WASHINGTON — Every spring, millions of tourists and locals alike flock to see D.C.’s cherry blossoms in full bloom.
But there’s another national park tucked away in a corner of D.C. that offers spectacular blossoms over acres of gardens, and that’s the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens — the only national park dedicated to aquatic gardens.
July is when the aquatic gardens shine. And this weekend, the park will kick off the Lotus and Water Lily Festival, a weeklong event featuring hands-on activities for the kids, gardening demonstrations for the grown-ups and natural beauty on display for everyone.
Mark Kallal enjoys showing off the acres of blossoms that float on the surface of the water, or tower over green pads that measure 3 to 5 feet in diameter.
“Hopefully we’ll have a great turnout this weekend. That’s what we’re looking for, a lot of happy people” he said.
Visitors from all over the world come to see the exotic water lilies and lotus plants. Many of the plants are from Asia, India and Africa, but Kallal said there are some native plants as well.
Original greenhouses at the site date from 1913 and Kallal said they’re kept warm to nurture the lilies and the lotus plants, which get their start in large bathtub sized containers. On a summer day, it’s not easy being inside the greenhouses for long; the temperature can hit 125 to 130 degrees on a day when the temperature outdoors climbs into the 90s.
Kallal and gardener Frank Hamilton took reporters out to see how the Victoria lilies are planted. Those are the plants with massive platter-sized pads with rims around the edges.
“That’s the lily that grows up to 10 feet in diameter. Usually in this location, we’ll have 6-foot diameter leaves. So maybe by August or September they’ll be that size.”
For more details on events and what to bring, visit the park service’s website.