LAST WEEKEND was the start of the Water Lily and Lotus Festival at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. in Washington DC.
I did not go.
The kickoff included, they say, food trucks, live entertainment, tours, lectures and the starring attractions, the sublimely colored water lilies and three-foot-tall lotuses that fill ponds and water gardens splashed across the 30-acre park.
It was raining last weekend, and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and probably today.
I completely intended to go to the festival—even though I am averse to crowds and noise. In fact, I am nearly agoraphobic, except for food forays and occasional jaunts to the Italian market, where I can drink coffee and read. Life is available on Amazon.
It’s as if I have a mental eruv, one of those Orthodox Jewish boundary strings, surrounding the part of Capitol Hill that I consider safely within my house. There’s only so far one can go with isolationism. Isn’t there? Maybe I’m not sure anymore—I take a virtual trip outside during the nightly news, and end up thinking it a better thought to stay put. This is all neither here nor there and somewhat exaggerated for dramatic purposes.
To head back in the direction of the subject at hand, while I could have extended my string a couple of miles down the road, I didn’t go to the festival last weekend because the weather was too bloody miserable.
Not that I don’t greatly admire water lilies. In fact, we bought one a few weeks back. I would have included a photo but, alas, it’s gone.
I can’t tell you the variety of lily, as we’ve lost the tag, but it was bought healthy and leafy and had extra strands of some other pond plant clinging to it, fast-regenerating greenery that I recognized as something the fish like to eat—such a bargain. The label showed a fat and enchantingly flashy pink flower perking up from the water, which would have looked lovely.
Which is what I said to My Prince, “Wouldn’t that look lovely?”
We were assured by the plant man at the boutique plant store that I’ve mentioned too many times that it will do fine in the miserable trickle of sun we get each day. No fuss, either: He had a corm or bulb or whatnot from last summer that he tossed into his own shady pond this spring—no pot or dirt involved—and it quickly sprouted and now covers the water’s surface.
It was on sale, too. Only $25—but what price beauty?
He also mentioned specialized fertilizer, which I’m glad we passed up, since he’d said nothing about raccoons, which immediately savaged the plant in the middle of the night, leaving nothing but shreds and the hard little corm or bulb or whatnot.
The Prince, who hates dead things, yanked the once-robust strands from the water and dumped them into a tragically small pot on the pond’s edge. Why he didn’t transfer them to his stinky fertilizer bucket (he’s still going with that) I don’t know. But I rescued the—let’s just call it a corm—and stuck it firmly into the grid of the green plastic milk crate that rests on the pond floor, hoping the lily will grow again.
That milk crate, by the way, is The Prince’s particularly unattractive way of protecting his 12 goldfish from the raccoon. The fish have learned to slither inside the crate when night brings marauders. I imagine them laughing at Rocky as he flails and snorts.
And then tears up the water plants.
Raccoons are omnivorous, equally happy to munch on fish or fauna. They also like their comforts, as we’ve found occasional evidence of little clawed wet feet and damp, dirty body marks on the white porch sofa. We were also once gifted with a gutted bull frog on said couch, gory parts spread in a nearly unrecognizable muck on the cushions. We no longer buy frogs, which is sad. Croak.
The Kenilworth Aquatic Garden, which is where we started off as you may recall, is a shock to the system off that seedy speedway, Kenilworth Avenue, in Northeast DC, a route one normally takes only to get elsewhere: Baltimore, Annapolis, Rehoboth, New York. Or Key West if you’re heading in the other direction.
A swift turn or two off the roadway is this extraordinary alternative universe, the last tidal marsh in Washington DC, and the only national park dedicated to growing aquatic plants, though it also features abundant butterflies, birds and the occasional fox and mink.
Admission is free, and the garden is open all year from 9am to 5pm daily. There’s the whole gloriously weepy wabi-sabi decay thing going on fall through winter and then the return of spring and so forth, but right now the flowers are at their peak in the century-old park.
This year’s festival runs through Sunday, July 22, 2018, from 10am to 5pm. Go early to catch the last gasps of the night bloomers: In general the flowers are open and at their best before the heat of midday.
Once the festival has ended, the flowers will remain fabulous through the summer: exotic, near supernatural in shape, size and color. It will also be quieter, if that matters to you. As soon as the rain stops, I’ll douse myself with bug spray, leash up granddog Lula (the park is dog-friendly, if your dog is friendly, they say) and join you.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” writes about gardens, watery or not, her own or those of others, every Thursday.