The exhibit features Johnson’s words floating on steel spirals in the granite and bluestone fountain that anchors the First Ladies Water Garden.
Exhibit messages about the value of native plants appear in unexpected, whimsical ways- on the underside of umbrellas that cover four seating areas and on stakes in native plant pots.
“The First Lady Water Garden is an area where people come to sit and have their lunch,” Ernst said. “We wanted to build in this aspect of discovery so people could make their way through the site and engage with it at their own pace.
“Reading those circular quotes is kind of analogous to the way people walk the labyrinth. You don’t get a straight read, you contemplate it.
“It was an amazing project in terms of the breadth of design from those 7-foot wide steel pieces to plant stakes and seed packets,” Ernst said. “My background is in sculpture and installation but in the last 10 years, I have been working on graphic design. For me personally, this project brought both those aspects of work that I love.”
Ernst said she worked closely with Office of Public Affairs graphics designer Tillie Policastro on the production of the seed packets and information cards for visitors to take home. She also worked with Jim Miller, from Austin Waterjet, who fabricated the steel pieces from her designs.
Others participating in the Botanic Garden’s summer exhibit include the United Nations Environment Programme, U.S. Department of Energy, American Horticultural Society, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Longwood Gardens and the National Wildfire Federation.
“I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the Wildflower Center,” Ernst said. “This project brought together the graphic with the sculptural and my love of native plants.”
The Botanic Garden’s Conservatory and National Garden, which contains the First Ladies Water Garden, are open to the public free of charge. For more information, call 202-225-8333 or visit the United States Botanic Garden Web site.