Are-bore-eat’em. Not sure why this word trips me up. But then again, a lot of words trip me up. If you’re unfamiliar with the meaning of Arboretum, it’s a botanical garden that specializes in trees and shrubs exclusively. In the case of the U.S. National Arboretum, there are plenty of types of trees, like apples, maples, and dogwoods, but, hands down, the highlight is the Azalea Collection.
Bonsai and Penjing
On the grounds of the Arboretum is the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which opened in 1976 after Japan made the United States a gift of 53 bonsai trees to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial. The museum expanded to include North American bonsai and Chinese penjing. One of the most significant trees in the collection is a Japanese white pine dating back to 1625, which survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima from only two miles away.
At the heart of the Arboretum are the National Capitol Columns. These are the O.G.s that were part of the Capitol’s east portico from 1828 to 1958. But, like when your Cuban dad insists on D.I.Y.-ing an addition to your house, there was a slight miscalculation. You see, they installed these columns before the Capitol dome was completed, and there was no way these skinny-minis were going to hold up that monster roof. Twenty-two of these infamous columns now live the easy life as Instagram influencers. Fun fact, there are two broken columns laid down on their sides in the Azalea Collection.
If you go:
By 11 o’clock this morning, the temperature was 95 degrees and climbing. It’s the perils of being in D.C. in August. So, if you’re planning to visit in the summer, the Arboretum could get uncomfortable. But, if you are in the area in the spring or fall, you should add this attraction to your list.
It takes about an hour to walk the entire grounds, but you’ll want to stop and smell the flowers or spot the birds.
The outside grounds are open daily to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum’s tropical conservatory and exhibits gallery are closed until further notice.
Visitors are still required to follow all posted guidelines designed to maximize the safety and health of all visitors and employees.