An organic Capitol in miniature

With pinecone roof tiles and acorn embellishments, the U.S. Capitol Building gets a twist this month. 

The U.S. Botanical Garden’s holiday showcase, “Seasons Greetings,” features what horticulture manager James Kauffman calls “a true work of art”: a replica of the Capitol Building made entirely of plant materials. 

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The model, which is composed of pinecones, screw pods, grapevine tendrils and acorns, was created by Paul Busse, the owner of Kentucky-based company Applied Imagination. 

The intricate sculpture is complete with lit windows, detailed column work and even a mini-Statue of Freedom. The replica took 600 hours to complete.

In order to create the display, Busse studied architecture drawings and photographs of the Capitol Building to account for all the details. According to botanical architect Cindy Johnson, the hardest part of recreating the famous building was getting the vantage point right.

“People remember seeing the Capitol Building in very specific ways: the view from the steps, or maybe straight ahead,” she said. “It’s very difficult to recreate that memory … but sometimes we make it better than the original — with a tad more magic.”

Busse, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago, relies on a team to help him continue his craft. They have created building and railway garden exhibits across the country.

“Even though he never lifted a pair of shears, Paul Busse was completely responsible for the [Capitol Replica’s] vision,” Johnson said. 

And many people appreciate his work. During peak season, approximately 4,000 people visit the exhibit every day to see both the Capitol model and all of the other horticultural fun that the garden has to offer. 

The botanical garden’s holiday showcase includes 18 varieties of poinsettias, an enchanted forest and a 25-foot Douglas fir covered in a thousand sparkling ornaments. 

The exhibit is so popular that, according to Public Events Coordinator Laura Condeluci, even lawmakers from the real-life Capitol across the street pay visits, often with their families in tow. 

“Members of Congress on occasion will even wait in line to get in,” she said.