NGC Butterfly Garden at US Botanic Garden

A National Treasure

National Garden Clubs' Butterfly Garden is located at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.  The butterfly garden is one of several elements within the three-acre National Garden whose mission is "to educate visitors about the great diversity of American plants and their importance to the environment; to help connect people to nature; and to demonstrate the relationships between plants, water and humans."

After President Reagan signed Proclamation 5574 in 1986 declaring the rose as the National Floral Emblem, Congress authorized the construction of the National Garden in December 1991.  The original plan was for the garden to provide visitors to Capital Hill with a place to experience "the diversity of plants, including the rose, our national flower." (P.L.  102-229)

A more complex plan developed for the National Garden than was initially envisioned.  In 1988, Congress authorized the Architect of the Capitol be responsible for the project.  A non-profit, tax-exempt organization, National Fund for the U.S. Botanic Garden (NFUSBG), was established to raise funds for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the National Garden.  The garden would feature an Environmental Learning Center; a Water Garden honoring America's First Ladies; a Rose Garden exhibiting varieties of the national flower, the rose; and a Showcase Garden for flora and fauna native to the Mid-Atlantic region.

In 1996 National Garden Clubs' proposal for the addition of a Butterfly Garden to the National Garden was welcomed.  The area chosen was along Maryland Avenue near the Lawn Terrace.  Besides plants that attract butterflies, the plans included a bronze sundial and four benches featuring butterflies and roses.  Informational materials would also be provided to educate the public on butterfly gardening.

After the acceptance of the Butterfly Garden plans, NGC began fundraising began in 1997. Funds came from donations by NGC garden clubs and individuals, a grant from the Shell Oil Company, and sales of several original, commissioned items to the general membership.

It was hoped that the National Garden would be completed at the end of four years.  Original plans were to reopen the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, which was undergoing renovation, simultaneously with the National Garden.  However, the government's plans changed; and the Conservatory was completed first, reopening in December 2001.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, caused delays as the grounds of the U.S. Botanic Garden were designated as a part of the U.S. Capitol grounds, bringing added restrictions.  The added security became a significant factor in the substantial increase in the cost of constructing the National Garden as originally designed.  A decision was made to construct the garden in phases.

Contracts were signed in March, 2004. Construction of Phase 1 started in April, 2004, which included the Butterfly Garden, the pavers, Rose Garden, Lawn Terrace, Hornbeam Court, pergolas, contouring and ornamental fencing.

The official dedication ceremony for the Butterfly Garden was September 29, 2006.  Features in the garden include a bronze sundial by Clydetta Flumer of Georgia, which features butterflies and roses, and four butterfly benches.

NGC continues to fund the educational Butterfly booklet for children visiting the garden.  In addition to the butterfly facts and pictures, there are also activities, crossword puzzles, and a guide for tracking butterflies as they walk through the garden.

History of the NGC Butterfly Garden

For more information, contact:
Jane Oliver Smith, Liaison to the National Butterfly Garden