A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens

By: Carole Ottesen

ImageDid you know that the Smithsonian maintains a Victory Garden, or a Butterfly Habitat Garden? This wonderful little book introduces the reader to the ‘other' part of the Smithsonian. We're all familiar with the Natural History Museum or the National Gallery of Art, but very few realize that the Smithsonian also maintains a group of exceptional and diverse gardens.

Managed by the Office of Horticulture, its mission is to "Enrich the Smithsonian experience through exceptional gardens, horticulture exhibits, collections and education." Each is an individual and unique design that is intended to educate, uplift and provide beauty to the surroundings. A dedicated staff of horticulturists grooms and maintains each garden to perfection, since they know that for many visitors, this will be the only time they ever see them.

This book is a good travel companion with a map of Washington DC printed on the end covers. The various museums and landmarks are highlighted, as well as the locations of the Smithsonian Gardens. A quick history of how the Smithsonian was founded, including vintage photographs helps the reader and visitor understand that this is a mission nearly two centuries in the making.

ImageFor gardeners, this is a superb addition to the other museums and exhibits. For non-gardeners, they are magnificent backdrops for family photos destined to be cherished keepsakes. The book is bursting with photographs and gardeners will appreciate the botanical names in each description. Plant combinations are creative and inspiring. Many gardeners will take away tips and ideas to incorporate in their own grounds.

There is a garden for everyone's taste. The Folger Rose Garden is a riot of color and fragrance. The Native American Garden respects traditions and spotlights native plants. The Ripley Garden is designed for disabled visitors. The plants are a delight in touch and scent, while the plantings are in raised beds for the enjoyment of those in wheelchairs. The Sculpture Garden and Plaza blends notable sculptures and complimentinary plantings for visitors to enjoy.

A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens is an excellent addition to the gardener's library and a valuable tool if visiting Washington D. C. It is highly recommended for gardener or traveler.

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