Everyone loves the Smithsonian museums on D.C.’s National Mall, but gardener-tourists also love their gardens.  Here’s a sampling from mid-October, when I particularly admired (and will copy!) their use of annuals.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Along Constitution Avenue, in front of the Museum of Natural History.

By email, the Smithsonian’s supervisory horticulturist Jonathan Kavelier told me that “These plantings also include Amaranthus and Cuphea, as well as many other annuals and tropicals. The cycad is Zamia furfuraceae.”

And here’s a close-up of the cynad seen upper right in that first photo.  Very bizarre tropical plant, the eating of which has been shown to cause something like ALS – in both humans and cattle.


Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Museum of Natural History.

Next, the Butterfly Habitat Garden, which has evolved since its creation in 1995 into a spectacular spot in a uniquely unpromising site – along a freeway underpass.  I remember during my first tour of the garden hearing the gardener lament that butterflies may never actually land here – a result that fortunately didn’t come to pass.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Lantana mixes well with perennials in the Butterfly Garden.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

A longer view of the Butterfly Garden, with Canna.


James Gagliardi with annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

James Gagliardi with the Harry Balls plant.

James Gagliardi is the horticulturist in charge of this garden, and here he shows off a plant he gets asked about routinely by passing tourists and government workers walking through this high-traffic spot.  He uses the more family-friendly name Milkweed Balloon Plant, or Gomphocarpus physocarpus.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

In the Ripley Garden.

In the Ripley Garden, Pentas, Calibrachoasls and Canna mix with perennials.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Above, more Pentas and high-drama elephant ears.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Above, a variegated Tapioca Plant on the left, and the even taller red plant is an annual hibiscus.

Find out more about the Ripley Garden here,  including horticulturist Janet Draper’s favorite plants.

Annuals in Smithsonian Gardens

Mandeville vines adorn the facade of the Sculpture Garden cafe.

Lastly, I stopped at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden Cafe for lunch.

 Grounded Designer Loves Annuals, Too

Thomas Rainer, everyone’s favorite blogging landscape architect, recently confessed his love for annuals, calling it his Turn to the Darker Side.   I’ll be following through on his suggestions for my new own garden (new gardens especially need help from annuals), buying lots of salvias, coleus, sweet potato vine,  and maybe a hardy hibiscus like the 6-foot one above.  I already have a hardy banana (Musa basjoo), that a friend gave me that’s now ready for winter under a mound of mulch.

Your Favorite Annuals, Please?

I seriously want to know.