Season’s Greenings: All Aboard the U.S. Botanic Garden Holiday Show

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The 2018 annual U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) holiday exhibit will open on Thanksgiving Day and will run through New Year’s Day, January 1, 2019. Visiting the exhibit has become a Capitol Hill tradition for many families. The Botanic Garden Conservatory is located at 100 Maryland Ave. SW at the bottom of Capitol Hill. The conservatory is full of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and many other things to put you in the holiday spirit.

Once again, the holiday exhibition features those great trains and train tunnels that kids love to see. This year’s Season Greenings showcases historic railroad stations from across the country. The iconic depots are all made from plant-based materials, and this year some of the models actually contain plant parts grown at our own Botanic Garden. The models are developed in collaboration with Applied Imagination, a company based in Kentucky. The holiday train show has won countless awards for its displays throughout the United States.

This year, the train exhibition moves to the west gallery with the layout giving some extra space to move around. Viewing steps for smaller children have also been added and the classic tunnel is a little taller. There are timeless stations like New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Maui’s Lahaina Station, and a few fantasy Dinosaur and North Pole stations. Ellicott City Station, Union Station, and the Viaduct Hotel in Relay, Maryland are also featured. A wonderful guide is available online at the botanic website, www.USBG.gov/SeasonGreenings. It lists each station, with detailed information about the plant material used. A copy can also be obtained at the visitor’s desk.

In the Garden Court, there are the model landmarks from our neighborhood and all are made with plant materials. There are 12 DC landmarks that include the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and, new this year, a botanical version of Union Station. The model of the Smithsonian’s African America museum is also spectacular and shines brightly at night. Each of the buildings has been specially commissioned by USBG and it can take as many as 600 hours to construct each one. More than 70 different plant materials are used in the landmarks. The exhibitions can be enjoyed on natural, historical and cultural levels. So, there truly is something for everyone.

Many know that the Botanic Garden gets very crowded on the weekends and on the day after Christmas. An insider tip shared by Devon Dotson of the USBG staff is to plan on attending one of the special nights the garden stays open during the season. “It is always less crowded those evenings, and you get the added bonus of hearing live music,” Dotson says. The Conservatory is very magical at night. It remains open until 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting December 4 through Thursday, December 27. The music begins at 6:00 p.m. and there will be a range of musical performances including contemporary jazz, Russian folk music, choral groups and Irish folk rock. The schedule can be found on the USGB website.

The US Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanical institutions in North America and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Parking is tight around the Garden, but it is only a three-block walk from Metro’s Federal Center SW station on the Blue Line, and there are a number of Metro buses that drop you right in front of the garden.

The Botanic Garden is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with those additional evening hours in December.

Rindy O’Brien’s out of town family loves to stretch their legs and head down to the garden. Hope to see you there. You can contact Rindy at rindyobrien@gmail.com