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Thursday, February 4, 2010

National Arboretum: National Bonsai and Penjing Museum

Washington's best-kept secret has been outed in today's Post. Adrian Higgins writes about the National Arboretum, specifically the arboretum's National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. I spent an amazingly tranquil October afternoon at the arboretum last year. It's remarkable to find a place so secluded and serene within the district's boundaries. Fantastic spot for a picnic. Far off the tourist-beaten path of monuments and public spaces downtown.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is certainly one of the highlights, and Higgins gives a great profile of the collection's crown jewel: a 1625 white pine bonsai. Higgins aptly dubs the tree a "survivor." The 385-year-old tree, which hails from Hiroshima, lived through the atomic bomb that detonated mere miles away.

Also at the National Arboretum is a collection of columns from the eastern portico of the U.S. Capitol. On the top of a hill, amid a meadow central to the arboretum, the columns stand strikingly against the open sky. In print, the whole concept seems a bit contrived. But in person, the columns' effect is quite captivating. As you approach them, it feels as if you've stumbled upon the hidden ancient remains of a lost civilization. Like Machu Picchu or Mesa Verde. Or maybe Lothlórien. Only these remains aren't quite so ancient. And the (lost) civilization is our own.

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