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US Botanic Garden Offers Window to Imagination

At the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington a holiday exhibit is turning heads and spreading smiles. The luxurious garden features a trip by miniature train into childhood fantasies. Trains connect Fairy Tale Trails, Santa's Village, Secret Mountain, and Caterpillar Garden - made of squash, mushrooms, pine cones and other fruits of the earth.

Miniature trains are everywhere: overhead, in tunnels, going, coming, and chugging everywhere. The buildings and landscapes are made of plants. Holly Shimizu is Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

"We have 7 different trains, all garden railway trains, they run in electricity and they go through this wonderland with all kinds of surprises," Shimizu explains.

With 200,000 visitors, this is the busiest time of the year at the Botanic Garden. Above all, this is a children's show. Georgia Hoffen is nine years old. She came from Australia with her family. "I'm loving it," Georgia says.

Shimizu says architect and train collector Paul Bossi created the wonderland.

"We gave him children as the theme and we try not to be too literal, but a lot of these actually relate to children's nursery rhymes," she says. "This is the little old lady who lived in the shoe."

One exhibit is Rapunzel letting down her long blond hair. And the children's train where everything moves, surrounded by gremlins (gnomes)! Can you see them?

For Sophie and her father Phillip Bender, their favorite is the caterpillar train.

"We have been in some other train exhibits but this really tops them all," Bender says. "I think it turns it into artistry and natural beauty."

At Santa's Village, the houses of the helpers are chock full of gourds and mushrooms.

The children are ecstatic.

Nearby, reproductions of Washington's best known buildings like the U.S. Capitol are also made of plants and natural fibers.

And so in this awesome way, the U.S. Botanic Garden brings smiles to people of all ages, religious beliefs and nationalities.