Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
I've been making an effort to get out and visit more gardens this year, so when Washington Gardener Magazine and DC Gardens announced they were having a "tweet-up" at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC last weekend, I decided it was about time I re-visited a garden that's practically in my own backyard. I'll keep my comments brief because my friend and fellow garden blogger Teresa Speight has already written a great blog post about the garden and the event: A Gem in the City – Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
Acres and acres of lotus
Administered by the National Park Service, this seems to be one of our city's forgotten gems, one that I had last visited over 20 years ago and kept forgetting to go back to. You'll find acres and acres of lotus at this little-known national park on the Anacostia River in southeast DC, but the lotus ponds are a small part of it. The total area of the park is about 700 acres, far larger than the better-known United States National Arboretum just across the river. Only a fraction of the park is accessible by foot as it includes vast expanses of tidal marsh along the river.
Tidal marsh; plants are submerged at high tide
One day out of the year, the Lotus and Water Lily Festival reminds us of the park's existence and draws hundreds of visitors. I was surprised at the sheer number of people who were visiting. It certainly helped that it was a beautiful day, one of our few days without rain in the last month, sun peeking out between puffy clouds and not too hot and not too humid. There were so many people that the parking lots were already full and I ended up parking about a half mile from the entrance. Unlike many neighborhood or cultural festivals I've attended in this city, the diversity of the DC metropolitan area was well-represented.
Visitors admiring the lotus
One of many hundreds of photographers
I doubt anybody came away disappointed as the lotus were in full bloom, and photographers were out in full force. Flowers that were blooming near the water's edge got a lot of attention, and I've already seen several photos on Twitter and Flickr of the exact same flowers I photographed myself!
Did I mention the acres and acres of lotus?
There was food and live music, as well as several educational exhibits and organizations. A park ranger showed off live animals like snapping turtles and snakes to a large crowd of fascinated children. I chatted with a couple of very nice young ladies who were volunteering at the Patuxent Research Refuge table, showing off pelts of several animals native to the refuge (that they assured me had died of natural causes!).
Snapping turtles require careful handling
Volunteers for Patuxent Research Reserve
For the "tweet-up", Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener Magazine and Susan Harris of DC Gardens were promoting the use of the hashtag NPSLILYFEST and judging from the comments and photos posted on Twitter, it was a great success. (Did you know you can use hashtags on Facebook as well? Give it a try: #NPSLILYFEST) It's always nice to bump into friends (and fellow gardeners) at local events like this.
DC Gardens and Washington Gardener Magazine
Garden writers (photo courtesy of Kathy Jentz via Flickr)
In addition to the pools of lotus, there are numerous other aquatic plants, both native and exotic. A notable addition since my last visit, 20 years ago, is a system of boardwalks that allow a better view of the tidal marshes, even for people with strollers or wheelchairs. Signs at several points educate visitors about the park and the surrounding marshland. There was plenty else to see, but sometimes you had to look carefully to find it!
Tropical water lily
Boardwalks allow easy access
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and praying mantis
Amazonian water lily (Victoria amazonica) with frog
Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivar)
Rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), a native hibiscus
Bald cypress knees (Taxodium distichum)
Bald cypress cones
This is Washington, DC???
More photos of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (DC Tropics on Flickr)
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens website
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on Facebook
Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on Facebook
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens on Wikipedia