Last week we discussed planning your landscape and how to design with paper and pencil. But before you install anything, it's a good idea to cultivate your education about plants and landscaping. The next couple of chilly months are an excellent time to take advantage of opportunities to attend workshops, see displays, visit exhibits and enrich your understanding of the landscape around you.

There is a full lineup of outstanding programs offered at gardens and arboretums in this area that will enhance your knowledge of ornamental horticulture. They are ideas for your garden, a break from working all season and an enjoyable way to stay close to gardening as the days shorten and the temperature drops.

Contact information for all locations is at the end of the article.

November through March 26: "Slowlife" at the U.S. Botanic Garden. This traveling exhibit uses science, art and technology to provide alternative ways to experience plants and understand how they react to their world. West Orangerie. Free.

Through January: Brookside Gardens' "Garden of Lights." Designs of flowers, animals and fountains glow with 650,000 twinkling lights. 5:30-9 p.m. $15 per car.

Through Nov. 27: Chrysanthemum display at Brookside Gardens Conservatories, exhibiting a wide variety of forms, from miniatures to cascading. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Free.

Nov. 10, 17: Nature story hour, for children 3 to 6. 10-11 a.m. $1 for children; accompanying adults free. Cylburn Arboretum.

Yesterday: Opening of the permanent exhibit "Plants in Culture." Showing the important role plants have played in therapy, ornamentation, music, ceremony and other expressions of culture. West Gallery. U.S. Botanic Garden. Free.

Tomorrow: A discovery walk for all ages through the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's nature preserve. 2 p.m. Free. Potomac Overlook Regional Park.

Nov. 10: Tour of Brookside Gardens conifer collection. Learn the subtleties of form and seasonal color changes, and the differences between "dwarf" and "slow growing." Wear warm attire and comfortable shoes. 1:30-2:30 p.m. $11. Registration required. Conservatory entrance, Brookside Gardens.

Nov. 12: Guided garden walk, Cylburn Arboretum. 12:15 p.m. Meet on mansion porch. Free.

Nov. 12: Constructing a stone wall. Learn the basics of wall building -- planning, layout, how to look at stone, cutting and fitting techniques and tools. Session takes place indoors and outdoors with demonstration of dry stack wall. 1:30-3:30 p.m. $38. Reservations required. Green Spring Gardens.

Nov. 14: Garden walks plus stories and crafts for children 3 to 5. Brookside Gardens. 10:30-11:30 a.m. $2 per child; accompanying adults free. Registration required. Visitors center children's classroom.

Nov. 15, 16: Container gardening workshop, focused on plantings appropriate for winter. Brookside Gardens. 9:30-11:30 a.m. $55, includes materials. Registration required. Visitors center adult workshop.

Nov. 15, 16: Full moon hike at the U.S. National Arboretum. A five-mile, mildly strenuous hike through moonlit gardens and plant collections. Dress for weather conditions. 7-9 p.m. $15. Registration required. Enter through R Street gate.

Nov. 16: A virtual tour, with slides and maps, of Barcroft magnolia bog, a wetland community. 7-9 p.m. Free. Reservations required. 703-228-4747. Meet at Long Branch Nature Center.

Nov. 18: Slide lecture on viburnums, including the best attributes of each species and cultivar, cultural requirements and proper garden sitting. 10-11:30 a.m. $5. Registration required. Visitors Center Auditorium, Brookside Gardens.

Nov. 19: Program on plants and herbs traditionally associated with Christmas. 11 a.m.-noon. $12. Registration required. Administration Building Classroom, U.S. National Arboretum.

Nov. 19: Seasonal guided tour of Green Spring Gardens. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. 9-10 a.m. $5. Reservations required. Meet at Horticulture Center.

Nov. 20: "It's Not Easy Being Evergreen." Explore the conifers at the State Arboretum of Virginia with a guide. 2 p.m. $6.

Nov. 24-Jan. 8: Holiday show at the U.S. Botanic Garden. The Conservatory's Garden Court will be transformed into a replica of the National Mall, with model trains and Washington landmarks of the mid-1800s. All model buildings are made of natural plant materials. Free.

Dec. 2: New and underutilized trees for the urban landscape. Nina Bassuk of Cornell University discusses the many functions of trees in the urban environment, including site conditions, plant choices, adaptability of trees and environmental benefits. 10-11 a.m. $5. Registration required. Visitors Center Auditorium, Brookside Gardens.

Dec. 9, 10: Swag-Making Workshops. Create a swag with fresh greens. Materials provided. Bring gloves and hand pruners. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $20 walk-in registration. Cylburn Arboretum.

Dec. 9, 10: Twinkling Boxwood Wreath. Make a boxwood wreath, complete with miniature lights. 10 a.m.-noon. $36, includes materials. Registration required. Visitors Center Adult Workshop, Brookside Gardens.

Dec. 9, 10, 11: Holiday Greens Sale. Poinsettias, roping, wreaths, boxwoods. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. Cylburn Arboretum.

Dec. 9: Seasonal garden walk at Cylburn Arboretum. 1 p.m. Free. Registration required.

Dec. 14, 15: Full moon hike at the U.S. National Arboretum. A five-mile, mildly strenuous hike through moonlit gardens and plant collections. Dress for weather conditions. 7-9 p.m. $15. Registration required. Enter through R Street gate.

Site contacts:

Blandy Experimental Farm, State Arboretum of Virginia, 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce. 540-837-1758.

Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. 301-962-1451 or 301-962-1400.

Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art & Illustration, McCrillis Gardens, 6910 Greentree Rd., Bethesda. 301-962-1470.

Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave., Baltimore. 410-367-2217.

Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria. 703-642-5173.

Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, 703-228-6535.

Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's Potomac Overlook Regional Park, 2845 N. Marcey Rd., Arlington, 703-528-5406.

U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington. 202-245-5898.

U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, 245 First St. SW, Washington. 202-226-4082 to register; 202-225-8333 for information.

Joel M. Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md. E-mail or contact him through his Web site,

The U.S. National Arboretum offers hikes through moonlit gardens and plant collections and a program on plants associated with Christmas.