Moment of Zen
Words by Sara E. Mason. Photography by James Jackson. Originally produced for Easy Goer.
Tucked away in D.C.’s Northeast quadrant, the U.S. National Arboretum occupies over 400 luscious acres of land. A little over 3 miles away from the National Mall, the National Arboretum hosts around 500,000 visitors a year, compared to the Mall’s nearly 8.5 million. Featuring free admission and year-round visiting, except for Christmas Day, it’s low-profile status among city-wide landmarks only add to its allure. It’s unspoiled serenity and expansive beauty are completely pure, and feel so far away from the rest of the world as we know it. If given the opportunity to spend an entire day there, do so.
Apart from their meticulously developed exhibits, the National Arboretum is responsible for the creation and introduction of 678 unique plants to the U.S. floral and garden markets. That means countless flowers, trees and shrubs integral to our American landscape were bred and researched right here in D.C.’s backyard. Their internationally-recognized research efforts include everything from developing virus-resistant plants, to developing biorationals (non-toxic insecticides and pesticides with minimal environmental effects.)
Another important aim of the Arboretum is their educational efforts. From bonsai basics for beginners, to bay-friendly lawn improvement tactics, the Arboretum promises professional guidance and instruction for all levels of gardeners. They also feature a helpful guide to bloom dates on their website, so if you’re searching for something particular on their grounds, you can plan your trip around optimal dates. Spring is a choice time to visit, since temperatures are still reasonable, and bloom schedules are lush with variety.
Though truly every acre of the Arboretum is stunning in its individual way, certain collections must be visited. The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, housed on the grounds, is undeniably transformative – it’s world-renowned for a reason. The Capitol Columns, a towering arrangement of Corinthian columns, are downright royal. Fern Valley, my personal favorite, is almost unkempt in its winding splendor. It’s the easiest place to feel lost, in the best possible way.
If you’re lucky, you’ll leave the National Arboretum feeling untethered from any constrictions or stressors occupying your mind before you arrived. At a minimum, you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation of natural beauty. You might even feel inspired to adopt a plant child of your own.