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New Stickhouse joins Holiday Trains etc at US Botanic Garden

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U S Botanic Garden holiday show 2018

Just about this time last year I wrote about the one-of-a-kind plant-based decorations at the U.S. Botanic Gardens that start on Thanksgiving Day. While the train room featured plant-based train stations that year, this time its structures depict botanic gardens “from Hawaii to Maine.”


I asked a knowledgeable staffer at the garden for his advice for visitors who’d rather avoid long lines to see the trains. He wrote

From Thanksgiving onward, my tip for locals is to come during our Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when we stay open until 8:00 p.m. with live music. There’s no wait for the train show and the garden looks beautiful at night. Also, the first two weeks and weekends in December are usually quite calm, too.

It’s open every day from 10 to 5, FREE of charge. It ends January 5, but go soon and you won’t regret it. Click for the schedule of evening concerts.  There’s complete visitor info here. 


Patrick Dougherty's stickhouse at US Botanic GardenThis amazing new stickwork by the justly famous Patrick Dougherty recently opened at the U.S. Botanic Garden. It’s called “Oh Say Can you See” and on the USBG website it’s described as 40 ft X 25 ft and 14 ft high, made of “locally harvested Norway maple, cherry, and elm, plus purchased willow from Fredonia, NY.”

Then on this page we learn that the “locally harvested” plants are “saplings of invasive plants from area locations – Norway maple from the American Patrick Dougherty working on stickhouseHorticultural Society’s River Farm and Siberian elm and hybrids of non-native cherry from the U.S. National Arboretum.”

Dougherty commented that:

Trying to imagine a work for the city congestion of Washington DC, I produced a wild scribble and characterized it as “urban scrawl.”  I transferred this “chicken scratch” drawing to graph paper and plotted the sketch in the grassy lawn on the right side of the Garden’s glass conservatory.   From this footprint, I hoped to conjure a zany three-dimensional object that viewers could explore.

The Garden boasts more than a million visitors a year, and this sculpture sits in the middle of the hubbub as visitors stream from one national attraction to another.


Oh, it’s a “zany three-dimensional object that viewers could explore” all right, something I hope the short video above conveys.

And there’s a cool video of kids running in and out of the piece, here on the USBG’s Facebook page.


Above, a time-lapse showing how the stick house was built.

Detail of "O Say Can You See" stickhouse by Patrick Dougherty at US Botanic GardenI love it up-close.

This piece by Dougherty is utterly cool and fun for literally everyone, I imagine. It will be on display outside the USBG conservatory at least through the end of 2020.

Gardens are Inclusive

For most public gardens (perhaps all of them), holiday displays are meant for everyone, not just Christians.The staff told me the USBG is super-popular at the holidays but especially on Christmas Day, with the many Muslims, Hindus and Jews who live in our area. Not to mention the untold “nones” who don’t practice any religion at all, but still love the “holidays”.

The Brookside Gardens’ Garden of Lights is also fabulous,

So I’m always grateful to public gardens for giving people who don’t celebrate Christmas something awesome to do that day, besides going to the movies.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog weekly at GardenRant.com.

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