The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a botanic garden on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle. The free admission Botanic Garden is supervised by the Congress through the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the Capitol. The USBG is open every day of the year, including federal holidays! For the feel of summer in the middle of winter, for the sight of lush, breathtakingly beautiful greenery and flowers year-round, stop in at the US Botanic Garden (USBG), located at the foot of the Capitol next door to the National Museum of the American Indian. The grand conservatory devotes half of its space to exhibits that focus on the importance of plants to people, and half to exhibits that focus on ecology and the evolutionary biology of plants. But those finer points may escape you as you wander through the various chambers, outdoors and indoors, upstairs and down, gazing in stupefaction at so much flora. The conservatory holds 4,000 living species, about 26,000 plants; a high-walled enclosure, called “The Jungle,” of palms, ferns, and vines; an Orchid Room; a meditation garden; a primeval garden; and gardens created especially with children in mind. Just outside the conservatory is the National Garden, which includes the First Ladies Water Garden, a formal rose garden, a butterfly garden, and a lawn terrace. Ask at the front desk about tours. The USBG sometimes offers entertainment and periodically publishes calendars of events. Also visit the garden annex across the street, Bartholdi Park. The park is about the size of a city block, with a stunning cast-iron classical fountain created by Fr?d?ric Auguste Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty. Charming flower gardens bloom amid tall ornamental grasses, benches are sheltered by vine-covered bowers, and a touch and fragrance garden contains such herbs as pineapple-scented sage. You probably know that plants are essential to the balance and stability of nature that supports life on earth. Plants are the ultimate source of the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat. They provide the raw materials for shelter, clothing, medicines, fuels, and countless other products that human beings depend on. But did you know that more than one out of every eight species of the world’s flora has been identified as threatened? In the United States, about three out of every ten plant species is threatened. Scientists predict that as more information and knowledge about plant populations around the world is gathered, this number will increase dramatically. Recognizing the importance of contributing to local, national, and worldwide plant conservation efforts, the U.S. Botanic Garden participates in collaborative partnerships and programs to conserve threatened plants, share information about the threatened flora of the world, and teach others how they can play an active role in plant conservation. Perhaps the USBG is most renowned for its commitment to sustainability. As it says on the website, “By practicing conservation and sustainability, we will improve our quality of life and ensure the health of communities and the environment for generations to come.” Thus, the USBG has launched the Landscape Sustainability Initiative; it incorporates landscapes that give back to the earth and are eco-friendly, recycling, re-using, and initiating sustainability. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward Sustainable Infrastructure Project and the Indianapolis Super Bowl Village are among more than 150 projects selected to test the Sustainable Sites Initiative? (SITES?) national rating system for sustainable landscape design, construction and maintenance. So when you visit the USBG, be sure you read up on the SITES project; and speaking of reading, don’t forget to tack this Visitor Favorites List on to any brochures or packets of info you receive upon entry. It’s a “to-see” list of sorts, so don’t miss these Top Ten Attractions at USBG!
1. USBG Conservatory:
The Conservatory greenhouse houses permanent collections of plants from subtropical, tropical, and arid regions and showcases orchids, medicinal, economic, endangered, and Jurassic plants. From late May to mid-October, the Conservatory Terrace features thematic exhibitions; it also houses many of the USBG’s indoor plant collections and themed gardens. The greenhouse is warm and humid, making it a great place to visit in the dead of winter!
2. Orchids: A Cultural Odyssey Exhibit:
This winter, go on a journey with the U.S. Botanic Garden as they explore the ways orchids have permeated the lives of people around the world. Discover orchids in arts, literature, exploration, jewelry, trade, and business. Travel the world within the Conservatory and discover how influential and magnificent orchids have been in the lives of humans! As in previous years, the exhibit is a collaborative effort involving the collections of the U.S. Botanic Garden and the Smithsonian Institution Horticultural Services Division.
