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Washington after the cherry blossoms fall.


"Without training, that 5-footJapanese bonsai would be an 80-foot forest tree," says the National Arboretum's director, Dr. Henry M. Cathey. "We have the finest collection of Japanese bonsai outside Japan," he continues. "Thirty percent of the arboretum's plants are of Asian origin, particularly from Japan. Japan is our closest gardening friend because their growing climate is similar. The two climates are perfect companions."

The National Arboretum, the Districtof Columbia's largest public green space, ranks among the world's top gardens. Ten miles of gravel walks meander past 80,000 tagged plants and trees from all over the world. This year half a million people will visit its 444 acres in northeast Washington.

One of teh arboretum's most spectacularyear-round attractions is the National Bonsai Collection. Japan, where nurturing the miniature trees is an ancient and revered art, gave the 53 bonsai plants, valued at $4.5 million, as a Bicentennial gift. The plants, housed in a Japanese garden complex adjacent to the Administration Building, range in a ge from 30 to 350 years. The 180-year-old Japanese red pine is from the Imperial household, the first of the Imperial collection ever to leave Japan.

The Oriental theme is continued inthe Arboretum's "Asian Valley," overlooking the Anacostia River. Japanese plants fill one side of Asian Valley; Chinese plants, the other. Its 25 acres have a 1,800-foot vista to the Anacostia River and a 500-foot water course with an echo chamber "that laughs," Cathey says.

Some other highlights of the NationalArboretum:

* The National Herb Garden,which has 7,000 plants, has become one of the world's leading centers for herbal display since it opened in 1980. Its two acres are divided into three sections: the "Knot" garden design, fashionable in 16th century England; the Heritage Rose Garden, a collection of 90 species that bloom in May or June, used for perfume, medicine, food, and pleasure; and ten specialty herb gardens containing 1,000 varieties of herbs used in industry, medicine, and cooking. Midsummer and early fall are the best viewing times.

* The Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-GrowingConifer Collection, 1,500 cone-bearing trees that never reached their normal stature, is the world's largest, occupying a five-acre hillside. The trees' size may be due to such factors as viruses; bud mutations; insect irritation; chance seedlings; or environmental, climatic, or geographic variations.

* The National Country Gardenfeatures many little gardens on three acres. They demonstrate creative ways to grow flowers and edible vegetables and how to enjoy some benefits of coutnry life even in u rban areas. This project shows visitors how to deal with such problems as excessive heat or shade, limited space, and insufficient water.

* Fern Valley is a natural, woodedarea containing ferns, native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Wandering on the path through Fern Valley's four acres, visitors pass through several distinct plant communities characteristic of climates from New England to Florida.

* During late spring, the top of thehill in Cryptomeria Valley is laced with the pink and white blooms of more than 80 kinds of dogwood.

The National Arboretum providesa new show for each season. Summer brings hibiscus, crape myrtle, and lilies. The fall foliage is highligted by the rich yellows of tulips, poplars, and hickoriees and the reds and bronzes of the gums and dogwoods scattered throughout the arboretum. The winter landscape seems less stark here among the pines, witch hazels, viburnum, hawthorns, Pyracantha, and nandins aflame with yellow, orange, and red.

Spring produces a riot of azaleas,forsythia, magnolias, camellias, rhododendron, pears, daffodils, quince, crabapples, dogwoods, tulips, mountain laurel, viburnum, flowering cherries, and peonies. About 70,000 azaleas blaze on the slopes of Mt. Hamilton, at 239 feet the second-highest elevation in Washington. The arboretum's director calls the route to the top of this elevation "Washington's mountain road." Through the trees at the summit you can see the U.S. Capitol.

Until late May the azaleas providea stunning array of pink, rose, red, orange, purple, and white blooms on the 7-acre hillside. The azaleas, also used as accents throughout the other gardens, constitute what is perhaps the nation's largest azalea collection. Most of the azaleas are taller than the people walking among them.

Dumbarton Oaks

On a hot and humid summerday in 1944, cautious diplomats from the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China began weeks of meetings in Dumbarton Oaks' Renaissance-style Music Room. In that chamber they worked on prposals for the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations. The conference became a symbol of hope that peace would come and endure for all peace-loving nations.

