The DC metro is a fabulous thing. It whisks you from spot to spot until you pop up from the tunnel like a prairie dog and is usually safer than driving on an eight lane highway at rush hour with thousands of sleep deprived, stressed out individuals who feel that speed limits and traffic rules are like socks, optional but not mandatory. This week was my DC week. My daughter was working as a teen volunteer and instead of driving her in and out of the city each day, I decided to metro in each morning and head to my favorite places. I knew where each metro line would take me and thought about how easy it would be to slip down to an air conditioned platform, park my butt on the train, and speed away to my destination. Yet despite my love of the metro, my need for constant motion won so I walked. It was 95 degrees.
By the time I arrived at the US Botanic Gardens, five miles from my starting point, I was sweaty, gross, and scaring small children, but I didn't care. I had questions and they had horticulturalists, water fountains, bathrooms, and air conditioning. What was sucking the life out of my verbena leaves? Spider mites or thrips. Why did my gaillardia have a hole in its stem? Poor drainage, probably. The horticulturalist I spoke to was helpful, friendly, and actually excited to see the verbena leaves I had wrapped in wet tissue. Plus she smelled a lot better then I did. I didn't want to leave. My daughter could metro home alone. I was going to spend the rest of my life as a professional gardener.
The zinnias at the gardens were phenomenal. Their stems were so thick they reminded me of big tomato plants, and unlike my zinnias, they were sturdy with gorgeous bicolored orange and red flowers. My zinnias are divas with a long list of demands. They prefer constant moisture and no storms, please. While beautiful, they are demanding and I'm on the hunt for stronger, more drought resistant varieties. The plants at the gardens are watered constantly with copious amounts of water soluable organic fertilizer, such as compost tea and it shows. Come September, when I have 180+ science students to teach, the gardens will still be amazing and there will still be a crew buzzing around to cater to the plants every need. I take out my notepad and begin scribbling plant names and observations. A little knowledge can go a long way and I'm already making plans for all the rearranging I need to do this fall. I felt sweaty, but inspired. I headed for the nearest metro stop, parked my butt on the train, and rode away.