As advocates for sustainable landscapes, we couldn’t ask for a better platform than Bartholdi Park, a 2-acre park at the foot of our nation’s Capitol. The U.S. Botanic Garden desired the park to showcase accessible, sustainable gardening strategies. The goal for the park was to inspire guests with the beauty of the site and to share sustainable strategies and knowledge with each visitor. To underscore their commitment to sustainable landscapes, the U.S. Botanic Garden further committed to certifying their new park under the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), which provides a rating system to guide sustainable land development. The redesign of Bartholdi Park achieved SITES Gold with its integrated design that positively impacts local climate, vegetation, healthy soils, and water management.
The design for Bartholdi Park creates synergistic solutions and builds dynamic, holistic systems that are interpreted for the urban home gardener. The park’s focal point remains the historic 1876 fountain designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The fountain is now surrounded by ten rain gardens that capture 100 percent of rainfall on the site and allow it to soak into the ground, diverting runoff from D.C.’s combined sewer system. The rain gardens can accept up to 4,000 cubic feet of water in a 24-hour storm event.
The gardens showcase plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region while a new kitchen garden highlights edible plants in permanent and seasonal plantings. During the renovation, topsoil was removed and saved off-site, amended with organic compost, and returned to the park for the new plantings. Existing concrete and stone were salvaged for reuse in the new design. The story of Bartholdi Park’s new design is shared through interpretive signage, an interactive booklet for kids, and programming.