Crispy Fried Water Gardens

Yesterday my sister and I visited the beautiful  Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in northeast DC for a photo class.  Even though we got there at 6:45am to get the best light, the air still felt like a wet diaper. 

Thanks to doing so much summer gardening these past few years, I think I’ve built up a tolerance to working outside in the heat.  However, yesterday’s high humidity combined with temps of 105 degrees (heat index=666 degrees!) made this excursion somewhat taxing.  It was sort of amusing to watch my fellow photographers try to concentrate on the instructor’s suggestions about aperature and film speed as they stood there pretending they weren’t excreting 5 quarts of sweat every minute.

My sister sets up for a good lotus shot. It was only about 8am at this point, but as my sister says, “Hotter than Hades”

But besides the brutal heat,  it was a great outing!  The lotus are just coming into their full glory, and there are many other beautiful plants to enjoy (other water lilies, hibiscus, buttonbush, baldcypress, etc.)  The place teems with insects, too, and since there are dragonflies and carnivorous plants all around, the mosquito population is kept in check.  I brought bug spray but didn’t need it.

Even though Kenilworth is most famous for its water lilies, it is actually the park’s overall layout that I enjoy most.  Its matrix of ponds connected by grassy paths and dotted with the occasional swampy looking willow or cypress is very appealing to me.  I imagine being 10 and playing games of hide and seek among those paths and ponds on a summer twilight.  Crouching down behind clumps of cattails or creeping along behind stands of marsh grass, the air awash in insect hum.  How sweet would that be?  I think, in addition to opening the park early for photo classes, the NPS should open it for games of  Hide and Seek.

(Remind me to post sometime about a real memory — an epic game of hide and seek with my brother and sister at a practically deserted US Botanical Gardens during a thunderstorm when I was about 6.)

Anyway, here are a few more pictures I took yesterday.  I think they came out well, considering that I am still at the level where I had to ask the instructor how to put my camera back in Manual mode.  (Embarrassing!)  All the photos are handheld with a “regular” lens.

17 thoughts on “Crispy Fried Water Gardens

  1. Nice pics – Kenilworth is one of my face DC getaways and no, the heat does not let up there as the air doesn’t seem to move – but that is part of the “experience” — and yes, never got a mosquito bite there thanks to the moving waters, abundant birds and others that prey on mosquitoes.

    • You’re right about the heat there…it’s also very exposed with limited opportunities for shade. I do like their little sitting area out at the end of the board walk, though. There’s just a hint of a breeze out there.

  2. I like your idea of the NPS opening parks specifically for games of hide & seek! The leaf venation photo is particularly nice, to my eye, and I always love the seed pods of water lilies/lotus.

    • Isn’t that a great idea?? And thank you, I like that leaf picture a lot, too! It’s the kind of picture you only used to see in Sierra Club calendars and such, but which is easily within reach of even the rankest of amateur photographers today (i.e. me)

    • Thanks! It seems there have been so many heat waves here in recent years, I’m getting them all mixed up. But now that you mention it, I think ’88 was a particularly gross summer here in DC, too.

  3. Fantastic photos. I especially like the water lillies and dragonfly. Even if I had the technical ability (I don’t), I could never have taken those pictures because in that kind of weather I never stop wiping the sweat out of my eyes.

  4. Great pictures!! And you reminded me of my favorite hide and seek location – the farmers cornfield in Germany. We always had great fun in there, but the farmer for some odd reason never seemed to appreciate our presence. 🙂

  5. thank you for sharing this…my mother lives in DC and I cant wait to go…i live in central Florida and have a water garden where I grow irises… papyrus…..etc..but have longed to see lotus in person…been to china and Thailand and still never seen them…you pictures are great glad to have found your blog

  6. We lived in Cheverly (about a mile away from Kenilworth) when I was in 2nd through 5th grades and my parents took us to the Aquatic Gardens a couple of times a year. I was indeed fun, though the memory that stays with me isn’t running around, but rather catching innumerable baby frogs from the grassy strips. And releasing them when we left!

  7. Lotus flowers are just meant for the camera and your pictures are good, but I think my favorite shot here is the one taken from below showing the sea of green stalks and leaves.

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