Tuesday, June 8, 2010

DC Trip was Plant-tastic! (part 1)

...unfortunately, I'm terrible when it comes to traveling that I don't take many pictures.

I realize that this is especially unfortunate when person such as myself has a blog and many people who read it like pictures :\

Part of the reason why I don't really have pics of DC and the landscaping and plants I'm going to talk about is because I find that carrying a camera around and taking pics all the time makes me feel like I'm losing out on my fun and time when traveling (stopping and taking pics all the time and etc.) and when I take pics for 'looks' I take forever and as my husband and I were wanting to cram in a LOT of Smithsonian museum time, stopping often to take pretty pics was not exactly (pardon the pun) in the picture.  Also, my sister and brother-in-law accompanying us on parts of this trip had super badass SLR cameras that put mine to shame and while I'm not competing with their camera-tude, I almost feel a sort of "what's the point?" in taking pics when their cameras are around (and I can try to ask for pics from them later), except for the fact that my eye is interested in very different things than their eyes and so I do end up regretting not having taken my camera with me more often when I find particular plants or textures interesting.  Perhaps on another trip when I'm not having to rush!

But anyways, allow me to use my "talent" with words to whisk you off to a faraway place called Washington DC also known as, Our Nation's Capitol.  Let us hope that I can give the required thousand words that  picture gives to make up for the lacking of eye candy here.

I lived in the concrete jungle of Chicago a long while ago and never saw much interest in plants or landscaping, nor was it expected with their relatively short warm season I suppose.  I've been to California many times and when it comes to plants there, they don't count when I can compare locations on plants, landscaping and etc. because plants are abundant and happy there all the time, any time just about.  Californians barely need to do anything, and really don't to have trumpet vine running prettily and rampantly all year around, and have rosemary as a common form of edging on the side of the highway and so on and so forth.

So, I was pretty impressed getting to Washington DC to see a ridiculous amount of landscaping and diversity of plants not only our nation's capitol but in the random neighborhood my sister in law was in (granted, being the capitol of our nation they might be putting a special foot forward and my sister's neighbor was a bit of a plant nut which could be considered outside the norm).

Granted once again, Thomas Jefferson, a plant nut himself, may have caused this lasting impression for DC's plant cool-ness but nonetheless, allow me to be impressed that a non-tropical city such as this (in a state that's not tall like Cali and thus have a million zones) is so plant-tastic!  (I must parenthesize here that I have not been to famed Buffalo and its Garden Walks too, so maybe we can just say that I've been a little sheltered since my incarnation as a plant-o-holic?)

Before heading to DC proper I was thrilled to see that no one in my sis-in-law's suburb appeared to take particular care of their lawn.  Weeds and clover everywhere! Score! No little tags proclaiming particular landscaping companies, no stupid crunchy fertilizer pellets ruined my walk as I took the dog out, no idiots watering their lawns at 2pm or after a rain.  It should be noted that most of the lawns were somewhat on the smaller side and that there were lots of trees, but the notice that there were TREES (and lots of them) is a happy reminder of what a few good deciduous trees can do for a neighborhood in the cooling, habitat for animals, and less watering for grass way.

I was really pleased to see too that the National Lawn was also in the same state as most of the suburban lawns I saw earlier.  Loads of weeds and clover, but it was still relatively green.  Maybe I caught it on a particularly bad week, or maybe the Gov decided that it did have better things to spend their money on than lawn maintenance especially when how many thousands (if not millions) of people tromp all over it a day.

Despite all the buildings everywhere for all the many departments and agencies of whatnot and all in the capitol, any little bit of green space that could have just been relegated to a simple lawn mow job was actually really nicely landscaped with hardy, interesting shrubs and many perennials.  I didn't recall seeing many generic annuals like petunias, but there were lots of smoke trees (love!) and mahonias (both of which are actually natives to Washington interestingly) and other eye-catching plants in those spaces with relatively little grass to cut.  Maybe even less lawn to mow in total for a building than the lawn at my house (sad, really).

 Another thing which I found pretty cool of note was the use of tall permanent concrete planters all around many of the buildings.  These planters appeared to be there to delineate the sidewalk of the building from the street, eradicating the need/use of a grassy parking strip and probably also being safe for pedestrians from cars on top of being mostly easy to tend to.

Many of these permanent planters were simple: full of mondo grass, or other tall grasses, trailing naked jasmines and the like, but in a tall planter were sufficiently nice as a long set down a sidewalk.  As you might have noted, these plants were all pretty nearly perennials, which is an awesome cost-saving thing.  I found it sort of funny that the the Department of Finance building was one of a few locations that did  not have their planters filled with any plants.  Maybe they deemed it a unnecessary and a cost-saving measure?  Come on guys, mondo grass is cheap!  Even accountants need a little more green (in the living kind sense!)

Interspersed between the buildings were little gardens and the Smithsonian museums, all of which were landscaped not just prettily but interestingly.  My interest is peaked at unusual plants, but even more so when the unusual plants (of no edible interest that I was aware of) are planted with EDIBLE plants.  Lots of basils, and ornamental peppers and random herbs (or maybe it's just that I knew those plants were herbs that are edible or medicinal that made me interested).

The Natural History museum's entire perimeter was lined with many wonderful edibles one of which was nigella, aka love in a mist or black cumin, a plant that I loved as a child and didn't know what it was despite it running rampant in my mother's flower bed (until she decided she didn't like it anymore and ripped it all out).  I only came to know what this plant from my childhood was a few years ago and I have been desperately trying to get it to grow in my garden.  The seed pods in the museum beds were dry and ready to drop, and here is where I made a gardener's sin: I took a seed pod.  *covers face*  I do not condone stealing and think it's pretty abhorrent, but seed gathering I feel a little less bad about.  "But what if everyone took a seed pod?" my brain asks.  I know, I know, so bad and the Smithsonian doesn't deserve tourists like me, but a nice donation will be made soon-ish?  There are many seeds and I don't really buy souvenirs, so I usually take a rock, some sand, a leaf, drift wood or the like as my souvenir when I go on trips, obviously most never on an institution's property... so this is my guilt and man, am I guilting here (as I should).  Writing... check.... for Smithsonian... donation...(should I write "for the seed pod?" on it?)

This whole seed pod just brings down a whole slew of apple-Adam-Eve and 'Beauty and the Beast' tales in my head.  If anything, I can say that a Smithsonian garden person working on another garden was going to offer me a pod of nigella anyways (after I had already taken one from the Museum of Natural History... but I didn't mention that...)  No excuses though still.

But yeah, that whole seed thing, DC trip and more, tomorrow at my blog!

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