Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Visit to the National Arboretum

I was inspired to make a return visit to the National Arboretum earlier this week to see the National Herb Garden. It is a remarkable collection of herbs clustered in plantings by theme. There is a medicinal section, a dyeing section, a Native American section, a culinary section and so on. As you might imagine there is overlap, but it is VERY informative. There were more varieties of rosemary than I had ever seen. I only wish blogs had a scratch and sniff function so that all the different fragrances of rosemary could be immediately available here. I felt a little like I do at the perfume counter as I run out of portions of my wrist and arm to adorn with a new fragrance. Normally I will run my whole hand through a rosemary plant to catch its fragrance, but with so many to test I was sliding the plant between individual fingers.

A vegetable that has been a mystery plant for me is the cardoon. I ran across it in a recipe for bagna cauda, a garlic and oil recipe, into which you dip cardoons. Well the cardoons in this garden were well on their way to summer fullness. I can only hope to grow cardoons of this size.

As I say I was inspired to go to see the Herb Garden, but I ended up being enchanted by a visit to the bonsai garden and the azaleas. There was one bonsai tree that captured my heart it was a Trident Maple tree that was donated to the arboretum by Prince Takamatsu of Japan 高松宮宣仁親王. It had been in training since 1895 and the shape was so pleasingly perfect and the leaves like a baby’s hand. It was heartbreakingly beautiful.

Moreover, the wisteria were in bloom and they adorned the Japanese architectural elements exquisitely.

Next it was off to the azaleas. I was pleased to see that there was a whole section there of Polly Hill’s North Tisbury azaleas. Polly’s work is well known in Massachusetts. She began her arboretum at age 50 and has built it into a special treasure for those of us lucky enough to live nearby. I have always taken her as an inspiration of what a woman can accomplish in life after 50. I was also pleased that so many of the tangerine colored azaleas were in bloom. They are my favorite, though I’ve never had luck growing them.

After having just sent so much of my money on April 15 to a government whose decisions I don't always agree with, it was nice to be surrounded by such beauty created by my tax dollars.


Judith said...

So many gardens to visit, "so little time"--you have added another to the list. Great tour you have given us. I like your scratch & sniff idea for blogs--wouldn't that be something! All that rosemary boggles the nose. Herbs are sensational. Interesting about cardoon--I have never tasted it. The tangerine colored azaleas are fabulous!

Leslie said...

Judith, Your blog has left me with many good ideas for garden visits ... you're right "so little time."

Thomas Allen said...

Cardoons are actually pretty easy to grow. Overwinering them here in Zone 6 can be a problem, but with a lot of leaf mulch under burlap bags, they made it through the winter okay. They are QUITE BEAUTIFUL, and sizable, in the veg garden, so you really should investigate them. (And yes, they are good to eat, too.) I started them from seed indoors about the same time as the tomatoes, and planted them out at the same time, too. But now they are the fullest thing out there...and the tomato seedlings still have a week indoors yet!

good luck. I am glad I stumbled on your blog.

El in SW Michigan

Leslie said...

Tom, thanks for the encouragement! I've had a devil of a time with artichokes and I feared that cardoons would bring the same heartache.