The U.S. Botanical Gardens, located on the west side of the U.S. Capitol, recently constructed a new three-acre garden. The National Garden opened to the public this past Sunday, October 1. It consists of several interlinked parts: an open lawn, a butterfly garden, a rose garden, and a garden of regional plants placed around a meandering stream. A fountain and amphitheater round out the garden. Right now, the gardens do not look like much because the plants are still very young. But I expect that in a year or two the beds will be bristling with flowers.
Unfortunately, the gardens are surrounded by a gated fence, and the access hours for the National Garden appear to match those of the Conservatory. So Bartholdi Park may still be the USBG's only option for an evening walk.
Of course, as a birder I want to know what the birding possibilities for the new gardens will be. The shrub cover is not quite dense enough to attract many species, and the downtown location makes bird diversity unlikely. Still, this evening I spotted a few species, including mourning doves, a song sparrow, and my first white-throated sparrow of the fall. Best of all was a flock of palm warblers - more than 10 - all twitching and pumping their tails as they foraged on the ground. There may have been a common yellowthroat and yellow-rumped warbler in the mix as well. That is pretty good for downtown D.C.
The east end of the National Mall now has a belt of gardens, running from Bartoldi Park on the south side of Independence Avenue, through the new National Garden, to the garden of the National Museum of the American Indian. None of this is prime habitat, but all three spots ought to attract some migrants in spring and fall. It makes another option for walking and casual bird watching.