Once you visit the conservatory at the US Bontanic Garden, you can go and see Bartholdi Park. It is located directly south of the conservatory. In fact, if one could venture straight through the conservatory to the south entrance, you would probably have a pretty good view of the park.
Bartholdi Park is a typical park with an enormous fountain in the middle. It sits on an island that is intersected by three streets - Independence Avenue, Washington Avenue, and First Street. The park is separated into smaller sections that are representative of the flora that are grown. You can even sit at the wooden tables and take a picnic lunch for a relaxing day downtown!
Once you pass through the entance of the North Lobby, you will feel inclined to wander out into the West or East Wing, however, you eventually walk into the largest glass enclosure of the conservatory, which is fondly referred to as The Jungle. And boy is it a jungle out there!! You immediately feel a temperature and humidity difference as you walk through the doors. As you casually wind your way around the Jungle, do not neglect to walk up on top of the catwalks...they provide a great vantage point to peer into the Jungle!
The non-descript entry of the US Bontanic Garden doesn't even hint at the amazing world within the conservatory. When you first enter, there are two little pools that extend out to the wings of the main building in the north lobby. From there you can reach the East and West Wings. See how the water draws you into the Wing!!
Around the pool are strategically placed plants and a bit farther out are benches. It's like sitting in the drawing room of the Capital!!! You can sit and listen to the relaxing sounds of the water and of the classical music that they have playing!!
U.S. Botanical Garden is not very big, but it's well managed like other things in D.C. Inside it's divided into many small zones, including a dry desert, a humid jungle, a medicinal garden, and much more. Among them I found the Orchid Garden most amazing. I'll post all my flower shots in the travelogue.
The Botanical Garden is right next to the Capitol building. I visited it while waiting for my Capitol tour. For the safety of the plants, the Garden's security is very tight.
Like any of the museums, the Botanic Garden often has rotating special shows. This past spring there was a spectacular orchid show. There are sometimes special classes and lectures to accompany these exihibits.
Last summer (2004), the highlight was the rare bloom of an especially stinky plant. Here is the Titan Arum that bloomed at the US Botanic Garden. Everyone waited and watched for the moment of peak bloom -- once it was reached, the flower was gone within 48 hours. (It collapses on itself.) Since it wasn't fully open when I visited, I didn't get a sense (scents?) of the magnitude of its stink, but I caught a little whiff and the potential is certainly there.
The Titan Arum is billed as the largest flower in the world, and it is a native of the jungles of Sumatra. Nicknamed the "corpse flower" because of its decaying-flesh odor, it blooms only once every couple of years. The odor serves the purpose of attracting bugs, such as dung beetles, for pollenation. There is another in California, and one in Kew Gardens, London.
Located on the mall, at the foot of the US Capitol, the US Botanical Garden offers exhibits of over 4,000 plants and flowers from many natural habitats found all over the globe. Desert cacti and succulents, tropical rain forest fig trees, ferns and orchids are can be found under the glass of the newly renovated US Botanical Garden. Also especially beautiful special flower displays are presented at various times of the year. Christmas and Spring (Easter) for example.
Built in 1820, these refreshing gardens are just a short walk from the Capitol building. Admission is free, and you can get in daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Even if you don't have a lot of time to spend, take 20 min to relax from sightseeing and walk through this conservatory with 4,000 plants.
Recently renovated, the Botanic Garden is a "living plant museum." There are several different environments represented, including jungle, desert, and endangered. This is truly a spectacular place to spend time, and the controlled environment can be a respite from unpleasant outside weather. If you visited in the past and remember a somewhat dingy and dated atmosphere with opaque windows and dim light, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. The renovations have breathed new life into this vibrant attraction.
There are also benches throughout the Botanic Gardens; if you are looking for a place to rest your weary tourist feet, it's hard to beat this!
See my travelogue, "A Botanical Tour" for a sampling.
Visit the National Botanic Garden. It's a really wonderful way to spend the a few hours. I'm a plant lover, so I especially enjoyed this place.