In DC for a meeting, I had to chance to make a quick trip to the US Botanic Garden today, which is just a stone’s throw from the US Capitol. Thinking I’d squeeze a penny, I took the metro from Dupont Circle to Union Station, with plans to walk the final handful of blocks to the garden. As I approached Capitol Hill, however, I found First Street SW barricaded for a motorcade, with President Obama in route for a meeting with the Senate Democratic Caucus.
I quickly found an advantageous spot near a policeman with a radio and within a few minutes heard the announcement of the President’s White House departure at precisely at 13:30. It took less than four minutes for the motorcade to come into view with a half dozen motorcycles leading the way. After snapping a few photos, I had a quick glimpse of President Obama in the second of the two identical limousines as the group of cars and SUVs sped past.
With the excitement over and security relaxed, I quick-footed it over to the garden before traffic could swamp the streets once again.
Located between First and Third Streets SW at Independence Avenue SW, the garden includes a conservatory and two outdoor spaces: National Garden and Bartholdi Park. The park has always been a particular favorite of mine, so I headed there first.
Bartholdi Park is named for the French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi, best known for creating the Statue of Liberty. The garden contains an enormous cast iron fountain made by Bartholdi in 1876. The landscape, redesigned in the last decade and continually updated with newly introduced plants, serves as a demonstration garden. There was much to catch my eye, the most spectacular being a Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Barmstedt Gold’ in full bloom with the largest flowers I’ve seen on a witch hazel.
A quick loop through the conservatory provided its usual pleasures. I’m not a huge fan of tropical plants, not even orchids unless I’m growing them at home, but the World Deserts display is always of interest to me. Today’s special treat was a flowering Cleistocactus winteri, a species native to Bolivia.
A speedy stroll through National Garden put me within a few blocks of another favorite destination, so I headed up the National Mall towards the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, a pocket garden squeezed into a narrow walk-through space just east of the Arts and Industries Building. There, I discovered my final reward for my DC walkabout, Hamamelis x intermdia ‘Arnold’s Promise’, a fragrant and shapely example that was as appealing to the nose as it was to the eyes.