The butterfly garden in early fall

Perennial sunflowers 'Lemon Queen' on the left.

I’m sorry that these photos are a little out of season, but I enjoyed my late September visit to the Smithsonian Institution’s Butterfly Habitat Garden so much that I still wanted to share them.

The garden is a long corridor between the National Mall and Independence Avenue.  It’s bordered by very busy 9th Street, N.W., on one side and the parking lot of the National Museum of Natural History on the other.

Stepping inside, however, you feel enveloped in another world — particularly in early fall, when many of the plants are at their fullest and tallest.

Click on any thumbnail in the gallery above to enlarge the photos.

In my captions, I haven’t included many plant labels, because I didn’t take very good notes during my visit. I was depending on a list of plants at the S.I. gardens website, but, unfortunately, it seems to have been removed for the moment. However, there are some recommendations in this Smithsonian brochure, and there’s additional information here at the Smithsonian gardens blog.

To see the garden in early August in 2011, click here.

ADDENDUM:  The power of Pinterest — the mystery plant with the spiny seedpods is Asclepias fruticosa (syn. Gomphocarpus fruticosus), a species of milkweed native to South Africa.  Thanks to Miranda M.


The butterfly garden

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On the same early August day that I visited the Smithsonian’s Heirloom Garden, I also enjoyed a long walk back and forth through the Butterfly Habitat Garden, located on the east side of the National Museum of Natural History.

The garden is made up of plants that have specific relationships to the life cycles of eastern U.S. butterflies. As you walk along, you pass sections that mimic habitats important to the insects: wetlands, meadows, edges of woods, urban gardens.

It’s a long corridor really, bordered by busy 9th Street, N.W., on one side and the museum’s parking lot on the other. Yet, stepping in, you feel enveloped in another world, one that combines a little city polish with naturalism.

I offer these pictures from last summer as more inspiration for those in cold climates who are deep into their nursery catalogs and graph paper, planning for spring.

I haven’t labeled all the plants because the Smithsonian’s interactive map at this link has plant lists for each habitat.  (However, they do not include the grey-green plants in the first and seventh photos  [It’s dinosaur kale, possibly Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero’] or the tall plants with the small, purple, fuzzy blooms in the tenth.  [It’s Ironweed, Vernonia.  Thanks James Golden.]  Can anyone identify them?  I feel they are just on the tip of my brain.)

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