It’s nearly winter, the days are shorter and, if you’re living in an apartment in an urban area, you may acutely feel like you’re boxed in among asphalt, concrete and tall buildings.
But there are many ways to incorporate the outdoors and nature into your life even if you’re in a studio walk-up.
If you’re new to the Washington area, here are a few suggestions on how you can bring some green into your space and take advantage of the changing leaf colors around your neighborhood.
- Having a balcony or patio is a great solution. You can create your own garden there. You can grow herbs, garlic, tomatoes and other vegetables on a balcony or patio, creating a green oasis with the added benefit of supplying your kitchen. If your goal is to focus on a more colorful flowering garden, there are many plants that will thrive on this type of outdoor space, such as marigold, begonia, pansies, hydrangea and delightfully scented hyacinth to name a few.
- If having a balcony is not possible or within your budget, seeking a property that has a rooftop or common garden can be another alternative. Some properties will allow residents to plant flowers, herbs and vegetables in common outdoor spaces.
- There are many plants that will do very well indoors. For example, African violets, spider plants, peace lilies and English ivy. If you weren’t born with a green thumb, aloe vera plants are very easy to manage and can be handy for healing burns or wounds. I am the opposite of a talented gardener and a culinary wiz, so I can say from experience, aloe vera will not let you down.
- If you feel a garden might be too much of a challenge but are artistically talented or have a friend who is, painting a garden on a balcony wall can be another option. Make sure you have permission from your landlord or co-op or condo board.
- If you don’t have access to common green space, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has more than 30 community gardens. You can contact the Community Gardens Division here to find a garden in your ward and get on a wait list for the spring.
- Rock Creek Park is an excellent option for enjoying the outdoors. It is the District’s little forest in the city great for biking, running, rollerblading or just a stroll on the trails.
- The District has several beautiful gardens, such as Dumbarton Oaks, Heurich House Museum Garden, U.S. Botanic Garden, National Arboretum and the Bishop’s Garden at Washington National Cathedral.
- Great Falls Park is another great option for an urban escape. A short hike along the trails overlooking the falls is highly therapeutic.
- Ice skating on an outdoor rink is exhilarating. The Washington Harbour Ice Rink in Georgetown is about as close as you can get to skating on a lake with wonderful views, including the Kennedy Center. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink is another great choice. Even if you only make it for one lap around the rink, you can grab a cup of hot chocolate, hot cider or mulled wine rink side at the Pavilion Cafe.
- Hains Point is a great options for a walk with a water view. It is also a great place to see the District’s Holiday Boat Parade. You will see some beautifully decorated boats and maybe even a water skiing Santa.
- Another outdoor D.C. treasure is Rock Creek Cemetery. Before we had parks, people spent leisurely weekend time at cemeteries. Rock Creek Cemetery has sculptures, monuments and mausoleums created by several noteworthy sculptors in a beautiful setting. Just seeing the Adams Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is worth the trip.
The transition to an urban lifestyle is an exciting change with so many benefits. Having some access to green space can make this change easier and much more enjoyable.
Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.