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.


A Brassica moment

On the same day that I walked by the White House, I visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Heirloom Garden at the American History Museum and its Butterfly Garden beside the Natural History Museum to see how they look in early spring.

In both, the SI gardeners were putting forward Brassicas — ornamental kale, cabbage, and red mustard.

In the American History Museum entrance planter, yellow predominates, not from forsythia, but from the flowers of ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) and red mustard (Brassica juncea). Here’s the link to how it was planted last summer.

Now it’s filled with dusty miller, violas, and two Brassicas. I did not see any labels, but I’m pretty sure that the lacy white one on the sides is B. oleracea ‘Peacock White’  and the other one with light purple/light green leaves in the center is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks,’ a mustard mizuna.

The museum’s big blue pots are also planted in purple kale (I think it may be B. oleracea ‘Peacock Red’) and violas. (You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

At the Mall entrance to the Butterfly Garden, below, various Brassicas stood out, along with yellow tulips and violas.

These photos show ruffled dark purple B. oleracea ‘Redbor,’ as well as (I think) ‘Garnet Giant’ red mustard (in the center above) and Johnnie jump-up violas.  The lacy light-purple/light-green plant is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks.’

I think the tall, dark blue-green kale in the foreground below is dinosaur kale, maybe ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero.’  Unfortunately, it was not labeled.

Below are ‘White Peacock’ kale.

I didn’t find a label for the very dark purple kale below.  They may be ‘Redbors’ that are just more mature and darker than the other specimens.

The cabbages in the front of the bed below are ‘Red Drumhead,’ with a row of dinosaur kale behind them.

At the entrance are more dinosaur kale.  Here’s the link to what they looked like last summer.

Here and here are some links to growing ornamental kale.

To scroll through larger versions of all the photos above, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on the first thumbnail in the gallery.

ADDENDUM: In Paris, in March, I spotted some lovely flower beds on the Champs Elysees planted only with various-colored primroses and regularly interspersed tall flowering ornamental kale (something like B. oleracea ‘Redbor’). Unfortunately, I was on a bus and couldn’t get a picture.

Continue reading “A Brassica moment”

The heirloom garden

On a hot day in early August, I visited the Heirloom Garden of the National Museum of American History* and took a lot of photos,  but because of our move, I never had time to post them.  Now that it is seed-ordering time in the U.S., I thought they might be inspirational.

(Click on any image above to scroll through larger photos.)

The garden — huge, raised planters, all the way around the museum building — contains a mix of open-pollinated plants cultivated in America prior to 1950 (heirlooms). The plantings are anchored by crape myrtles and a variety of shrubs.

The colorful annuals, perennials, bulbs, and herbs are all so familiar, but  the combinations are often surprising.  It’s a splendid ode to the flower gardens of our grandparents.

The museum pipes in a selection of American music from speakers set in the planters (in fake rocks).  Normally, I would find this annoying, but in the already noisy, wide open site, it actually drew me in to the garden and enhanced the experience.  And their selection is excellent — folk, jazz, blues, musicals.  The planters are raised about 3′, which also helps the plants compete for attention in the immense space.

By late summer, the flowers were being allowed to grow a little leggy and fade naturally, which added to the various forms and tones of the groupings.

*The Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has eight beautiful gardens (ten if you count the inner courtyards of the Freer Gallery and Museum of American Art).