May 5, 2011
April showers bring May flowers. Or maybe, just mosquitoes. But the horticulture folks who bring you the Smithsonian gardens want you front and center tomorrow and Saturday (May 6 and 7). Bring your wellies and gloves to this year’s Garden Fest for tips and techniques to make your flowers and veggies grow like they were planted by an expert.
Established in 1972, the Smithsonian Gardens’ crew and staff like to think themselves as the “outdoor museum” of the Institution. The gorgeous landscaping and gardens are the equivalent of horticultural exhibitions, designed to compliment the museums that they border. For example, Natural History museum’s nearby butterfly garden tells the story of host plants and habitats like wetlands and meadows and woodland edges where the insects thrive. Garden Fest, started in 2006, is a two-day, free event that allows visitors to talk with Smithsonian horticulturists about the work they do and the places and spaces that they create.
“The Smithsonian Gardens themselves are an asset, not only to the visitors of the Smithsonian, but also to the residents of DC as a place of respite from the urban environment,” says Smithsonian horticulturist Shelley Gaskins. “Garden Fest seeks to educate the public about gardens, gardening and all things related.”
Visitors will learn about the benefits of adding certain insects into their gardens at Beneficial Insects in the Garden and how to increase biodiversity by growing heirloom vegetable plants at What is Old is New Again: Heirloom Tomato Pot-a-Plant.
Smithsonian Gardens chose “Celebrating the American Garden Experience” as the theme of this year’s Garden Fest. Many of the activities at the festival have been developed from American gardening traditions and highlight uniquely American flowers and plants.
Some of the activities include creating sunflower seed packets, coloring garden gnome plant stakes, and learning about the roles that trees have played in American history.
This year’s Garden Fest also starts on National Public Gardens Day. “Garden Fest celebrates National Public Garden Day by inviting local public gardens to join in our celebration,” said Gaskins. The information and activities available at Garden Fest help support the goals of National Public Gardens Day such as conservation, education and environmental stewardship.
Garden Fest will take place on Friday, May 6 from 11 AM to 1 PM and Saturday, May 7 from 11 AM to 3 PM in the Enip A. Haupt Garden, which is located between the Smithsonian Castle and Independence Ave. In the event of rain, all activities will move to the S. Dillon Ripley Center.
May 2, 2011
Monday, May 2 Written in Bone
Family-friendly and hands-on. Forensic anthropology is not just for scientists! Meet at Natural History in the exhibition, “Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake,” and learn to use human bones to solve mysteries. In no time at all, be an expert at identifying people from the past and drawing conclusions about how they live their lives. Free. Natural History Museum. 1:00 PM-5:00 PM.
Tuesday, May 3 Outsider Art
Smithsonian magazine contributor David Taylor talks about how outsider art inspires his writing. The author describes his first encounter with the intensely religious and visionary work, “Throne of Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly” by James Hampton, on view in the Folk Art section of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Taylor ‘s contributions to Smithsonian magazine include articles on the WPA Project and ginseng Free. American Art Museum. 6:00 PM-7:00 PM.
Wednesday, May 4 Born to be Wild 3D
Featuring the conservation efforts of primatologist Birute Galdikas with orangutans in Borneo, along with that of Dame Daphne Sheldrick‘s work with elephants in Kenya. Both women live near the animals, rescuing them and returning them to live in the wild. The film is shown at 2:25, 4:25 and 6:25 daily, in the Johnson IMAX Theater at the Natural History museum. Tickets are $9 adults, $8 seniors and $7.50 children ages 2 to 12. Toll free phone 866-868-7774 or online.
Thursday, May 5 Zing! Went the Strings
Enjoy string quintets by Haydn and Dvořák and a quartet by Mozart, performed by stars of the Marlboro Music Festival: violinists Benjamin Beilman and Veronika Eberle, violists Beth Guterman and Yura Lee, and cellist Judith Serkin. Free, but tickets required. 7:30 PM. Freer Gallery of Art.
Friday, May 6 Smithsonian Garden Fest
This two-day Family-friendly celebration of plants, gardens and gardening explore this year’s theme of “Celebrating the American Garden Experience.” Add to a garden mural, build a puppet, make a miniature Japanese garden and take home seeds. Saturday will includes live music performances and a stilt walker. Location: Enid A. Haupt Garden, south of the Castle. In the event of rain, activities will move to the Ripley Center. Free. Friday, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. Sunday, 11:00 AM-3:00 PM.
May 7, 2010
Sometimes on a crazy, hectic day at the office, it makes sense just to sneak away from the cubicle and slip into a garden. I’m luckier than most because within strolling distance of my desk and computer, I’ve got my choice of ten Smithsonian gardens that run the gambit from butterfly to heirloom to perennial to formal to terraced to rose.
Yesterday, I joined popular television host, the Gardener Guy Paul James, among the native sycamores, sumacs and rhodedendrums at the side of a refreshing pond just outside the National Museum of the American Indian. This garden, with its 33,000 native plants representing 150 species, recalls the former landscape along the Potomac River’s Tiber Creek in the time before European contact. James, whose passion for gardening in his own backyard made him a much-loved personality on the cable network HGTV, was in town promoting National Public Gardens Day, today, May 7.
I was the last interview for James and so I could tell he needed a little garden time to refresh and refuel; and I had chosen this particular meeting place because James likes to encourage his audience to follow simple, natural, eco-friendly techniques for gardening. “This garden appeals to me,” he told me. “This is what people should seek to mimic in their own gardens. Native plantings require less maintenance, less water; they are more aesthetic and they attract wildlife.” And almost as if, on cue, in a flash of orange and black, an oriole flew out of the brush and landed at our feet.
James said he wanted to get the word out that the free, public gardens all across the nation in cities and towns provide just such a haven. “Across the whole United States, there are a considerable number of people who don’t know or aren’t aware of what a public garden has to offer. They are a treasure trove of ideas.” People, who think perhaps they might want to start a garden, he continued, may see a particular kind of planting and all that they need to do is mimic the conditions they find in the public garden in their own backyards. “They could sketch it, photograph it, they could even ask to see the list of plants growing in the garden, and save themselves the cost of having to hire a landscaper.”
Visitors coming to the Smithsonian this weekend will find plenty of gardening tips for the taking at the annual Garden Fest, which kicks off tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. in the Enid A. Haupt Garden located behind the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. The entire horticulture staff will be on hand and the activities planned: flower arranging and basket weaving, as well as tips for growing everything from edible heirlooms to orchids. And all of it accompanied by a host of performances, including the ever-popular Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra.
Oh, and one other site you won’t want to miss. Starting at 11:30 in the Haupt Garden, a slew of beneficial bugs will be released into the garden. That’s right. Bugs! Green lacewing larvae, parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, adult lady beetles and predatory mites. These are the helpmates in any thriving garden. So come learn who in the insect world is a good friend and neighbor to invite into your own backyard haven.
Garden Fest, hosted by the Smithsonian Gardens, presents live music and family fun activities, at the Enid A. Haupt Garden, Saturday May 8, 10 AM-4 PM.