In Training for 400 Years

A “must see” when you are in DC is the National Arboretum.  We went there during the annual orchid show and sale, which allowed us to see the permanent displays, plus mix with orchid fanatics showing off their finest plants.

The most unusual feature in the Arboretium is the 20 acres with 22 Corinthian columns that seems totally out of place and time.

But they become fascinating when you realize they are the columns taken from The Capitol when President Lincoln added the current dome on top of the existing dome, which wasn’t grand enough.  The puny columns seemed out of scale relative to the new dome, so new columns were commissioned.  The result being the building you can see in this blog’s masthead.

But the “really must see” in the Arboretum is The National Bonsai Collection with trees of many types and ages.  Leila and I looked for trees in training as long as we have been.

Here’s one that’s been in training one year longer than Leila

And another tree that’s been in training for a year longer than me

It was a great time of year to be there because the leaves of the miniature deciduous trees also turn color and fall off.

There is a bonsai that’s been in training since before Civil War There is a bonsai that’s been in training since shortly after the Revolutionary War But the must see of the must sees is the Japanese White Pine that has been in training for almost 400 years. And how do we know it is 386 years old?  Because it was in the same family in Hiroshima Japan from 1626 until 1976 when the bonsai was included in the donation of 53 bonsai in celebration of the US Bicentennial that started the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the Arboretum.  More amazing is the plant survived being within two miles of “ground zero” when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945.

One reason that people don’t get to the Arboretum is that they consider it too far to go – three miles NE of The Capitol.  I suggest taking a taxi or bus there, but the walk back takes you past one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods in DC – “H” Street from 2nd St NE to the intersection with Florida Ave NE. The walk passes one my favorite restaurants – the Star and Shamrock.

From the Star and Shamrock Web Site

It’s the cross between a Jewish delicatessen and an Irish pub.  Where else could you get a Ruben made with homemade corned beef and a Snakebite – dark Guinness floating on top of light hard cider. I hope your new year is off to a great start and that you enjoy your next year in training.

Future blogs:  Domes of DC and Finding Good Espresso in DC (you knew coffee had to be topic of discussion at some point)

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4 Responses to In Training for 400 Years

  1. Amy says:

    I love how they refer to them as being “in training.” Seems very active. The deciduous ones were spectacular (well, after grandmother).

    • Dennis says:


      It is quite an active process. Even though we were there on a weekend, two bonsaists (if there is such a word) were fussing over one bonsai — clippling leaves and twigs, plus adjusting the wires that control how it grows and the shape it takes.


  2. jenny says:

    i, too, loved the term “in training,” though some, looking at a white pine NOT in training, might well refer to this as “tree torture.” i think of it as orthodontia for botanists….

  3. Ethan says:

    Very cool, Dennis – Thinking about the lengths of time involved here, and the countless hours of human labor that gone into shaping these trees helps provide a sense of scale to the issues and challenges that assault us each day. Thanks for sharing.

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