For the people, by the people…

The 2017 Capitol Region Garden Bloggers Fling opened my eyes to the great range of public gardens available to the the residents of the Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Remember when I told you the Fling’s itinerary was designed to give us a little taste of a lot of different regional garden experiences rather than whole meal of just a few? Hmmm…I may have only said that in my mind and not to you in a post! In either case–in that spirit our time was limited in both of the two public gardens I will share today. Both were beautiful spaces with a nice balance of open areas and display beds and would provide a full day’s enjoyment during any season of the year. The residents of their communities are so fortunate to have these public gardens and their resources right in their backyards.


Brookside Gardens is an award winning 50 acre public display garden within Wheaton Regional Park. The gardens are free to the public from sunrise to sunset every day of the year except Christmas Day. We disembarked at the modern (and air conditioned!!!) Visitors Center and I picked up their 2017 Spring and Summer magazine–packed with a full range of events including the Summer Twilight Concert Series, Shakespeare in the Garden, the Garden After Dark and a speaker series. Year round the garden offers cooking demonstrations, a full range of horticultural classes, a school of botanical art and illustration and a ton of children’s activities. While our tour remained remarkably on schedule over the 3+ days, given the sheer number of places we traveled, we needed to play catch-up when reaching Brookside. The hot ticket right now is the Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit at the South Conservatory and so I set off down the hill to find it. Take the walk with me and see what I passed along the way.



I am loving it all ready! Located close to the Visitors Center with easy access for families this great outdoor classroom is planted with alphabet topiaries and even has a miniature library. Each of several “classrooms” has a lesson that connects the garden to the concepts of Math, Science, Reading Art and Music. Even lunch and recess are more fun than the average school day!


Beautiful layers of color and texture flank the wide and easy to walk downhill path.


Pots tucked in here and there keep aggressive spreaders like this Equisetum hyemale, or horsetail reed, in check.


No shortages in this garden of breathtaking long views. As I saw in so many places on this adventure–conifers, evergreen hardwoods and deciduous trees mixed and layered with varying shades of green shrubs and perennials.


Astilbe, commonly called false spirea or false goatsbeard, flourishes in the shade canopy and softens the transition from hard surface to landscape.


The lime greens light up the shade and work so well with the little pops of purple Browallia.


Healthy, blooming Hosta-objects of lust and envy for dry California gardeners.

Cornus kousa 'Snowboy'

Cornus kousa ‘Snowboy’ had me at first sight. Its form is more upright and slender than my other favorite variegated dogwood ‘Wolf Eyes’.


Arriving at the South Conservatory I knew I did not have time to actually enter the  butterfly exhibit but very much enjoyed the long raised bed filled with plants attractive to all types of pollinators.


The educational signage was great and the area was full of moms and strollers plus touristy garden guests like myself–clearly Wings of Fancy is a popular destination.

Had to get my hustle on now to get back to the Visitors Center for our Panera Bread boxed lunch and a great presentation by Fling sponsors American Beauties, Organic Mechanics and Sustane. Left with more great goodies including a native Phlox, Sustane’s Complete (water dispersable fertilizer) and a big bag of root zone feeder packs called Fuhgeddaboudit! from Organic Mechanics. All of these sponsors are small ecologically  responsible companies–check them out on the web!


The beautiful Piedmont Hills are the backdrop for this 95 acre property which was once a family farm. Meadowlark is a garden devoted to conservation, aesthetics, education and community service operated under the auspices of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. We had the opportunity to meet Garden Manager Keith Tomlinson at our closing dinner in the Atrium to hear his vision for the garden–I was pretty amazed to hear that Meadowlark is essentially self sustaining. The garden is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. There is a small admission fee or you can buy a family yearly pass for $45–pretty good bargain. There are a number of themed gardens including: the Experimental Meadow, the Korean Bell Garden, the Perennial Color Border, the Herb Potpourri Garden and three native plant collections focused on Virginia and the Potomac Valley.

Meadowlark has some of the most phenomenal long views of any botanical garden I have visited. Paved and mulched walking trails meander throughout. Due to time constraints I kept to the center parts within an easy walk back to our dinner venue. Stroll along with me and enjoy this beautiful park which sits right in the middle of a residential   neighborhood.


My first stop was the Bold Garden, a fun collection of plants having bold coloration, size or texture. You can just get a peak at one of my fellow bloggers having a bit of a rest. Most of the display areas had places to just sit and soak in the surrounding nature.


While this meadow rue, Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’ does not look very bold in this photo, the bloom stalks rose over 6 feet!


Another appealing resting spot–this one in the Herbal Potpourri and Salvia Garden where deep beds flank a winding center path. Over 70 species of Salvia are represented along with hundreds of herbs and medicinal plants.


Here’s one of those long vistas I promised you! Just a glimpse of Lake Carolina, one of 3 small lakes in the garden, as seen from the herb garden.


A glorious day at Meadowlark looking across the Great Lawn.


This meandering path of daylilies led me to the mass of bloom from the Stout Medal Daylily Garden downhill near one of the smaller lakes. This collection contains at least one of every daylily awarded the prestigious medal given in memory since 1950 in memory of  Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout, who is considered to be the father of modern daylily breeding in North America.


July 8 is Daylily Day at Meadowlark with a plant sale, a walking tour and a special exhibition by the Northern Virginia Daylily Society. As I followed the walking trail around Lake Carolina I passed impressive perennial beds in which daylilies and their companions were the stars.



The far side of Lake Carolina has large gazebo perfect for wedding and other events–what a serene setting.


Rounding the lake in my route back to the Atrium and our dinner I passed by so much more than I could ever share. Meadowlark had a meditative quality so appealing to me. Perhaps it was the wide open spaces where the collections were destinations you reached by way of just enjoying the natural flow of the land rather than being bunched up together one after another.


The sun disappearing behind the trees…

We enjoyed  lovely dinner together in the Atrium and heard some words of wisdom about staying current in a fast paced digital media world from  Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm, breeder of Lavender ‘Phenomenal’. I saw this interspecific lavender (hybrid crossed between plants in two different species) used extensively in several of the Smithsonian Gardens–full of blooms and drawing bees like a magnet! In Central California we don’t think twice about losing lavenders through the winter. ‘Phenomenal’ was bred in Pennsylvania and has excellent winter hardiness to Zone 4. Lloyd and his wife and business partner, Candy, spent the weekend with us touring gardens and even brought us all our own ‘Phenomenal’! Check them out at for more information about everything they grow. Just a heads up–you won’t find any seasonal color baskets with red petunias, white verbena and blue calibrachoa on their website.

Next up–2 acres  in Great Falls, Virginia where I learned how spray paint mixes with woodland gardening!



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