It has been cool and damp for four or five days now, but I have found the hottest spot in the garden. I’m in a small planting bed on the east end of NATO bridge, at a very busy crossroads in the garden. If I were a little taller, I could stand here like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz and point people in the right direction. I have the golden straw coloring and the great personality like him. Just like the scarecrow, I would point in all directions and each choice would be a good one.
From here, if you went west over the bridge, you would be heading to the Colonial Garden. It is one of the most picturesque scenes in the garden. Rich green in the background and foreground (made more so by all the rain) with brilliant white dogwoods, gazebo, fencing and oyster shell paths. Pot marigolds and candytuft are blooming in the garden. The only thing lacking are some vibrant dandelions – something those wise colonials cherished. Beyond the Colonial Garden is the Rhododendron Glade which is filled with a dazzling array of blooming azaleas that make the Emerald City look dull. People often wonder when is the “peak” time for azaleas and that’s hard to answer because so many different types bloom at different times. Some are already beginning to finish blooming while buds are just showing on others. All I know is right now lots and lots are in bloom.
Perhaps I’ll point you to the east. You first pass by the Children’s garden (munchkin land?) where bright blooming Carolina jessamine is just about to cover the caterpillar tunnel encircling the entrance plaza. Many other plants are starting to come out to entertain you, but I haven’t seen any ruby slippers sticking out from underneath the yurt that has landed in the garden. Beyond the Children’s garden is the arboretum, filled with cherries, crabapples and redbuds. The variety and colors are amazing. Other flowering trees and shrubs join the fun, including a dogwood, a Washington hawthorn and snowball vinburnums. Truly adventuresome folks might continue to the wildflower meadow to see a beautiful serviceberry and the “good” witch alder. Or they might even discover the daffodil trial beds beyond the greenhouse with its wonderful array of golden charms.
From this little crossroad I might just point you south. NATO tower is just ahead. A few hardy souls have ventured up in the wet weather, but on sunny days it can be filled with the “eagle-razzi” – photographers all vying to get a photo of the bald eagles in their nest across the canal. The photographers’ attention is focused on one side of the hill, so I wonder how many have actually bothered to turn around and look at the beautiful flowering purpleleaf sandcherry that is on the eastern slope of the hill. The rich purple foliage combined with the bright pink flowers is a great combination. As the road wends it way further, you could end up in the rose garden where most roses are waiting for warmer weather but the bright yellow Lady Banks rose is already showing off on the entrance arbor. Just beyond that is the sensory garden filled with a plethora of spring blooming plants.
The final direction to select would be north. Way ahead on Baker Overlook, spring flowering trees beckon, drawing you forward just like Emerald City in the distance. But the real show stopper can be found in the AAS beds just ahead. In the summer they are filled with the All-American Selections plants, but right now they are brimming with over 8,000 tulips. It is part of a trial for Van Bourgendien Bulbs so the over 230 different types have created a rainbow of colors. It is a good way to evaluate the different features of all the bulbs. They include the tall and elegant single late tulips (Menton is my favorite), the graceful lily-flowering tulips (Temple of Beauty is a good one), the joyously full double tulips (Angelique), the colorful triumph tulips (Lucky Strike – politically incorrect but a beauty), even a few species (Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ is a classic) and so many more.
So I will just stay here, in the middle of the crossroads in a bed of lavender and white creeping phlox – it’s more of my size than a field of corn. I’ll pretend to be the scarecrow and sing and dance and point you in the right direction. If I only had some legs.