U.S. Botanic Gardens (and environs)

A midday stroll

by Keith Stanley (copyright 2001)

    Today I got out to the U.S. Botanic Gardens, my first time there since the building was renovated.  It was a joy . . . what a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day it was!  I took pictures inside and out, including pictures of the nearby Capitol Building and the National Gallery (East Wing).

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Botanic Garden southside U.S. Capitol Dome Nat'l Gallery (exterior detail)

    Inside, the Gardens are a different world . . . totally climate controlled, of course).  I went first (and stayed longest) to the high-ceiling, tropical greenhouse room.  The temperature there was 75 to 80 and the relative humidity near 100% . . . every 5 to 10 minutes the misters (nozzles located around the room about a dozen feet above the floor) would mist for a minute or so, dispersing a fog of drifting, gradually descending droplets . . . occasionally a full-sized drip would drop.  I'd like, sometime, to visit when the city is in the midst of a blizzard . . . what a contrast it would be!

    It was a very nice group of people who were visiting.  Quite a few elderly were there, mostly local residents, no doubt, finding a peaceful, healthful, climate-controlled experience. There were plenty of benches around for sitting, people enjoyed being there, smiling . . . no rushing—the botanic gardens just aren’t the place for it!  It seemed there were also a fair number of young mothers with strollers (a church group, I think) and people visiting on their lunch hour to see the special orchid exhibit.  

    I climbed some stairs up to a perimeter walkway, just above nozzle level, but the view was better down below in the midst of the plants (or what’s a botanic garden for?).  After the big room, I saw the special orchid collection, then the room with the ferns and other non-flowering plants (said to be reminiscent of the Jurassic), then the desert room with cacti and a few other spaces before walking the 3 or 4 blocks over to the National Gallery (East Wing), where I took a 50-minute, docent-led tour/overview of the permanent collection (20th century art).  I learned some things about the building itself (I. M. Pei architect) and the pieces commissioned for the site, then we saw some examples of cubism (Picasso), fauve art (Matisse), abstract art (Mondrian), abstract expressionism (Pollock), and such.

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Frond Tropical room ceiling Orchids
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Leafy plant, orchid room Cacti  

    Next, I walked 3 or 4 blocks over to the National Gallery (East Wing), where I took a 50-minute, docent-led tour/overview of the permanent collection (20th century art).  I learned some things about the building itself (I. M. Pei architect) and the pieces commissioned for the site, then we saw some examples of cubism (Picasso), fauve art (Matisse), abstract art (Mondrian), abstract expressionism (Pollock), and such.

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Nat'l Gal E Wing, detail Picasso, Le Gourmet Lichtenstein painting, detail

For more pictures, see
National Gallery East Wing (Images)
Smithsonian Photos
Monuments & Landmarks pictured


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