Garden Lifestyle

Season’s Greenings at the United States Botanic Garden

Yesterday, I went for my annual trek to see the holiday exhibit at the USBG.

  • Wonderful holiday flower arrangement fills a moss-covered alcove at the USBG Season's Greenings show. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The Garden Court at the USBG is filled with pointsettias--the color theme this year was red and white and shades of green--I love the lime green pointsettias with the red--very fun and bright. Note the Washington Monument model created from botanicals.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Another view in the Conservatory of the holiday display with plants and local landmarks--their lights were lovely at dusk--caught these at closing time. In the foreground is a model of the USBG and the U.S. Capitol is back left.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Modeled after Grand Central Terminal in New York--this was absolutely stunning--some of the plant materials are: cedar, willow, tulip poplar, bark, honeysuckle vine, acorn caps, poppy pods, cinnamon, peppercorns, pinecone scales and more.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • This windmill and shop which was part of the North Pole Village display located in the Arctic Circle, was probably my favorite because the windmill sails made of folded sycamore leaves actually went around. Most of the village structures were constructed from gourds and shelf fungus decorated with acorns, anise fruit and pine cone scales.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Intricate and minute detail of the clock on the Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot created from driiftwood, cinnamon, acorn cap and anise fruits. .
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Traveling companion, Pat Kenny, using the visitors guide to find out details about construction materials used in the model of the Viaduct Hotel in Relay, Maryland (a stopping place for weary train travelers). See this guide online at
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • There were awesome miniature dioramas--truly intricate fine art--this one is of the interior of Pennsylvania Station.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Another diorama representing some of the crops grown along the railroad tracks for easy transport. It was hard to choose which to post--these are Grain Fields of Kansas--I especially loved the background which was blue sky and clouds painted on birch bark. The Citrus Groves of Florida and Peanut Farms of Alabama were equally intricate in detail.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Kids really hung out at the water feature--here is the Vicksburg Railroad Barge from Vicksburg Mississippi. The barge was constructed from reeds, bamboo, birch bark, cedar, saltcedar, willow, cinnamon curls and the roping was made from seagrass.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Friend Laura Anthony, who has the fun job of Public Programs at USBG, sniffing one of the fragrance canisters for the "Plant Hunt"--sort of a treasure hunt to find certain plants throughout the USBG--this was a good aroma--you can tell by the leaves behind her that this was a cacao tree!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Plant Hunt card--I found each plant--and stamped my card with the stamp provided at each station after sniffing the canisters relating to that plant. Even big kids can play... I got to stamp a star on mine at the front desk for completing my plant hunt!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Yesterday, I went for my annual trek to see the holiday exhibit at the USBG. Fortunately for me and the many other visitors, the Botanic Garden has not been shut down due to government closures. Every time I go to the USBG, I am so glad that I went and am thankful that we have such a marvelous collection of botanical specimens right here in Washington, D.C. Visitors from around the world marveled right along with me at the variety of plants and the seasonal train exhibit All Aboard!

Upon entering the conservatory, one is dazzled by the holiday display of pointsettias in every color (lime green with red was brilliant this year!), large evergreens adorned with ornaments and the fantastic collection of architectural models of landmarks from all around Washington, D.C. constructed from plant materials. If that isn’t enough sensory stimulation, there are the usual botanical specimens–large trees of allspice, cacao, coffee and citrus–and blooming tropicals which are permanantly located in the Garden Court. Coming in from the cold, the steamy glass house envelops visitors in warmth and fragrance accompanied by the sounds of fountains and bird sounds from above. It is a delightful bombardment of the senses.

It is a lot to take in. Fortunately, I have a dear friend who works at the USBG, who recommends that we come to visit on weekdays before and after Christmas and New Years because there are often lines to get into the train display. And no wonder… this year’s “All Aboard!”-themed show was train stations across America. There were over 30 railroad stations on display–constructed from over 70 different plant materials. They are truly amazing works of art and there are trains running through and around them and overhead. The stations were situated along train tracks, built into landscapes with water features and plants of all varieties along with colorful lighting.

We were lucky to not have big crowds so it was easy to get around and view everything. As I watched the visitors (speaking in many languages) I saw looks of astonishment and joy on their faces. Little kids were wide-eyed with excitement. In fact, pretty much everyone who entered the room, had expressions of childlike delight–I know I did. I saw grown men standing there in awe studying the models. We spent quite a long time looking at the details on all of the buildings–with the Visitors Guide, which showed photos of what the real stations looked like and the models in comparison–and what plant materials were used in the construction of each structure. See the informative visitor’s guide for All Aboard! at

From there, we moved on with our “Plant Hunt” card listing plants to find and their location. At each location there was a stamp to stamp on one’s plant hunt card and there was a shaker, which contained the aroma of said plant (ie: cinnamon, cocoa, pine, fir, pointsettia). The USBG usually has this sort of fun printed material/treasure hunt for kids and visitors–and I might add that I always admire the fine-quality artwork.

Whether you live in the area or are traveling to D.C. put this on your future to-see list (holiday show runs from Thanksgiving through New Years). Although this show will be changing and a new spring theme will take its place, don’t miss a chance to visit the USBG. In warm weather the Terrace Gardens are always full of incredible displays with plants from around the world; I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!


View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest


View All