Tuesday, August 24, 2010
August 23, 2010: Washington - National Arboretum
I had been debating whether I would get out to visit the National Arboretum. I definitely wanted to go, but getting there by transit would involve a Metro ride and a bus, then a walk - all of it on the dodgy east side of town, so I didn't want to do that one my own. It also seemed like it would be reasonable to take a taxi, as long as we could arrange to get one back at the end of the day - tricky to arrange without a cell phone and not knowing what the phone access would be like there. In the end Mark agreed to accompany me on this slightly iffy adventure, and we took a taxi from Union Station. In most respects the neighbourhood looked less alarming than it had when we took the Metro to the nearby Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens, so we might have been just fine taking public transit.
The arboretum grounds were beautiful, and definitely worth the effort of figuring out how to get there. First up was an extensive collection of bonsai trees, and an exhibition which did a good job of demonstrating how a bonsai is created. The oldest tree has been "in training" (as they phrase it) since 1625!
After the bonsai we ate lunch under a leafy enclosure, walked through the herb garden, and then headed over to the set of former US Capitol building pillars - removed during a renovation and now standing in the middle of an empty field, like a relic of an ancient building. Then we visited Fern Valley, which was mostly closed to visitors - they'd had some major damage during a recent storm. We continued around the park to the Asian gardens (set on a very steep slope - I wouldn't want to be on that path when the rain comes rushing down), the river's edge (looks like you could take a boat to the Arboretum), the dwarf and slow-growing conifers (not as much fun as the dwarf and slow-growing bonsai) and back to the visitor's center.
We'd been saving up the experience of feeding the fish since we first entered the visitor's center and saw them. They have a coin-operated fish food machine and a pond full of huge koi. Just leaning over the edge induces a swarm of gaping fish mouths, but feeding them set off a real frenzy. This was definitely the highlight of the day for Mark.
The friendly attendant at the visitor's center called a taxi for us (although it took two tries) and we headed back to Union Station, safe and sound in central DC.
Photos: a gingko espalier (I've never seen this done with anything other than fruit trees, but why not?); bonsai (it didn't occur to me to note the dates/species on the first few than I photographed, but the third one is a Trident Maple age unknown, the fourth is a California Juniper from 1964, the fifth is a Chinese Banyan from 1971, the sixth is Foemina Juniper from 1974, and the seventh is a Japanese White Pine from 1625!; US Caitol pillars; Mark helps hold a pillar up; a happy insect hanging out on a tree (there were many others of the same insects); beautiful red grass in the Asian garden; a meadow with colourful flowering trees; Mark sets off a feeding frenzy; ripples reflecting the 60s-style modernist building