Tag Archives: National Cathedral

Spring at the National Cathedral

Years ago, I made it a rule to schedule an at-home vacation during the first week in May. Except for the occasional day trip to Baltimore or Annapolis, I spent the time in Washington, catching up on movies or museum exhibitions that I’d missed, taking care of household tasks, and generally enjoying the warm springtime weather.

The week’s vacation always ended the same way, with a visit to the National Cathedral. Since 1939, the Cathedral has hosted an annual two-day “Flower Mart,” which begins on the first Friday in May.

A spring fete in and around the cathedral? Could there be a more likely setting for a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie murder mystery? Anglophile and Agatha Christie fan that I am, there was no way I could pass that up.

There was always a chance I’d stumble over a body in the flower beds herbaceous borders, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

—attributed, probably incorrectly, to Albert Einstein

I had another, more practical reason for attending the event: Herbs.

One of the great attractions of the festival is the immense selection of potted herbs for sale on the grounds. Every year, I’d fill a bag with six or eight little plants, carry them home, carefully re-pot them, set them on a windowsill, and faithfully follow the care and feeding instructions printed on their identifying name plates.

And every year, the damned things would be dead in less than a month.

Well, not this year. I’ve finally broken that old and frustrating habit. From now on, I’ll be buying all my herbs in those sealed little plastic packets in the produce department of Giant, as Nature intended.

I may have a black thumb, but I’m not crazy.

After filling my knapsack with late-night munchies from the Episcopal Church Women’s Baked Goods booth, I had to make the difficult choice between competing festival food vendors for my on-site meal.

Crepes or Paella?
Sweet or Spicy?
France or Spain?

This time, the Spanish won. I chose a big serving of the shrimp paella, ate half of it at the festival, and finished it off at home.


The National Cathedral’s 75th Annual Flower Mart

National Cathedral, Viewed from the Bishop's Garden

National Cathedral, Viewed from the Bishop’s Garden

Beginning on the first Friday in May every year, the National Cathedral hosts a two-day festival.   For a long time, that had a special significance for me, because it marked the end of my semi-official “Spring Break”.

I’d spend the week leading up to it taking day trips to Annapolis or Baltimore, catching up on Smithsonian exhibitions, doing a little spring cleaning, and generally prepping for the arrival of summer.  My Friday trip to the Cathedral was the last stop of Spring Break.

Unless the weather’s bad, I still maintain that first Friday in May ritual.


Performance by the Girls of the National Cathedral School


Shopping for Orchids


Miles of Herbs

Every year, I buy a dozen or so small potted herbs at the Cathedral’s Flower Mart and put them on my living room windowsill, where they thrive for a while before falling victim to my notorious Black Thumb.  Occasionally I’m able to harvest a few sprigs of thyme or tarragon before they wither and turn grey.  Rosemary is pretty hardy, though,  And chives.  You can’t kill chives.

As I toss out the remains of my purchase, I remind myself again that it would be both cheaper and easier to simply purchase fresh herbs at the market as I need them.  And every spring, I decide that this year will be different, and stock up again.

Book Tent

Book Tent

The wonderful old annual Vassar Book Sale and Goodwill Book Sale are long gone, only a few independent bookstores are still holding on, and even the once dominant bookstore chains are on the ropes, but the Cathedral’s book tent is still thriving.

In the Bishop’s Garden

No one would mistake the National Cathedral’s Flower Mart for the Glastonbury Festival, but even so, after a while  you just want to get away from the crowd.   You can escape to The Bishop’s Garden.

Bishop's Garden

Bishop’s Garden


Watching the Little Fishies

In the Bishop's Garden

In the Bishop’s Garden