United States Botanic Garden is at 100 Maryland Ave. S.W., on the w. side of the Capitol between Maryland and Independence aves. S.W. A botanic garden in the heart of the nation’s capital was the dream of founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Established by Congress in 1820 and open to the public since 1850, it celebrates plants as living things that not only display an incredible range of beauty but provide livelihood and meaning to cultures around the world. Better yet, this is a wonderfully relaxing change of pace from D.C.'s hustle and bustle.
The glass-walled Conservatory is the garden's indoor facility. Enter into the Garden Court, an oasis of lush greenery, colorful flowers and two skinny reflecting pools, with wooden benches where you can sit for a spell. Most of the Conservatory is given over to lofty palms, hardwood trees and foliage plants luxuriating in a climate-controlled environment. Climb up the Canopy Walk, a metal stairway that offers various bird's-eye perspectives of this tropical habitat.
Walk-through specialty greenhouses spotlight desert plants, ancient plants, orchids, Hawaiian and Mediterranean plants and plants used for medicinal purposes. The Children's Garden and Southern Exposure are outdoor courtyards filled with color during the summer months.
The National Garden, adjoining the Conservatory, is an outdoor garden that's at its best in the summer. The First Ladies Water Garden is a beautiful place to sit by a fountain and relax. The national flower is saluted at the Rose Garden; plants in the Butterfly Garden attract you know what.
The Regional Garden features species native to the Mid-Atlantic region, which has an uncommonly rich variety of flora due to its location between colder and warmer sections of the country. The layout draws its inspiration from plants that mature, compete for space and thrive or succumb naturally in the wild. Here you'll see trees like longleaf pine and yaupon holly along with such plants as witch hazel, a winter bloomer, and American beautyberry, producing purple berries much loved by birds.
Street parking is metered and limited; using public transportation is encouraged. Free 45-minute highlight tours of the Conservatory are offered; check the schedule at the information desk.