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Snowmageddon Hits the United States Botanic Garden

How did the United States Botanic Garden fare in the massive Mid-Atlantic snowstorm of February 2010?

Caption: Images of the United States Botanic Garden just before the snowstorm of February 6, 2010. Courtesy Adam Pyle, USBG Gardener.

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The winter of 2009/2010 has been challenging for gardeners in many areas of the country. In January the South saw record low temperatures that jeopardized commercial citrus and other crops and surely took a toll on home gardens as well. Meanwhile, heavy rain and snow fell in parts of the Southwest.

This past weekend (2/6/10), a massive snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic dominated headlines and newscasts across the nation. When the storm was over, we checked with the United States Botanic Garden to see how it fared. Like many Washington, DC sites, it was closed to the public on Monday, Feb. 8, while cleanup continued.

The Conservatory suffered some glass breakage from falling snow and ice. This building, which was renovated in the late 1990s to match the original 1933 design, houses nearly 4,000 plants arranged in exhibits such as Medicinal Plants, the World Desert, and Rare and Endangered Species.

The Production Facility—an 85,000 square foot glass structure with 34 greenhouse bays and 16 environmental zones—was not damaged by the storm. This is the largest greenhouse complex to support a public garden in the United States.

Outside, the gardeners are working to move the snow. Jim Kaufmann, Head of Horticulture, says, "Our biggest concern is the National Garden and Bartholdi Park plants." The former showcases superior plants for the Mid-Atlantic, while Bartholdi Park reflects modern trends in American garden design as well as new plant introductions. Trees, shrubs and woody plants are bent and broken with the weight of the snow, which was quite wet, making it especially heavy. Some of these plants have been split, while others look as though they're folded over. The full extent of the damage will be a mystery until the snow melts, but Jim notes, "It could have been worse. All in all, we're dealing with it."

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