauty of a header picture LuAnn! Im with you on the getting back to nature! I can only take so much of the history…it all starts to run together! But nature…aah!

  • I can’t believe I never knew about the National Arboretum!! But then if the plants aren’t significantly historic, I can see why no ever shared this place with me. What a cool find! I love the columns on the hill. This will be on my list for sure the next time:) Thanks for the beautiful tour, LuAnn!

  • Lots of Ooohs & Ahhhhs from me on this post.
    And – I truly believe that the personality of a teacher makes a huge difference on if we like a class or not regardless of the subject.

  • LuAnn, It’s been years since I’ve seen the National Arboretum, and it looks like it’s even better than ever! Gorgeous photos and I love the corinthian columns – the perfect touch! And what a great respite in the middle of the city. How’s the volunteering going? ~Terri

      • Just like you two we hate ticks – the bane of the camper’s life! And especially the little ones we call “seed ticks” that look like a moving freckle. James’ Dad, who worked in the woods, had an interesting “backwoods deterrent” that he swore by. He tied strings soaked in kerosene around his ankles. Not very sophisticated, but it worked for him. 🙂 ~T

      • What is interesting to us is that I don’t seem to be affected, only Terry, and we are taking the same precautions.

  • That fourth flower … Hu-WOW! It looks like the one I showed on my Ventura post… only so so so much cool-looking nature’s art … and so so so much way better captured.

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