By Stephanie Cavanaugh
ONE GOOD THING, and it may be the only good thing, that came from Covid is that the annual holiday model train display at the US Botanic Garden is outdoors.
Pre-Covid, the trains were confined to one wing of the glass-roofed conservatory at the foot of the US Capitol. Lines to weave through the displays stretched around the main hall, creeping forward at an unacceptable pace for the average 3-year-old.
Now installed in a gated outdoor plaza adjacent to the building, there’s space to jostle about and feast your eyes on the magical display, where G-gauge trains travel in and out and above the miniature towns and forests, and there’s no pressure to move along. That said, the most relaxing time to visit is weekdays—and particularly now, with schools still in session.
Caution, snowflakes! This year the spectacle includes the sex life of plants. Larry Janezich, who brilliantly covers the Washington DC neighborhood at Capitol Hill Corner, and contributed the photos for this piece, was particularly enamored by the Gecko loving up a Trochetia flower and the Honeycreeper having its way with a lobelia.
Among the other racy offerings are an Euglossine orchid bee pollinating a vanilla orchid, a Chocolate midge feeling up a cacao flower, and a Fruit Bat carrying on with a banana—all made from plant parts.
Inside the building, you can opt to stay in the Garden Court, the main hall, with its fabulous trees, hundreds of unusual poinsettias, giant topiaries and more than a dozen amber-hued models of Washington’s iconic buildings and structures, from the Smithsonian Castle to the Jefferson Memorial (with a dome made from a gourd), to the magnificent U.S. Capitol—all also made from plant parts.
Or wander through the tropical forest under the 93-foot dome, drool over hundreds of orchids, and sniff at the citrus and jasmine, all a divine respite from the hurly-burly just up the Hill.
New this year, a gift store run by the Friends of the US Botanic Garden. And local DC small business Rewild will offer a variety of botanically themed gifts for purchase in the Conservatory’s West Gallery, open 10am to 5pm daily.
Season’s Greenings, US Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington DC. Admission to the Botanic Garden and the train exhibit is free. G-gauge model trains circulate from 10am to 5pm daily through January 1, 2024; closed December 25. The train display will run until 8pm on two more Thursdays this year: December 21 and December 28.