Sunday, August 17, 2008

USNA Washington Youth Garden...Another great summer place at the Arboretum

The Washington Youth Garden is just across the road from Fern Valley so there's no excuse for my visiting it as infrequently as I do. The garden and the staff are unfailingly cheery and you can grab a cherry tomato or two for refreshment. Funded and staffed by the Friends of the National Arboretum, the Youth Garden is an outreach program, primarily, but not exclusively, aimed at children. They teach fundamentals of gardening, environmental science, nutrition, and healthy living to hundreds, thousands?, of area students. They have a large and diverse food garden, interesting ornamental plantings, and a spectacular butterfly garden. It is another great place to go in the summer at the Arboretum. I have been driving by these sunflowers for weeks; they finally lured me in!

When the boys were young we often grew sunflowers. I guess lots of families do. It's pretty impressive what a tiny handful of seeds, a bit of water (though they aren't too demanding), and a few months can produce! And they're so cheerful! The species has been cultivated for more than 2 millennia making it difficult to establish its point of origin, but it is definitely a North American native, probably from the SW somewhere. There are hundred of cultivars; the plant became almost faddish ten years or so ago and you still often see the more interesting cultivars here and there in public and private gardens.

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