In Our Backyard
The Asian Collections at the National Arboretum
By Carmine Carosella, Fairfax Master Gardener
Did you know that Washington, DC has one of the premier shade gardens in the United States? The Asian Collections include thirteen beautiful acres on a southeast-facing hill, overlooking the Anacostia River in northeast Washington, DC. They are far from the main entrance of the Arboretum and do not get the number of visitors they deserve. These spectacular gardens began in the 1940s when National Arboretum staff began planting species native to Asia. Years later, the gardens have matured and include plantings from botanical expeditions to China, Korea and Japan.
The Asian Collections today have grown into magnificent shade gardens. The elevation change of the hillside gives breathtaking views of mature cryptomerias, Japanese maples and other trees, including an especially beautiful, mature weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). There’s also a near-continuous display of flowering trees, shrubs, interspersed with unusual ground covers. Pathways wind down to the Anacostia River where there is a gate and dock welcoming boaters. Future plans include a bridge across the Anacostia, which will connect the Arboretum to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.The specimens in the Asian Collections are nearly all labeled, allowing visitors to study and learn what to plant and how to integrate these plants into an overall landscape design. If you want to improve your own shade garden, then come here and take notes. The Asian Collections are truly one of Washington DC’s hidden treasures. When you visit the Arboretum, make sure to stop and see them.
National Arboretum – USDA
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