Vintage landscape: the capitol and the conservatory

Botanical garden at the CapitalThe U.S. Botanic Garden, 1917, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The conservatory will be decorated for the holidays through January 5.

I wish you a very happy 2014.

“. . . Botanic Goddess! bend thy radiant eyes;
O’er these soft scenes assume thy gentle reign,
Pomona, Ceres, Flora in thy train;
O’er the still dawn thy placid smile effuse,
And with thy silver sandals print the dews;
In noon’s bright blaze thy vermil vest unfold,
And wave thy emerald banner starr’d with gold.”

Thus spoke the Genius, as he stepp’d along,
And bade these lawns to Peace and Truth belong;
Down the steep slopes he led with modest skill;
The willing pathway, and the truant rill,
Stretch’d o’er the marshy vale yon willowy mound,
Where shines the lake amid the tufted ground,
Raised the young woodland, smooth’d the wavy green,
And gave to Beauty all the quiet scene.—

Erasmus Darwin, from  “The Botanic Garden”

Season’s Greetings

Sorry to have disappeared for so long. I went outside to organize my garden by color and got a little obsessed with the process, coming in too tired to blog.  I’ll share some photos as soon as the plants recover enough to look like anything.

My daughter Laura visited the U.S. Botanic Garden next to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., last week and sent me these photos of its holiday display, “Season’s Greenings.”

A model of the U.S. Capitol building at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  All photos by Laura Koran.

I guess this makes her my first ‘guest blogger.’

In additions to wreaths, garlands, and poinsettias, the indoor display features model trains running by fairy dwellings in an enchanted forest.

The design company Applied Imagination also created models of many of Washington’s landmark buildings (and one fountain) using dried plant materials (supported by acrylic foam boards).

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The show will be open to the public through January 1, 2013, and admission is free.

(a little) Miscellany

There’s an interesting behind-the-scenes video of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s year-long preparations for its “Season’s Greenings” display here.

This video is not terribly recent — from The Washington Post on December 1 — but I thought artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s take on the season’s traditional tree “lighting” was kind of a hoot.

The New York Times had an article last week, here,  about the origins of the punch wassail (the word comes from the Middle English phrase waes hael, to your health) and the carol “Here we come a-wassailing ….”   They’re actually about singing to the health of trees, particularly apple trees.

“The historian Roy Christian, in his 1966 book, Old English Customs, described the apple wassailing that was still taking place in several villages in England’s West Country: ‘The villagers form a circle round the largest apple tree in the selected orchard. Pieces of toast soaked in cider are hung in the branches for robins, who represent the ‘good spirits’ of the tree. The leading wassailer utters an incantation and shotgun volleys are fired through the branches to frighten away the evil spirits. Then the tree is toasted in cider and urged in song to bring forth much fruit.'”

James Golden’s Federal Twist garden in western New Jersey is just as gorgeous in early winter as in all the other seasons.  Please take a look here.