Ten thousand mature Azaleas and hundreds of Boxwoods at the U.S. National Arboretum are scheduled for destruction this year, following the loss of two sources for private funding. They plan to turn those areas into easy-care grassy meadows.
If you've ever visited the U.S. National Arboretum during a visit to Washington D.C., you must have been blown away by the beauty of their 10,000 azaleas on Glenn Dale Hillside. For those of you who may not be familiar with this facility, here's a little history:
The 446-acre National Arboretum was established by Congress in 1927 to be a living museum and research center administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission:
- To serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment...
- To serve the public and improve our environment by developing and promoting improved landscaping plants and new technologies...
The Arboretum's boxwood, azalea and perennial collections - planted and nurtured over decades, including new varieties first developed at this facility - may not be the last to be bulldozed and turned into grassy meadows. Could the collections of peonies, dogwoods, day-lilies, magnolias and other plants be next?
The Glenn Dale Azalea species was actually developed at the National Arboretum, providing us with larger flowers and strength to survive our Middle Atlantic winters. Glenn Dale Hillside, with its thousands of azaleas, including over 400 cultivars, is the stunning display that attracts visitors each year between April and June.
The National Boxwood Collection of 600+ plants with more than 150 species and cultivars is also scheduled for destruction, and the Boxwood curator, the international registrar for the genus, will lose her job.
What can you do?
Well, I'm not suggesting we increase the national debt to fund the U.S. National Arboretum, but maybe some funds could be salvaged from wasted funds within the Agriculture Department... or maybe officials could reach out to businesses or private organizations, like the National Garden Club, for assistance in funding.
I know you don't have time to write and mail letters, so let me give you the email addresses of a few folks you could contact to help save the azaleas and boxwoods at National Arboretum:
- The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Dr. Catherine Woteki, Under-Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, US Dept. of Agriculture (email@example.com)
- The Honorable Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (firstname.lastname@example.org)