Courtesy The Huntington Library Art Collection and Botanical Gardens
Published May 01, 2014
United States Botanic Garden
A lot of people are surprised to hear that some of the nation’s founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, played an instrumental role in establishing one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. In letters from the first president to developers and commissioners of the nation’s capital, Washington called for, among other things, a national botanic garden, which was eventually established by the U.S. Congress in 1820.
The garden benefits from a very fortuitous location, situated between the Smithsonian and the National Mall to the west and Capitol Hill to the east, and the facilities saw more than 1.6 million visitors last year, according to conservation and sustainability horticulturalist Ray Mims.
“A lot of those stumble upon us needing a restroom or looking for something to do before visiting the Capitol but leave with a greater appreciation of beauty and nature,” Mims said.
The U.S. Botanic Garden is divided into three public experiences: the iconic Lord and Burnham greenhouse conservatory, with nearly 29,000 square feet of growing space and 10 garden rooms; Bartholdi Park, which is named for its centerpiece, Bartholdi Fountain — its creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, also designed the Statue of Liberty; and the National Garden, which features the Rose Garden and the Butterfly Garden.
Prearranged group tours are available, but not between Veterans Day and the end of the holiday season, typically the Sunday following New Year’s Day; reservations must be made at least four weeks in advance. The U.S. Botanic Garden is closed only one day every four years for Inauguration Day.