An oasis in the midst of cluttered suburbia, pretty much anytime in spring or summer, the gardens are lovely. Today, the day before Mother's Day, the profusion of early spring blooms -- the tulips and bulb flowers, the cherry trees, magnolias, and dogwoods -- were well over. But the azaleas (some 300 varieties) were peaking, the hostas leafed out, adding their subdued blues, dark greens and chartreuse to the lush green landscape (I love hostas), and the wisteria was in full bloom. I particularly enjoyed the water features -- a series of striking fountains in the formal gardens.
Families with children were there -- even on an afternoon that threatened huge downpours -- as well as couples, old and young, enjoying the serenity. The place is popular for proposals and weddings.
Brookside Gardens is Montgomery County's award-winning 50-acre public display garden
situated within Wheaton Regional Park. Included in the gardens are several distinct areas: Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Rose Garden (sadly, no where near in bloom when we visited), Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. Brookside Gardens also features two conservatories for year-round displays; one of my favorite areas is the charming children’s garden with changing displays designed to encourage children to learn about plants and gardening.
Brookside Gardens, unlike some of the other gardens attractions, didn't start out as the estate grounds to some millionaire. Instead, it was a project of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, opening on 13 July, 1969. The site formerly had been the location of Stadler Nursery. These gardens were always meant to be open to the public for everyone's enjoyment.
This year, the gardens are under construction, with a number of improvements planned. This means that the visitors center will be closed until close to the end of June. But even when it opens, the visitors center parking lot will be closed until November. There is plenty of other parking; check Brookside Gardens' website for where to park. And don't let this dissuade you from visiting this year -- the construction is confined to one or two areas and most, if not all, of the formal gardens are unaffected by the construction. Did I mention that admission is free? It's a low-risk venture with high rewards for a summer afternoon!
The first phase of the construction is the renewal of the Gardens’ main entrance to reinforce the visitors center as the heart of the gardens, thus creating a welcoming arrival with site-specific artwork and solving current safety issues. The second phase includes parking lot expansion and improved storm water management. Phase three will stabilize the banks of the two streams that act as boundaries for the Gardens, and allow for new ornamental plantings to take advantage of the charming stretches of water that affirm the name “Brookside Gardens.”
Hours: Gardens: sunrise - sunset, visitors Center: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; conservatories: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; free admission.
Dogs: Pets are not allowed in Brookside Gardens. Service animals are welcome.
Updated May 2018.