Smithsonian Gardens Ideas

Smithsonian 14
Take an online tour of the Smithsonian Gardens and get ideas for your home garden.

Smithsonian Gardens offers exceptional gardens, horticultural exhibits, collections, and learning opportunities. The gardens are designed to complement and enhance museum exhibits on over 30 acres around the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.

For example, the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden is home to antique cast-iron pieces from Smithsonian Gardens' Garden Furnishings Collection. Roses, annuals, perennials, and evergreens can be enjoyed while sitting on one of the Victorian benches in this garden escape.

Get Inspiration from Culture and History

The Moongate Garden uses water and stone, traditional features of Asian gardens, as well as Asian native plants such as weeping cherry. This is one of three garden rooms found in the Enid A. Haupt Garden; each celebrates cultural and historical garden features reflective of the nearby Smithsonian Castle, Freer and Sackler Galleries, and the National Museum of African Art.

See Butterflies in Action

The Butterfly Habitat Garden, next to the National Museum of Natural History, is designed to support the life cycles of butterflies. Four natural habitats -- the Wetland, the Meadow, the Wood’s Edge, and the Urban Garden -- are planted with foliage, water features, and alluring flowers such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) that provides nutrients and shelter to butterflies.

Grow Your Own Food

Discover a piece of history at the Victory Garden, a re-creation of a World War II era garden. Victory gardens provided American citizens with additional food supplies. Here, over fifty varieties of vegetables and flowers are planted throughout the year so there is always something to see.

Rediscover Old Varieties

Most of the vegetables at the Victory Garden are heirloom varieties from (and many predating) the 1940s. A visit might inspire you to try a new old variety!

The Heirloom Garden

The Heirloom Garden is host to an assortment of colorful and fragrant plant varieties grown before 1950. Though these annuals, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, and trees might seem old-fashioned, their beauty still inspires visitors to plant some of these varieties at home.

The Orchid Collection

­­Smithsonian Gardens cultivates an impressive array of orchids from around the world. The collection includes nearly 8,000 specimens representing genera such as Phalaenopsis, Pleurothallis, Paphiopedilum, and Bulbophyllum, as well as a plethora of other species and hybrids. When in bloom, these exotic specimens create a spectacular display of myriad colors, shapes, sizes, and fragrances.

Enjoy the Sound of Water

Fountains, such as this chadar adjacent to the National Museum of African Art in the Enid A. Haupt Garden, create a soulful experience that speaks to more than just our sense of sight. Add a water feature to your garden and excite your senses.

Add Vertical Interest

Adding height to a garden creates a dynamic visual experience. Incorporating grasses and flowers with tall, architectural trees carries the eye throughout the space. The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden creates drama by contrasting vertical plantings with flat stretches of lawn. Add vertical interest to your garden and it will soar to new heights.

Add Containers

Why limit yourself to planting on the ground? Plant in containers to highlight your favorite varieties and enhance the scenery. Decorative containers such as urns, pots, and hanging baskets allow for a range of forms and create artistic touches throughout the space.

Design with Containers

One trick used by the professionals at Smithsonian Gardens is to combine container gardens in groupings. A cluster of three or five is much more dynamic than a single pot -- especially if the containers themselves are different sizes.

Take a Seat

Many gardens are designed to offer a relaxing, tranquil space. Use seating in your favorite spots to relax and enjoy the view. Place benches in the shade to cool down or in the sun to warm you early in the morning. Either way, seating enables you and your friends to enjoy your beautiful creation.

Attract Birds

Gardens are the perfect place to sit back and view the winged visitors. Add a birdhouse, plant flowers that will sustain bees and butterflies with their nectar and pollen, and set up a birdbath or water feature. With a few welcoming touches, you will be able to sit back and enjoy your new companions.

Beauty with Boulders

Flowers aren't the only way to decorate your garden: Rocks and boulders can create a sense of nature while anchoring the space. These substantial beauties look great year-round. Just plant some neighboring grasses, trees, flowers, and shrubs and you have a beautiful natural setting.

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