Archive for April, 2012

Smithsonian Gardens Celebrates Arbor Day 2012

In the summer of 1854, J. Sterling Morton, a New York native who was raised in Detroit, moved to the Nebraska Territory with his wife.  Upon reaching the plains of this new territory, Mr. Morton missed the trees he grew up with in New York and Michigan.  He began to plant trees which were needed for wind breaks, fuel, food, erosion control and shade.  Through his advocacy and education, Morton proposed a national holiday to plant and to recognize the importance of trees.   On April 12, 1872, the first Arbor Day celebration was held, and over one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

An Arbor Day celebration in 1887.

An Arbor Day celebration in 1887.

Here at Smithsonian Gardens, we are excited to be celebrating Arbor Day at two of our locations!  On April 27, we will be planting a native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) at the new Bird Garden Habitat at the National Museum of Natural History and a native redbud (Cercis canadensis) at the Anacostia Community Museum.  Trees offer many benefits to our environment, especially in urban areas.  They decrease energy costs and storm water run-off, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce pollution, and increase property values.

A mature elm tree at the National Museum of Natural History.

A mature elm tree at the National Museum of Natural History.

As the new Arborist here at Smithsonian Gardens, I look forward to starting an annual tradition of celebrating this important holiday.  Too often, trees are overlooked as they tend to “fade into the background.” I want to bring their beauty and importance to the attention of our visitors, and hopefully inspire them to plant trees at their own homes, schools, or places of business.  Please join us!

-Greg Huse, Arborist

April 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1 comment

Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection: Nobile Dendrobiums

The great thing about the annual orchid exhibit is that it is constantly changing.  There is always something new to see since different kinds of orchids bloom at different times of the winter and spring.  In April, you can expect to see a lot more Dendrobium nobiles and related hybrids.  Nobile Dendrobiums are unique from other orchids and even other types of Dendrobiums, for several reasons.  They are deciduous, which means their leaves fall off each year before flowering.  This helps the plant retain water during the dry winter months, and it is thought this may also improve pollination odds in the wild.  Nobile Dendrobium species also require a cool period each fall or winter to promote flowering.  This cool period is easy to mimic at the Smithsonian Greenhouses since the seasons of this area are similar to that of Dendrobium nobile’s native habitat.  Nobile hybrids do not necessarily adhere to the same behavior that the species do, and many of the newer hybrids do not require cool winter nights and will maintain their foliage throughout the growing season!    

Our Greenhouse staff have been working hard to prepare the Nobiles for display; take a look!

Orchid grower Sarah Hedean and volunteer Shahla Butler stake and tie Nobile Dendrobiums to prepare them for the Orchid Exhibit

Orchid grower Sarah Hedean and volunteer Shahla Butler stake and tie Nobile Dendrobiums to prepare them for the Orchid Exhibit.


Tying canes together helps balance the plant, since they tend to be top heavy

Tying canes together helps balance the plant, since they tend to be top heavy.



A finished product at the Orchid Exhibit!

A finished product at the Orchid Exhibit!

April 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Come Move in the Gardens! Let’s Move! Debuts

Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, birds are singing and our gardens have begun to bloom. Spring is also the perfect time to kick off our newest educational program, Let’s Move! with Smithsonian Gardens. Part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s national initiative to promote physical fitness and healthy diet choices, our program encourages visitors to our gardens to get active!

Last week we debuted our Let’s Move! interpretative panels in our gardens near the National Mall. Each panel provides some interesting facts about the garden and a fun way to be active. We also want to know how you’re moving in the gardens, so we’ve included some fun texting polls to keep track of how many steps you take as part of Let’s Move! Keep an eye out and see if you can spot all the panels as you explore Smithsonian Gardens.

We’ve also been working on our Let’s Move! Healthy Hunt Guide. The guide includes a scavenger hunt through our gardens with tips on how to be active in nature. It is currently available on our website and we just sent it to the printer, so you will be able to pick it up at any Smithsonian information desk soon.

We hope to see you moving in the gardens soon!

Bridget Sullivan, Education Intern

April 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection: Take a Closer Look

It is hard not to appreciate the beauty of an orchid in bloom. Right now, at the exhibit Orchid Mystique: Nature’s Triumph, visitors are able to partake in a lot of orchid appreciation.  Seeing the colorful throng of orchids in the Garden Court at the U.S. Botanic Garden is a tremendous sight, but don’t get completely distracted by the panorama.  Take a look at the details!

Individual orchid flowers are a world of color, pattern, shape, size, smell and texture, especially the modified third petal which is called the lip or labellum.  This part of the flower helps to attract an orchid’s pollinator and can serve as a landing pad for insects like bees, moths, butterflies, and flies.  Every orchid species or cultivar has a characteristically different labellum and it is amazing to see the different adaptations and variations that are present. Here are just a few fantastic flower designs that you can find at the exhibit.


Bletilla striata


Dendrobium aphyllum

Dendrobium aphyllum

Visit Orchid Mystique: Nature’s Triumph for more information. 

 Julie Rotramel, Orchids Intern

April 6, 2012 at 11:00 am 1 comment

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