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. 🙂

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