Sunday, February 16, 2014

A break from all that white stuff (and House of Cards)

I admit it.  I binged on "House of Cards" on Netflix.  It is embarrassing to admit that I finished the entire season in two days.  I'm over it now and I don't need to watch television for a long, long time.  The result was a desperate need to get back to nature.

It's hard being stuck at home on a holiday weekend mid-winter.  Others are either off on skiing vacations where everyone embraces the snow or they have donned flip flops and sunglasses and headed for the tropics where it's warm and colorful.  This time last year I was watching whales and soaking up sun in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

In lieu of beaches, whales, skiing and sunning, Washington, DC offers plenty of free museums and places to go on the weekend.  In the midst of messy piles of greying, melting snow, next to the US Capitol, is an oasis known as the United States Botanic Garden.  Envisioned by George Washington as a place to demonstrate and promote the importance of plants, the museum was established by Congress in 1820.

 On a cold but partly sunny winter's day, it is a place of wonder.

The Orchid Symphony exhibit was the first thing I noticed when I walked into the garden.  Beethoven's Fur Elise (a piece all piano students learned when I was growing up) was playing and instruments made of orchids and other natural materials (like the harp strings made of Spanish moss below) were featured. 

Also very prominent were the fruit trees with oranges, grapefruit, lemons and kumquats.  Some had  blossoms with scents that reminded me of growing up in Central Florida.

Best of all was the color.  Everywhere we turned there were colors from petals and buds, berries and leaves.  It was so nice to see green after the brown, black and white of the city and suburban landscapes of the long winter.

 It is a great place to let your imagination take off.  Envision new Sesame Street puppets based on some of the sassy plants.  

The desert room filled with succulents was pleasantly warm and dry - a great improvement over the weather we have experienced in the past week.  Even in the desert the colors and shapes are so inspiring and great to look at.  

 Here you can find a new color scheme for your home or just enjoy a nice, warm walk.

One of the educational exhibits listed the plant ingredients for different food items - such as Cajun Gumbo pictured below- and offered opportunities to sniff the fragrances as well as see what the spice looked like before it was ground.  This is a great place for students young and old, with hands-on exhibits and plenty of room to roam.  Teachers and parents can find educational materials on the website.
 The orchids have to be my favorite.  They always remind me of ballerinas and other sorts of fairy people and ladies in old fashioned dresses with hoop skirts.

This visit was just what I needed to help face the snowy and cold days still remaining in our winter repertoire.  If you don't live near Washington, DC, but are tired of winter, seek out nature as a cure for the winter blues.

Some of the other Botanical Gardens in the United States include:

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