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The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

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This past weekend I ventured to Virginia to a place I’d never been before – the Pentagon memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack.  It’s a short walk from the Pentagon subway stop – easy to get to – and I highly recommend a visit.  The Memorial itself is moving and unique, and the plant choices around it are terrific.  First, let’s see the heart of the Memorial.

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Here you see some of the 184 illuminated benches, one to honor each victim and arranged according to the victim’s ages. Each bench is engraved with the name of a victim.  Underneath each bench is a reflecting pool with moving water – an important addition to this noisy, traffic-surrounded space along I-95.

Interspersed among the benches are 85 crapemyrtles now showing off their fall color. Interestingly, the original design called for them to be papermark maples, and I haven’t been able to find out why the change was made, but I’ll keep trying.  According to this source, “the trees will grow up to 30 feet to provide a canopy of shade over the Memorial for years to come.”

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The names of victim are inscribed in the ends of the benches, as shown above.

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I didn’t take this photo (credit), but it sure makes me want to visit at night sometime.  Here are lots more night images, conveying the magical or even surreal nature of the space.

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Above you see part of the wall along the edge of the Memorial that begins at a height of 3 inches and rises to a height of 71 inches, corresponding to the ages of the youngest and oldest victim of the attack.  Inscribed in the top of the wall are dates that indicate the time lines from which individual benches are arrayed, according to the year of birth of each victim.

I love the repeating masses of grasses along the wall, including sea oats, Miscanthus, Pink Muhly grass and others I couldn’t identify.

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Close-up of the Pink Muhly grass with crapemyrtles and Pentagon in the background.

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Now let’s focus in on the plants, starting with how gorgeous the crapemyrtles look individually, especially up close.

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Here’s another shot of the wall, with not just grasses but Nandinas, and more plants in the background.

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The plant choices tell me that someone knew what they were doing and I’m trying to find out who that was – because the Memorial designers are architects, not landscape architects.

Perennials selected are all drought-tolerant and sun-loving for this blistering site.  They include goldenrod, sedum, black-eyed susan, coneflower, yarrow, heuchera, geranium and the aforementioned grasses.  Trees and shrubs include arborvitae, winterberry holly and oakleaf hydrangea, in addition to the crapemyrtles and nandinas.

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The Pentagon Memorial is a solemn and moving place that also teaches gardeners a thing or two about good place choices for our climate, and how to mass them for maximum effect.  I’ll be returning next summer when the crapemyrtles are blooming.  If you’ve never been, now’s a great time to visit.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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