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Commentary By Jeanne Connelly: Don't Put Off A Visit To The Arboretum

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The National Arboretum's azalea collections may not survive after the recent loss of a private grant that paid for arboretum gardeners.
U.S. National Arboretum
The National Arboretum's azalea collections may not survive after the recent loss of a private grant that paid for arboretum gardeners.

The cherry blossoms have come and gone, and our April showers are giving way to May flowers, which means only one thing: the annual display of azaleas at the National Arboretum. Each spring, thousands of azaleas cover a 37-acre hillside in a blaze of color, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the arboretum, located only a few minutes from downtown Washington.

Now is the peak blooming season, and the best time to avoid crowds is to visit on a week day. But, whatever you do, don't put off a visit to the arboretum because the future of these spectacular azalea gardens, as well as the enchanting evergreen Boxwood Collection and the Perennials Collection is in jeopardy.

The recent loss of a private grant that paid for arboretum gardeners means that these collections may not survive. The National Arboretum originally responded to the funding loss by deciding to eliminate these collections, but have since agreed to temporarily halt this decision while they explore other options.

In the short term, Friends of the National Arboretum has launched an effort to save the azaleas and boxwood. Over time, our broader goal is to assure that all of the arboretum's priceless gardens and collections continue to be an integral part of the Washington experience for many years to come.

The arboretum means different things to all of us. For some, it is the tranquility of 446 acres of green space in the midst of the city. For others, it is the perfect place for a family outing. For gardeners, it is the hundreds of new plants that were developed by arboretum researchers and that now grace homes and gardens across the country.

But as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton recently said, "The Arboretum without the azaleas and boxwood is like the Tidal Basin without the cherry trees."

Here's a chance for those of us who have enjoyed one of Washington's premier spring attractions year after year to make sure these beloved collections are still around 100 years from now, or even next spring.

So Friends of the National Arboretum invites you to visit the arboretum this spring, to take in the azaleas and enjoy the Boxwood Collection -- before it's too late.

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