The United States Botanic Garden is located across from Capitol Hill on the National Mall in downtown Washington D.C. It is bordered by First Street and Third Streets, S.W., and runs up Independence Avenue on both the northern and southern sides of the street. The Garden is composed of 3 adjoining sites which are the Conservatory, the National Garden and Bartholdi Park. All areas are free of admission and are open from 10 AM to 5 PM except Bartholdi Park which is open from dawn to dusk.
Some parking meters are available nearby but the easiest way to travel to the Botanical Garden is by the D.C. Metro public transit system. The nearest Metro stations are found at Federal Center SW and Capitol South Stations; the Blue and Orange lines stop there. Numerous buses stop nearby as well.
The proposal for the establishment of the United States Botanic Garden dates back to 1816. From 1820 to 1837 it functioned to the west of the Capitol. In 1850 it reinitiated at that site after a number of plants were brought back from a South Seas expedition. In 1933 the current site became the home of the Garden. Since 1934 the Architect of the Capitol is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Garden and is directly accountable to the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library.
The Bartholdi Park is named for the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty. His 30 foot high fountain is at the center of the park, apparently held up on the outstretched arms of 11 foot tall nymphs. It is a cast iron construction. A series of lamps surround the bowl of the fountain and above the bowl are images of fish, turtles and triton, the son of Poseidon.
The Administration Building of the United States Botanic Garden is in this park as well as displays of landscape gardening.
The National Garden area was only built as of 2001 and opened to the public in the year 2006. The largest features are the Butterfly Garden, the Lawn Terrace, the Rose Garden, the Regional Garden and the First Ladies' Water Garden.
The Conservatory, for its part, is a living plant museum, encased in a limestone building with classic greenhouse style glass ceilings and turrets topping the structure. In this building one can wander through the desert and moments later a jungle environment. An orchid garden and a medicinal plant section are also found here among other living exhibits.
Some 26,000 plants in all make up the living collection of the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Among its educational components the Garden promotes Conservation and sustainability in landscaping. It also participates in efforts to conserve endangered species of plant life through cultivation and education. School field trips are attended to by the Garden and educational materials for classroom learning have been developed here. Educational lectures and workshops are also regularly held by the Garden, targeting varied age groups.