Friday, June 11, 2010

DC Trip was Plant-tastic! (part 3)

Alright, so I was terrible and didn't take many worthwhile pictures of my plant-tastic DC trip (and this is the worst verbal slide show ever...) I'll be briefer from here on out about "DC trip."

(UPDATE: Ho, ho! I have pics now from the trip! My wonderful sister in law has provided! viewing pleasure abounds!)

The National Arboretum was a blast, though a long, hot muggy blast, so more like a sweaty hike around the beautiful acres and legions of ground you'd expect an arboretum to cover.  This area actually reminded me of the Memphis Botanic Gardens really with the amount of land a person covers.  I've never been to an official Arboretum before and the Botanic Garden feel was compounded by the fact that this one had exhibits/divisions such as the bonsai section (it's all trees right, albeit tiny ones).

The bonsai were pretty splendor-ific, and intimidating (started in the 1800s?! and you're only 3 feet tall?!)  The fact that something can be tended for many centuries, by generations of people is inspiring, but one swoop of some disease and all those centuries down the drain.  Talk about an investment.  There ought to be a bonsai market.

We came at a pretty good time as the azalea bonsais were in bloom.  Tiny trees with ginormous looking blossoms on them!  I thought that the flowers were supposed to become miniaturized too... I need to look into that,  maybe I just saw dwarf plants bonsai-ed once, making their fruit and flowers appear more in proportion? 

Some had some nifty scenes with tiny plants to look like larger shrubs and miniature figurines in them:

Um, they had a slightly larger landscape are complete with a small bridge that I danced/played Godzilla on:

I loved the garden's use of sedums as groundcover!

 Pretty fun to look at the bonsai, though admittedly, and especially on a hot day, after a few dozen, one starts to look like the other (unless it's a truly startling one) and a person sort of wants to move on...

So off we went and checked out the Arboretum's AMAZING herb garden.  Yep, this is another garden I'd love to own if it were possible.  Lots of delineations of gardens (their list): "Dye Garden, Medicinal Garden, Culinary Garden, Fragrance Garden, Industrial Garden, and Beverage Garden feature the different ways in which herbs are important in our daily lives.  The Native American Garden, Colonial Garden, Asian Garden, and Dioscorides Garden"
WOW.  The highlight of the Herb Garden was a central brick area for resting that also had various herbs too of course, but had many, MANY pots of.... scented geraniums.

Needless to say, I went a little nuts.  Like the little kid I sometimes act like, I had to smell every freakin' pot (and I think there had to have been at least 40 of them).  I don't think any of them overlapped either in type! They were unbelievably lovely in all their various sizes, shapes, flowers and leaf types and almost all (minus those weird cedar/nut-what scents) were delightful.  My husband and his brother sort of stood by the side for the next half hour slightly bemused, slightly helpless and impatient as my sister-in-law caught my geranium fever and by the time we were done my fingers smelled like something out of a perfume factory disaster. (Husband gagged when I put my fingers up to his nose).

The worst (and best part) was when I noticed that some of the geraniums were in seed.  So, yep... there I went all Augustus Gloop-ish picking seeds fervently (only 3 plants had seeds) into my pockets.  (1) I'd like to add that I wasn't shoving them into my pockets... just small little fistfuls.  (2) I wasn't sure if they would be viable or germinate true anyways, because I understand that scenteds are either notoriously difficult to germinate by seed or aren't true and thus that's why cuttings are almost always necessary.

Please realize, that I was TOTALLY not thinking as I was doing this... just regular seed saving habit I suppose... instinct?  Either way, my husband, who was flipping through the Arboretum brochure sort of coughed at me and my sis in law and pointed to a section that mentioned "no picking or taking plant matter out of the arboretum."

Oops.  So, I stopped that rightaways.... but figured the seeds in my pocket could just stay in my pocket...?

Either way, my brother in law was having a mini-hey day plucking lavender all around.  Guess we all have our perks.

I later emailed the Arboretum and inquired to some Smithsonian workers about why there was no nursery to sell extra plants/cuttings on site and I was essentially told that because it's government and non-profit they can't sell their items.  BUT, when compost day comes in... there's a line of people waiting and they don't tell the people "no."  Note to self: DC looks like a better and better place to live... Free entertainment, free gardens to visit and maybe even free plants....

We soon took refuge in the Native garden/Fern Valley which was blissfully shady.  Native garden was as you could expect, native and things rambled unattended mostly and there were lots of wonderful ferns which is my husband's plant of choice (I'd like to add that he's not a fan of sunlight, so that might be a hint to his predilections).  

There were, however, frogs in a boggy section that made the best sounds and had leopard spotted golden eyes which I adore, so we stopped to stare at those for a while.

So, of the MANY places to see in the Arboretum, we only got to THREE. Hopefully we'll get to trek over there many more times and complete the trip (and send a donation to the Arboretum...)

Finally my last bit of plant-i-ness (until I talk about the new additions to my garden Monday) is the National Botanic Garden, with the conservatory area being the area I spent most of my time in.  I was unawares and short of time of some of the other areas, so that'll be for yet another trip!

The National Conservatory houses many different environments within its 29,000 square feet.  While I could go through the list online, ones that were favorites and stuck out to me were the children's section, the sedum area and the tropical section which by far was the best.  

The tropical section is tiered so that you can go up a metal walkway and follow the vertical height of tropical palms and other taller canopy plants.  Along the way up he walkway tucked into the taller plants and hanging from the walkway or higher posts are tropicals such as bromeliads (usually a plant that doesn't interest me much usually but they had some very cool varieties I was unaware of and also probably not available in the regular store nurseries) and epiphytes like air plants and orchids of course. 

During the walk up to the second tier my eye alighted upon a strange vine that somewhat thickish and had long slightly curved up leaves.  The vine ran off of the tree trunk and onto the walkway which allowed me to inspect it closer.  The leaves, when I got a better look, reminded me of the orchid leaves at my house, and the only orchid that was a vine that I knew of.... after searching around to find a tag, affirmed my suspicions, it was a vanilla orchid!  And it had to be at least 50 feet long! (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating) but it was a very long vine!

The outside gardens were nice and I could see lots of edible action, but as it was blazing hot, the husband and I missed out on Bartholdi Park, the Rose Garden, and the Water Garden.

So, after 3 days of possibly boring material of verbal slideshow  I'll get on to regular gardening programing with the introduction of new plants to the garden Monday.  Have a great weekend and send some cool air my way, 93+ degrees F of temperatures headed my way this weekend and for about a week on and off!