A Garden Escape from Winter

One little room, warm, green and bright, whisks visitors to Hawaii.

One little room in the U.S. Botanic Garden, warm, green and bright, whisks visitors to Hawaii.

Who can resist an orchid? The Botanic Garden has a delightful display.

Who can resist an orchid? The Botanic Garden has a delightful display.

Has anybody else gotten tired of winter? Are you like me, yearning for a spot of green, a flash of color, a breeze that warms you?

Get me to a garden! Stat!

Walk inside the U.S. Botanic Garden and you've entered another world. This one is filled with fountains and flowers and, for me, at least, joy.

Walk inside the U.S. Botanic Garden and you’ve entered another world. This one is filled with fountains and flowers and, for me,  joy.

I am lucky enough to live within driving distance of some warm, colorful gardens that stay green all year round. I recently made a beeline for the U.S. Botanic Garden while on a visit to Washington, D.C. I passed by all the wonderful museums of the Smithsonian Institution, leaving them to the other tourists. I needed a garden.

The Botanic Garden, it is said, was George Washington’s idea. And for nearly 200 years, it has provided a wonderful green space for all of Washington, D.C., and its many visitors. And it’s absolutely free to go inside, breathe in the warm and fragrant air and delight in the wonders of a garden fountain, a jungle full of palms, vines and epiphytes, and rooms full of living plants and flowers.

I couldn't find the name of this gorgeous flower, but I think it was my favorite during this visit.

I couldn’t find the name of this gorgeous flower, but I think it was my favorite during this visit.

On a recent visit, the first thing I noticed was the warmth. Coming in from the cold D.C. streets, I was enveloped in warm, humid air. I heard water splashing and children laughing. When I saw citrus trees I rushed over to catch the sweet fragrance of the tiny white blossoms.

DCwhiteflowersI was not disappointed. No, I knew I had found a place to soothe my winter-weary soul.

Take a walk on the wild side, high above the jungle floor.

Take a walk on the wild side, high above the jungle floor.

What kind of plants do you like? Palm trees? The jungle is your place. A path high above the floor offers a bird’s eye view and gets you closer to the epiphytes, plants and flowers growing on the sides of the trees.

A waterfall cascades over the rocks in the Hawaii garden.

A waterfall cascades over the rocks in the Hawaii garden.

Or perhaps, green, leafy plants beside a waterfall. The Hawaii garden is just the ticket. I only wish it was bigger. Still, the waterfall makes this garden special.

Sometimes you get a reality check even in a garden.

Sometimes you get a reality check even in a garden.

The desert garden was filled with all sorts of cacti. And the rare plants gallery reminded me how fragile this all is. A reality check, of course, but it made me treasure the moment even more.

There’s always something to delight the senses on a visit to the U.S. Botanic Garden. You might learn something. Or you might just take pleasure in all that a garden can be.

Resist the temptation to pick the fruit, Eve.

Resist the temptation to pick the fruit, Eve.

My afternoon in the Botanic Garden warmed me for a little while.  I write this with a foot of snow newly dumped in our yard and sleet falling like mad. So I know it will be a long time before I see my own garden. I’ll need another dose of one of these beautiful inside gardens.

Water, water everywhere in the aquarium's Rain Forest, home to fish, turtles, and all kinds of  birds.

Water, water everywhere in the aquarium’s Rain Forest, home to fish, turtles, and all kinds of birds.

Maybe next time, I’ll go to the National Aquarium in BaltimoreIf I do, I will, as usual, wave to the fish as I rush to the prism-shaped top of the building to visit the Rain Forest.

The birds at the National Aquarium in Baltimore are one of my favorite reasons for visiting.

The birds at the National Aquarium in Baltimore are one of my favorite reasons for visiting.

Since my volunteer days there in my youth, I have known this to be an Eden on bitter January days. The place is filled with birds, a couple of sloths that are very good at hiding and all the greenery you could want. If you’re a fish-lover, you’ll be delighted with all the marine life you could want — everything from sharks to blue crabs, tropical fish and local denizens of the Chesapeake Bay.

One "room" of the conservatory at Longwood Gardens.  That red and yellow rug — they are flowers. Breathtaking, isn't it?

One “room” of the conservatory at Longwood Gardens. That red and yellow rug — they are flowers. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

In Delaware’s Brandywine Valley, I delight in the conservatory of LongwooGardens. I usually join the vast crowds who come for the holiday decorations in December. The lights throughout the garden are a sight to see but the Conservatory wins my heart every time. How could it not? Soaring spaces filled with all sorts of flowers, designed by — in my humble opinion — artistic geniuses.

Anthurium at Longwood Gardens.

Anthurium at Longwood Gardens.

The children’s garden is filled with whimsical creations and wonderful flowers. There are rooms filled with palms, roses, orchids, desert plants, ferns and fruit trees. It takes a long time to wander through all the rooms of this magnificent place. And yet it comes to an end all too quickly. I head to the parking lot already thinking about the next time I’ll find time to escape to a garden.

Like many other buildings the U.S. Botanic Gardens on the National Mall has a sturdy stone facade.

Like many other buildings the U.S. Botanic Garden on the National Mall has a sturdy stone facade.

© Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman

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