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Winter at the National Arboretum - Explore

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Winter at the National Arboretum

For a sketchbook artist, silhouettes are the subjects of winter. With two months to go before bloom, the curved and twisted branches of this weeping cherry tree make their own pattern against the pale winter sky:


At the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., the winter landscape has a subtle beauty. I found the weeping cherry there yesterday and, with my mittens on, drew three of the U.S. capitol's 20 original columns, perched in the meadow and waiting to surround a new building:


If you go to the arboretum in February, you may see the first two trees of the blooming year: the scented Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) and the witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia).  The cold has kept both of these trees from putting on much of a show yet. Disappointed by this sad fact discovered on my recent visit, I turned to the evergreens in the Gotelli Collection at the arboretum. Most of us have room for only one or two ornamental evergreens, and we often think of them as screens in the residential landscape, arranging them in static rows. A slow-growing green tree without flowers, fruit, or much fragrance, it has an image problem to overcome.

But not at the Gotelli Collection. Here, evergreens have grown into their mature, graceful shapes, surrounded by plenty of open space. These evergreens are the stars of the late-winter arboretum:


-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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