Gardens in Washington, D.C.
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Constitution Gardens. Many ideas were proposed to develop this 50-acre site near the Reflecting Pool and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It once held "temporary" buildings erected by the Navy before World War I and not removed until after World War II. President Nixon is said to have favored something resembling Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. The final design was plainer, with paths winding through groves of trees and, on the lake, a tiny island paying tribute to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, their signatures carved into a low stone wall. In 1986 President Reagan proclaimed the gardens a living legacy to the Constitution; in that spirit, naturalization ceremonies for new citizens have taken place here. Constitution Ave. between 17th and 23rd Sts. NW, White House area, Washington, DC, 20024. www.nps.gov/coga. Foggy Bottom.
Dumbarton Oaks. One of the loveliest places for a stroll in Washington is Dumbarton Oaks, the acres of enchanting gardens adjoining Dumbarton House in Georgetown. Planned by noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, the gardens incorporate elements of traditional English, Italian, and French styles and include a formal rose garden, an English country garden, and an orangery (circa 1810). A full-time crew of a dozen gardeners toils to maintain the stunning collection of terraces, geometric gardens, tree-shaded brick walks, fountains, arbors, and pools. Plenty of well-positioned benches make this a good place for resting weary feet, too. You enter the gardens at 31st and R streets. Public garden tours are at 2:10 pm daily except weekends. In May, the peonies and azeleas in full bloom are spectacular. 1703 32nd St. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC, 20007. 202/339–6401 or 202/339–6400. www.doaks.org. Gardens: Apr.–Oct. $8, Nov.–Mar. free. Gardens: Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 2–6; Nov.–Mar., Tues.–Sun. 2–5.
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens. Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post purchased the 25-acre Hillwood Estate in 1955. She devoted as much attention to her gardens as she did to the 40-room Georgian mansion: you can wander through 13 acres of them, including a Japanese rock and waterfall garden, a manicured formal French garden, a rose garden, Mediterranean fountains, and a greenhouse full of orchids. The "Lunar Lawn," where she threw garden parties that were the most coveted invitation in Washington society, is planted with dogwood, magnolia, cherry, and plum trees, as well as azaleas, camellias, lilacs, tulips, and pansies. The estate is best reached by taxi or car (parking is available on the grounds); it's a 20- to 30-minute walk from the Metro. 4155 Linnean Ave. NW, Upper Northwest, Washington, DC, 20008. 202/686–5807 or 202/686–8500. www.hillwoodmuseum.org. House and grounds $15. Mid-Jan.–Dec., Tues.–Sat. 10–5. Van Ness/UDC.
Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden. In a town known for it's political combat, this tiny urban park is a wonderful place to find some peace. The shady park combines Western and Arab symbols and is perfect for contemplation. From the Massachusetts Avenue entrance, a stone walk bridges a grassy swale. Farther on are limestone benches, engraved with sayings from Gibran, that curve around a fountain and a bust of the Lebanese-born poet. The garden is near the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory. 3100 block of Massachusetts Ave. NW, Upper Northwest, Washington, DC, 20008. Woodley Park or Dupont Circle.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Exotic water lilies, lotuses, hyacinths, and other water-loving plants thrive in this 14-acre sanctuary of quiet ponds, protected wetlands and marshy flats. The gardens' wetland animals include turtles, frogs, beavers, spring azure butterflies, and some 40 species of birds. In May the water lilies and lotus are at their peak. In July nearly everything blossoms; early morning is the best time to visit, when day bloomers are just opening and night bloomers have yet to close. There's a tiny child-friendly museum in the Visitors Center. The nearest Metro stop is a 15-minute walk away, but there is ample free parking. 1550 Anacostia Ave. at Douglas St. NE, Anacostia, Washington, DC, 20019. 202/426–6905. www.nps.gov/keaq. Free. Gardens and visitor center, daily 7–4; garden tours daily at 9, 10, and 11. Deanwood.
Tudor Place. A little more than a block from Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown is this neighborhood gem, the former home of Martha Washington's granddaughter. The house has 5.5 acres of grounds that offer impressive replications of Federal-period gardens and include 19th-century specimen trees and boxwoods from Mount Vernon. Make time for a one-hour tour of the house itself, which features many rare possessions of George and Martha Washington. 1644 31st Pl. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC, 20007. 202/965–0400. www.tudorplace.org. $8, garden $3. House tours: Feb.–Dec., Tues.–Sat. on the hr 10–3; Sun. on the hr noon–3. Self-guided Garden tours: Feb.–Dec., Mon.–Sat. 10–4, Sun. noon–4. Woodley Park or Dupont Circle.
United States Botanic Garden. Established by Congress in 1820, this is the oldest botanic garden in North America. The garden conservatory sits at the foot of Capitol Hill, in the shadow of the Capitol building and offers an escape from the stone and marble federal office buildings that surround it; inside are exotic rain-forest species, desert flora, and trees from all parts of the world. A special treat is the extensive collection of rare and unusual orchids. Walkways suspended 24 feet above the ground provide a fascinating view of the plants. A relatively new addition is the National Garden, opened in 2006, which emphasizes educational exhibits. The garden features the Rose Garden, Butterfly Garden, Lawn Terrace, First Ladies' Water Garden, and Regional Garden. Step outside the building to see the Bartholdi Park, where theme gardens surround a historic fountain. Ask for a Junior Botanist kid's backpack of exploration for kids nine and above. 1st St. at 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, 20024. 202/225–8333. www.usbg.gov. Free. Daily 10–5. Federal Center SW.
United States National Arboretum. During azalea season (mid-April through May) this 446-acre oasis is a blaze of color. In early summer, clematis, peonies, rhododendrons, and roses bloom. At any time of year the 22 original Corinthian columns from the U.S. Capitol, re-erected here in 1990, are striking. All 50 states are represented by a state tree or flower. The arboretum has guided hikes throughout the year, including a Full Moon Hike at night. Check the website for schedules and to register. For a soothing, relaxing outing, visit the Cryptomeria Walk and Japanese Stroll Garden, which are part of the Bonsai and Penjing Museum. Admission to the grounds and the Visitors Center is free. On weekends a tram tours the arboretum's curving roadways at 11:30, 1, 2, 3, and 4. It's a difficult walk from the Metro so driving or biking in is best. The National Herb Garden and the National Bonsai Collection are also here. 3501 New York Ave. NE, Northeast, Washington, DC, 20002. 202/245–2726. www.usna.usda.gov. Free. Arboretum and herb garden, daily 8–5; bonsai collection, daily 10–4. Weekends only, Union Station, then X6 bus (runs every 40 mins); weekdays, Stadium/Armory, then B2 bus to Bladensburg Rd. and R St.
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