A week ago this morning, my daughter and I returned from visiting another daughter in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. This was my third trip to the DC area- it probably won’t be my last, since my daughter loves living near the nation’s capital.
The first time I was in DC was shortly after my daughter moved to the area. At the time, she wasn’t sure it was a long term move, so my first trip was a whirlwind one. On that trip, we visited as many tourist sites and museums as we could fit into the weekend. Here is the recap of our first visit.
My second visit included a couple tourist sites, but also a visit to Dragonfly Fibers dye studio.
This time, we visited a couple more sites – looking for flowers. We also went to the National Portrait Gallery, and found a yarn shop in nearby Alexandria, Virginia – these will be covered in a future post.
The National Arboretum
I have wanted to visit the National Arboretum since my first visit to DC. The arboretum is located in the northeast part of the city. It is not as easy to get to as many of the other popular sites, so it is not usually the top of visitors’ lists – it should be.
One way to get to the National Arboretum is to take the Metro, then a bus, and then walk a couple blocks. The easiest way to get there, though, is to drive. I was able to drive my daughter’s car, even though she had to work, so my other daughter and I were able to visit the gardens.
The weather forecast promised a beautiful day. The morning was sunny and pleasant; the afternoon was a little warmer. It felt like summer – we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
The Perennial Garden and Azaleas
As we entered the Arboretum, we stopped at the visitors center for a general map and then proceeded to the parking lot next to the picnic area. We immediately walked to the Azalea Gardens, even though we knew it was too early in the season to see many blooms. We saw a few booms as we walked through the Morrison Garden and along the Henry Mitchell Walk. It wasn’t until later that we found out we had missed the largest azalea garden – the Historic Glenn Dales.
We followed the paved paths and roads to the perennial garden. As we entered the area, we met a couple that were leaving. They told us they have never seen all the varieties of daffodils blooming at the same time. The garden was filled with several varieties – and yes, they were all blooming. It was beautiful.
We continued walking along the road through a woodsy area back toward the car. As we rounded a corner, we saw barricades warning us not to enter. There was a small employee-only path off to the side that was temporarily open so we could continue on our way.
The reason the path was closed – and the reason part of the azalea garden was closed – was that for the fourth year in a row, an American bald eagle has built it’s nest in the top of a tree in the park. The area around the tree and nest is closed to all traffic – including pedestrians.
Over the past couple of years, cameras and a microphone have been installed so visitors can view the nest and eggs. The cameras are broadcast at this website. The camera feed is also available in the visitor center.
State Trees, Columns, and the Fern Garden
We paused for a picnic lunch in the grove of state trees – the only designated picnic area in the Arboretum. The trees weren’t labeled as clearly as I hoped they would have been, but there was a circular structure that listed each state tree. A plaque including a drawing and description of the tree was included for each state.
After lunch we drove to see the National Capitol Columns. These twenty-two sandstone columns once were part of the US Capitol. They stand like a monument on a grassy knoll and the center of the park.
Across the road from the columns is Fern Valley, an area dedicated to native ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs. We walked some of the trails in this area, but didn’t stay long because it was too warm. The area was sheltered by the trees and the gentle breeze we felt in other areas was missing here.
Magnolias, Lilacs, Camellias, and Cherry Trees
I was interested in seeing the Conifer Collection, so we headed that direction. On the way, though, we saw many beautiful flowering trees. In the spring, the Arboretum puts together a self-guided tour of the many different cherry trees, some of which are the results of the extensive breeding program. Although our visit was near the end of cherry blossom season, several trees were still flowering.
While cherry trees bloom throughout the garden, other flowering trees and shrubs are confined to a more specific area. We turned off the main road to visit the holly and magnolia section. The blooming magnolias were breathtaking. Large trees full of pink, purple, and white blooms filled the grove.
Lilacs have always been one of my favorite spring blooms – we opened the windows as we drove through to get a whiff of their fragrant scent. The walkways among the lilacs were under construction so we were only allowed a passing view.
Another guest had alerted us to the camellias that were blooming behind one of the restrooms. Although that may sound unattractive, it was not. The path did lead from near the restrooms, but it wandered through a lightly wooded area through the Asian collections and the camellias.
Conifers and Bonsais
We eventually made it to the conifer collection, but by this time we were getting tired. We drove around the section, vowing to make this area our first stop the next time we visit.
Our last stop was the Bonsai collection. It is amazing to see the miniature trees that have been living for tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years.
The weather was perfect for our day at the National Arboretum. We look forward to visiting again.
Cherry Blossom Cruise
On our second day in Washington, DC, we had planned to do a Cherry Blossom Cruise to Alexandria, Virginia. There was some rain in the morning, but at the time we planned to take the cruise, the rain had stopped. It as overcast, but we didn’t mind.
About five minutes into the 30 minute cruise, it started misting, then drizzling, and then raining. Although the rain was light, the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up. We were not able to go up to the deck, unless we wanted to be wet and cold.
We could still see the cherry blossoms, though, and I could imagine how amazing they would be in better weather. They were a little past their prime, but they still would have been beautiful.
Our first day in Washington, DC was beautiful. On the second day, the weather turned. I saw enough, even through the poor weather, to know that I’d like to make another visit to the city during the prime cherry blossom viewing time. Maybe next year.
Have you been to the National Arboretum? Have you been to our nation’s capital during cherry blossom season? Share your memories in the comments.