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HISTORY FLOWERS IN ALL-AMERICAN BOTANIC GARDEN

Newly opened at the edge of the Mall on Independence Avenue in Washington: the National Garden, a 3-acre celebration of American horticulture. Built at a cost of $11.5-million next to the U.S. Botanic Garden's conservatory, it includes a variety of elements: an avenue of hornbeam trees that will eventually form a tunnel; a formal rose garden; the First Ladies Water Garden (granite mosaics submerged in water form quilt patterns familiar to Martha Washington); a butterfly garden; and a regional garden with seven beds of native trees, shrubs and perennials, from New Jersey to North Carolina.

Herb gardening: pungent, pretty

The 12 best kitchen herbs, according to the October-November issue of Mother Earth News: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme. The magazine offers growing tips and four simple garden designs: an herbal border, a triangular kitchen garden, a raised bed and a container herb garden.

Getting the most from your compost

Adding compost to the soil is a good way to get ready for your fall garden. Before you buy a truckload, check a sample. Look at it: Little or nothing of what went into the mix should be visible. Feel it: Unless it's wet, it should be crumbly. And smell it: Finished compost has the rich, appealing aroma of the forest floor.

Cyber survey of nature's leaf show

Planning to head north to go leaf-peeping? Check the progress of October's bright blue weather at these Web sites, which chart the progress of the turning leaves.

New England and the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest: www.foliagenetwork.com.

Vermont: www.foliage-vermont.com.

North Carolina: www. romanticasheville.com/fall.htm.

Georgia: www.gastateparks.org.

Compiled by Homes and Garden Editor Judy Stark from Washington Post and Associated Press reports.

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