The imposing dumbartonOaks estate is today a museum, gardens, libraries, and a research center. Located at the top of a steep slope rising from the Potomac River in Washignton, D.C.'s George-town section, its magnificent terraced ten-acre gardens are perhaps American's last great gardens, a relaxing oasis in the midst of the nation's bustling capital city.

Today twice as many people, about100,000 a year, visit the gardens as see the museum collections. Although located in the center of one of the oldest and bu siest sections of Washington, the gardens express the atmosphere of a coutnry estate. Visitors begin the self-guided tour at the Orangery, a rectangular pavilion built in 1810, a sort of Palladian hothouse with seven tall, arched sash windows. Covering the walls and beams is a fig vine planted during Lincoln's presidency. An orangery is a place to conserve plants. In October after the first frost, gardeners move the terrace's potted plants into it. They remain in the Orangery until the last frost.

The tour continues through descendingterraces to gardens that become less and less formal the farther they are from the house. These gardens were planted with the standard colors of women's dresses in mind so as not to clash with the ladies' clothing. Yet the gardens are colorful, indeed.

Nearly 1,000 rose bushes bloomeach year in the Rose Garden, the grand ballroom of the outdoor enclosures. On a nearby bench is the Biblical epigram the last private owner chose as the Dumbarton Oaks motto: Quod Severis Metes, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Visitors saw this motto earlier in the gilded sheaf atop the wrought-iron gates at the entrances to Dumbarton Oaks.

Dumbarton Oaks' Georgian brickmansion was built in the early 1800s on land Queen Anne granted to Col. Ninian Beall nearly a centu ry earlier. Not long thereafter, the Secretary of War, Vice President, and then Senator from South Carolina John C. Calhoun lived there. Mr. Robert Woods Bliss settled at Dumbarton Oaks with his wife in 1933. In 1940, they donated the house, gardens, and collections to Harvard University.

Mildred Bliss wanted to create gardensthat would incorporate elements of teh traditional French, English, and Italian gardens she admired. She worked for 25 years with the landscape gardener Beatrix Jones Farrand, the only woman among the founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. She and Mrs. Bliss made 1,500 working drawings and clay mock-ups of all the garden sculptures, benches, canopies, heraldic motifs, pools, fountains, gates, and teh miniature Roman-style amphitheater, which can seat 50.

Spurred by the breakup of numerousEuropean libraries after the war, Mrs. Bliss and Farrand began assembling a major library in landscape architecture. Frowning upon art dealers' tearing up rare books to sell the separate prints and engravings at a higher profit, Mrs. Bliss built her Garden Library to house her collection of 15,000 books, manuscripts, drawings, and prints. Exhibited in this library are an Odilon Redon that the novelist Edith Wharton once owned, Seurat's Head of a Girl, and works by Renoir, Degas, Vuillard, and Lorraine.

Dumbarton Oaks' Byzantine art isin the rooms and corridors surroudning the open coutryard with its mosaic pool. This exhibition shows the highest achievements of the minor arts of Byzantium. Highlights include 6th-century implements for the celebration of the Eucharist, such as chalices, patens, spoons, book covers, and a ceremonial fan with a border of peacock feathers imitated in silver. Other outstanding bojects include ivory icons, glazed pottery, silver and metalworks, illuminated manuscripts, gold jewelry, enamels, textiles, and 13,000 lead seals. They display the rich and colorful wealth of an extinct Mediterranean society. The exhibit is predominantly religious, and thus most of the pieces were anonymously done.

Dumbarton Oaks is mroe than acenter for excellence in Byzantine studies. It also houses a major collection of pre-Columbian art, 612 items, many of which were formerly displayed in Washington's National Gallery of Art. It now resides in Dumbarton Oaks' eight elegant circular glass pavilions in a building architect Philip Johnson designed, his only public building in Washington. Its transparent and translucent cases allow the objects from the major cultures of Mexico and Central and South America, from their origins up to the Spanish conquest, to be enveloped in a natural wooded environment. The collection, arranged by cultures in geographical and chronological sequence, took Mr. Bliss more than 50 years to form.

Dumbarton Oaks' beautiful inanimateobjects within are complemented by the growing beauty of the gardens without. Dumbarton Oaks is open year round, ready to delight and inform.
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Title Annotation:Washington, D.C.
Author:Crowley, Carolyn Hughes
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1987
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