We drive down Georgia Avenue, barreling past the Home Depot and the Glenmont Metro Station. There is traffic and noise, busses and trucks – people trying to get places. We take a left on Randolph Road and a right onto Glenallan Avenue, and within a few hundred feet we find ourselves driving under the old growth trees and disappearing into the woods, with the traffic and exhaust seeming to disappear far behind. It is a sudden and welcome transition. As we round the corner we come to a the high gates that mark the boundaries of Brookside Gardens.
Brookside Gardens is a cultivated garden hidden away in Wheaton Regional Park, off of Randolph Road. The paved trails work their way through an azalea garden, rose garden, children’s garden, and Japanese style garden and trial garden. It seems like this place couldn’t possibly keep the interest of a child, but my six year old son loves it there. He loves trying to stick his hands in the fountains. He loves balancing on the large stones that lead to the covered deck that extends out over the water in the pond. He loves looking at the flowers blooming in spring and the leaves changing color in the fall. He loves running around the stone labyrinth – which, unfortunately for anyone who was hoping to meditate there, reminds him of a giant maze. He enjoys ducking in and out of the structures made out of sticks in the children’s section of the Garden near the Visitor’s Center.
There are also two Conservatories which the naturalists replant with new themed plantings each season, so the gardens can be enjoyed all year long. We have even seen walruses and giraffes made out of chrysanthemums, during the yearly mums plantings. The Wing’s of Fancy Butterfly exhibit is housed in one of the Conservatories and is a yearly favorite for everyone in the family.
I am always amazed at how few people we see when we visit Brookside Gardens. Thousands of cars drive by on Georgia Avenue or Randolph Road every hour, but the Gardens are always serene and peaceful – with the exception of one semi-loud, and very enthusiastic six year old.
Things to Note: Brookside Gardens is located at 1800 Glenallan Avenue in Wheaton, and is open every day of the year. There is ample parking and there is no admission fee – it’s FREE! You enter at two entrances through electronic gates that open as your car approaches. The Visitor Center is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and has bathrooms, water fountains, and classrooms. Brookside Garden’s holds classes for children and adults, which you can register for at www.parkpass.org . Brookside Garden’s also hosts the Garden of Lights holiday lights display every November and December and the Wing’s of Fancy Butterfly exhibit each May through September – there is a fee for each of these activities.