US National Arboretum


A Moat Where Lilies Float

picture of aquatic gardens
The element of water adds the essence of nature and a soothing dimension to any garden. The diversity of water plants is astounding from the huge floating pads of the Victoria hybrid water lilies to the narrow, grasslike leaves of dwarf cattails.  The aquatic garden is also a garden of sound, where the play of droplets from fountains or waterfalls reminds us of the timelessness and sanctity of water. It is a habitat, too, for fish, frogs, and insects.

Water plants often hold religious significance. Buddha was born from the heart of a sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera. Water lilies are botanical wonders; plant taxonomists believe they represent an early side branch on the evolutionary chain leading to most other flowering plants.

The U.S. National Arboretum Aquatic Garden is a stunning jewel that surrounds the Administration Building and Visitor Center. The sound of water calms your nerves and sets the stage for your visit. The forms, textures, and colors of the plants invite you to think about the nearly limitless variety of the plant kingdom. And the brightly colored Japanese koi appeal to everyone, especially children.

The Administration Building and the gardens around it are notable features also.  The building was designed in the early 1960s by Albert G. Mumma Jr. of the architecture firm Deigert & Yerkes and combines modernistic elements from the time period with oriental form.  The parking area just inside the R Street Gate is the starting point for most visitors.  From it, you can easily reach the Arbor House Gift Shop and, when available, the Arbor Cafe.  Inside the Arbor Gift Shop you can pick up an Arboretum Visitor Guide and a wealth of other information.

The gardens around the Administration Building showcase some of the best plant introductions developed in the decades of plant breeding and research accomplished by Arboretum scientists.  In these gardens, you can see everything from ground hugging  'Nikko' deutzia to tall 'Prospector' elms.  You can find more information about these wonderful plants on the Plant Introductions Page.  One of the most recent additions to the gardens near the Administration Building is the planting in the traffic circle just outside the building.  Designed by Meriwether Rumrill, the area is densely planted for autumn and winter interest.  'Morning Light' Japanese silver grass and the deciduous 'Sparkleberry' holly bring light and warmth to the dreary days of winter, and daffodils and an assortment of perennials bring texture and bold color to the growing season.

The terraces that surround the Administration Building are also a great place to get ideas for container gardening.  An assortment of plants in large containers highlights exciting combinations of foliage and flowers that is sure to inspire you to create your own potted paradise on your deck, balcony, or patio.

The Administration Building is also the hub of some of the Arboretum's most notable collections the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, the National Herb Garden, and the Friendship Garden.  All of these areas are handicapped accessible, and most of our visitors spend more than an hour exploring them.  Be sure to bring some quarters so you can buy some food for the koi before driving to another collection on the grounds or going home.

 Back to the Arboretum Home Page
Arboretum Information || Events & Education || Gardens & Horticulture || Research Activities
Support the Arboretum || New Plant Introductions || USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map || Comments
Search Our Site

Last Updated   March 19, 2012 11:43 AM
URL = ../../gardens/collections/admin.html