3. Plant Exploration Room:
This cool feature at USBG touts tons of blooms any time of year! Check the website for the most up-to-date, but this fan favorite has, in the past, featured over four types of lovely rare Poinsettias, Begonias, Crinum, Bird of Paradise and more!
4. First Ladies Water Garden:
The First Ladies Water Garden is based on a design by Baldev Lamba of New Jersey. Its intricate patterns are inspired by the Colonial–era quilt pattern known as “Martha Washington.” Constructed from native American granite and bluestone, its tranquil flow invites peaceful contemplation and highlights the place of water as the core requirement for human life and civilization. The fountain is created from five shades of Cold Spring granite and bluestone.
5. SITES Initiative and Sustainable Landscapes Exhibit (Summer only):
Launched in 2005, SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden to fill the existing crucial gap in green landscape design, construction and maintenance. The exhibit features really cool landscape designs on a life-size scale! Don’t miss this wonderful exhibit in the summertime!
6. Butterfly Garden:
With their grace and beauty, butterflies fill our gardens with excitement, joy, and life. Yet there is much more to be gained. When gardening for butterflies, we are creating healthy garden ecosystems that supply food and safe havens for other pollinators too, including hummingbirds, which are attracted to many of the same flowers as butterflies. While producing abundant sources of nectar, our gardens will be supporting green lacewings, ladybugs, and a myriad of other beneficial insects that help us with pest control. As more and more people plant these gardens, we will also be creating corridors to assist with the migration of butterflies and hummingbirds.
7. Bartholdi Park:
One of two outdoor gardens at USBG, Bartholdi was created in 1932 and named for Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the historic fountain located at its center. The beds in the Park are geometrically arranged and planted in formal classical style to feature the fountain and to accommodate public gatherings. The plantings have been redesigned during the last decade and are continuously updated to reflect modern trends in American horticulture and new plant introductions. The Park now serves as a home-landscape demonstration garden, and showcases innovative plant combinations in a variety of styles and design themes! A must-see exhibit in the temperate months.
8. Regional Garden:
Presented here is a garden that draws its inspiration from nature and is designed to satisfy the gardener and garden lover. As with any garden, over time the Regional Garden will evolve as plants mature, compete for space, and succumb or thrive in the changing conditions. Currently the Garden shows Coastal Plains region plants and flowers as well as “Piedmont region” inhabitants, which both cover an area from New Jersey to North
9. Rose Garden:
The rose was designated the National Flower in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan after recommendation by the U.S. Congress. Present in gardens throughout history, roses have been grown for their medicinal qualities, religious symbolism, fragrance, and beauty. It only makes sense for this garden on the national mall in the most historical place in the country to have a stunning yet serene rose garden of magnanimous proportions. Of near universal appeal, roses are mentioned in historical records from Chinese, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Aztec societies. Their broad range of fragrance, form, and color has long drawn the interest of plant breeders. Species you’ll find here vary from common to rare and include all eight different types: Species, Climbing, Shrub, Old Garden, Floribundas, Hybrid Teas, Miniature, and Grandiflora. The garden’s purpose is to feature the breadth of rose diversity as well as roses that grow well in the Mid-Atlantic Region with a minimum of chemical treatment.
10. Applied Plant Conservation Training Program:
The United States Botanic Garden, Denver Botanic Gardens and the Center for Plant Conservation held their second Applied Plant Conservation Training Program this summer in Denver. The two-week program featured an intensive weeklong workshop, coordinated by the CPC and taught by leaders in plant conservation and restoration. Topics included conservation genetics, demographics, viability assessment, reintroduction and volunteer programs. The second week focused on developing conservation programs, exploring horticultural techniques, education, interpretation, funding, volunteer conservation programs and opportunities for partnerships. Sign up to intern for this program and you’ll gain valuable lifetime experience… or you can just read the Manuals! Regardless, don’t miss this pertinent information.
US Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001