WASHINGTON, D.C. — Visiting the National Arboretum during azaleas season is one of my rites of spring. Good news! They are peaking now.
The people’s azaleas
Every April certain commentators go on and on about the azaleas at the Masters. Don’t settle for TV — head over to Northeast and see what my friend @ouij calls “the people’s azaleas.”
The arboretum’s azaleas reside on Mount Hamilton. That’s the big hill to the northeast of the Capitol. Groves of azaleas line hiking paths from the top to the bottom. Dogwoods, mayflowers and other plants stand out as well. The Morrison Garden is the hub of the collection.
Walking to Mt. Hamilton’s summit doesn’t take long – maybe 20 minutes or less without stopping. If you don’t stop though, you won’t fully appreciate the beautiful bushes and setting. National Mall, Washington Monument, Capitol and RFK Stadium are all in sight. The viewshed could be improved by topping or removing some trees, but that might be at cross-purposes with the arboretum’s mission. The view was better in 2013 when I lasted blogged about it.
Overall, my family of four spent about an hour taking in all the azaleas.
Why so many azaleas
Benjamin Y. Morrison, the arboretum’s first director, was obsessed with azaleas. Between 1940 and 1952, he created 445 or 454 cultivars, depending one which plaque you read. I got curious looked for more about him.
- The Search for the Real Benjamin Yoe Morrison (PDF) – Azalea Society of America
- Appreciating the beauty of azaleas at the National Arboretum – The Post
Visiting the National Arboretum
This spring, the Arboretum has restrictions on the number of visitors, cars and travel within. Typical COVID-19 precautions including facial masks and social distancing are in place.
More details adapted from the official web site:
- All vehicular traffic is required to enter via the New York Avenue gate. Cars may exit via both the New York Avenue and R Street gates.
- Entrance via the R Street gate are restricted to foot and cyclist traffic only.
- On the grounds, vehicles are limited to a one-way loop.
- Gates are staffed to monitor entry numbers and may close intermittently if the grounds reach capacity.
My family and I arrived around 10 a.m. on a Saturday without issues in getting around or finding a spot to park.
The Duke and Louis
Native Washingtonian Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong recorded “Azalea” on The Great Summit album.