Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


Asian Collection, National Arboretum

We briefly walked through the Asian Collections at the National Arboretum. I wanted to see the Chinese Pagoda and the camellias. The camellias weren’t in bloom, but we got to see the pretty shrubs anyway.

Pagoda

The collection is divided into regions, such as China Valley and Korean Hillside. Each of the sections featured plants from those countries.

Asian Collection

In all, there wasn’t much in bloom, but it was a nice area to walk through.

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Washington Youth Garden

If you have kids, you definitely want to check out this garden in the National Arboretum. Besides various plants, there is a cute area where kids can dig, climb and play in a sandbox. The area also has a stage and a sitting area for programs.

Entrance to Washington Youth Garden

(Just a note of warning — take along the bug spray! As we were leaving the garden five mosquitos shared a meal on my leg. I itched for a few days after that!)

The Washington Youth Garden is full of color and a variety of plants. There were tons of bees and butterflies flying around. Sunflowers, coneflowers, rose mallow, apple trees, strawberries, figs, crepe myrtle, canna lilies, sedum, carnations, hydrangeas, spirea and more filled the beds.

Washington Youth Garden

The coolest thing we saw was a passionfruit vine. According to this source, the plant is naturalized and is not native to the U.S. A woman working at the garden said the fruit is ripe when it feels hollow when you squeeze it. She described it as feeling like “cardboard.” Doesn’t sound too appetizing, but I understood what she meant after testing a couple of fruit that were nearly ripe.

Passionfruit vine

Passionfruit vine

 


Fern Valley, National Arboretum

The area called Fern Valley is filled with meadow and prairie plants. The trail also winds through a small wooded area, but we did not walk there. This was a beautiful garden to start our tour of the gardens. The garden had cattails, rose mallow, cup plant and other flowers and grasses. It was very enjoyable!

Here’s just a few photos:

Fern Valley

Bridge in Fern Valley meadow

Rose Mallow and Bee

A bee working on a rose mallow.

Bug on thistle

A bug on a thistle.

bee and flower

yellow meadow


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U.S. National Arboretum

On our first full day in D.C., we started out with a visit to the U.S. National Arboretum, which is in the NE quadrant of D.C. There is plenty of parking or you can ride the Metro. The grounds are open Friday-Monday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and pups are allowed.

We walked around the majority of the 446 acre park. It was pretty cool. I really liked how many of the gardens weren’t overly formal and many areas were allowed to grow naturally. The sky looked like rain most of the morning, but the drops held off until the very last leg of our trip. The overcast morning was a welcome change from our hot, muggy day at Harpers Ferry.

There are several gardens throughout the park, but we chose to only visit a few. We made it to the National Capital Columns, Fern Valley Native Plant Collection, Washington Youth Garden, the Asian Collections, the Gotelli Collection of Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifers and the Conifer Collection and the National Herb Garden. We also walked by the Dogwood Collection, the Holly Magnolia Collection and some research gardens. There are more gardens, including the State Tree Collection and the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum (dogs aren’t allowed in the bonsai garden and museum), so there is tons more to see.

Besides education, the park also participates in research. The research gardens were comparing native and non-native plants’ susceptibility to pest damage. The hypothesis is that native plants would attract more native insect predators to help control pest damage. It would be interesting to learn the results! Other research plants included crepe myrtles.

One of two research gardens comparing native to non-native plants.

One of two research gardens comparing native to non-native plants.

Though the whole park was amazing, the herb and youth gardens were my favorites! I’ll share more about each of the gardens and pics in upcoming posts.


Some spring flowers

This spring is shaping up to be the best one we’ve had in a long time. Already we’ve seen and id’d lots of beautiful wildflowers, butterflies and birds.

Here’s some flowers we found Friday and yesterday evening. I’ve identified most of them. If I’ve mislabeled them or I’ve left some blank and you know what it is, please let me know in the comments!

Dutchman’s breeches
Bloodroot

Hepatica

Twinleaf

Cut-leaf toothwort

Spring beauty

Trillium

Rue anemone

Large-flowered bellwort

Yellow Corydalis

Ground ivy or a violet


J.C. Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, N.C.

J.C. Raulston Arboretum is a nice park to take an early morning stroll. There were lots of robins, cardinals and other birds singing from the trees as Chris and I strolled through the gardens, checking out the various shrubs and trees planned along the walks.

Pups are not allowed, so Sydney had to wait in the car. Don’t worry, it was a very brisk morning so there was no danger of her overheating. Plus, we never leave her in the car for very long. This was a quick visit.

Because the local police department was meeting at the facility, we had to park along Beryl Road. There’s a nice entry way from the roadside, so you don’t have to walk through the parking lot (though it’s really a small parking lot so that doesn’t really matter).

Chris really liked the well kept the grounds. Everything looked fresh and well-maintained.

I liked how well each of the species were labeled and included the native growing ranges of each of the plants. The park’s lath house and information on it was interesting. This is where most of the plants are kept until they are hardy enough to be moved out into other parts of the property. Some plants are kept there indefinitely.

Since it was still early in the year, most of the plants were not in bloom or even had leaves. We headed toward the magnolia garden to check out the blooms. Fact: lots of magnolias bloom before they get their leaves.

I would enjoy coming here to relax early on Saturday mornings.


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Cypress Gardens, Monck’s Corner, S.C.

I mentioned Cypress Gardens in an earlier post. This was probably my most favorite place during our trip to Charleston, S.C. It’s hard to believe this is a Berkeley County Parks and Recreation park!

There are 3.5 miles of trails, boat rides, a butterfly house, the Swamparium and lots of wildlife.

We were able to get in a boat ride before the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain. You can take a free, self-guided boat ride or wait for a park employee to take you on a tour (cost $5). We opted to go it alone. Here’s some of what we saw:

There were lots of lily pads.
Our boat.
This guy was resting close to the boat house. (Look to the left of the pillar.)
We had to paddle or float under two foot bridges.
We got within about six feet of this lazy gator. Close enough to scare him off the log. Oops!

It was amazing paddling around in the water, especially when we could get up close and personal with some alligators. There was a photography club there the same time we were, and one lady asked to snap some photos of us in the boat. We tried to hold the boat steady as she snapped some photos of us from the side of the pond.

A friend used to live near Charleston and told us how snakes are known to fall out of the trees into boats at the park. Aaaggghhh! Luckily, I think, we were in the area much too soon for a snake attack. We also only saw a few gators and they were lazily laying on logs or at the foot of cypresses and other trees.

After the boat ride, it started raining and we dashed into the butterfly house, where we hung out until the rain slowed down and we could make it back to the visitor center/gift shop and then the car.

In the butterfly house we saw:

Quail
The resident wood duck, The Prince. He rules the butterfly house and what he says goes.
Butterflies and flowers

Caterpillars
Cocoons, or chrysalis  

Most of the winged beauties were hanging out at the top of the building and we couldn’t see them that well.

David Davis, butterfly house director, talked with us about the plants, showed us the cocoon house and gave me some seeds for a Mexican flower vine that the butterflies love.

David Davis greets The Prince, who is sitting on top of the bee hive.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Sidney had to stay in the car while we explored the park, but pets are allowed November-February.

This park most definitely should be on your To-Do list if you’re ever in or near Charleston.

I really wanted to walk around the gardens, but the rain wasn’t going to let up so we drove on up the road to our next stop — Conagree National Park, near Columbia, S.C.