10 Best Washington, D.C. Gardens – and When to Visit Them

Pack a picnic basket and stroll through some of the most wondrous gardens in Washington, DC.

Do you have to travel far to get dreamy flower fields for your Instagram page? Many times, there are wondrous gardens literally in your backyard. People always are asking how I find my photo locations. Most of the time, it is pure luck. Always be camera ready and let your eyes wander. I tend to gravitate to flower fields or flower beds. My wandering eyes found these 10 gardens very close to my home in Washington, D.C.

Tidal Basin

#1 Tidal Basin

Starting with the most popular event, 1.5 million visitors travel to Washington, D.C. each Spring to admire the National Cherry Blossoms 3,000-plus trees. This year, the cherry blossom festival ran from March 20 – April 14. Best to set out early in the morning to photograph these fragile beauties. Be downtown at 6 a.m. to see the city in bloom without the crowds. Trust me, I am not a morning person, but it is totally worth it.

 

#2 Enid A. Haupt Garden

If you love magnolias, visit the Enid A. Haupt Garden, a 4.2-acre public space in the Smithsonian mosaic. There’s no predicting Mother Nature and her blooms, but if you live in the area, check around the end of March. Be safe and spot check via Instagram. The Enid A. Haupt Garden and Tidal Basin are within walking distance of each other and both can be visited in one day. Use Metro or Uber to avoid traffic hassles, especially if you are not a local.

Seneca Creek Park in Maryland

#3 Seneca Creek Park in Maryland

No too many people know about this hidden gem. Unfortunately, I missed the peony bloom because I had to fly out a week before the full opening of the peony field and garden. Check around mid-May or call the park before you head out with your camera. Luckily, I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous garden bloom.

Did you know that once a peony is planted, it can live to be 100 years old! Peonies are the floral symbol of China and the state flower of Indiana.

Burnside Farms Photo by: Lucy Kemmitz

#4 Burnside Farms

Holland in Virginia? Yes! Spending the day in Burnside Farms’ tulip field is quite inspiring, and you can pick your own spring flowers. I recommend starting early; being the first one in line would be ideal. Check their schedule around mid-April for the power bloom. I packed a picnic basket and found a spot next to the colorful tulip fields. Bring an umbrella to shade yourself. The weather was idyllic for our visit.

Fun facts: there are over 150 species of tulips with over 3,000 different varieties. Tulips are part of the lily family.

McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area

#5 McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area

In a word: Sunflowers. Lots of them. Here’s a cool thing you might not know about sunflowers — each one is actually thousands of miniature flowers. There are about 70 species of sunflowers, and they’re not just cheerful faces either. Sunflowers are actually good at absorbing toxins. They have been planted to help soak up nuclear radiation. Millions were planted after the devastating tsunami destroyed reactors in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Learn more at goodhousekeeping.com.

#6 Colonial Williamsburg

Gardens have been an important part of the Colonial Williamsburg landscape since the 18th Century. The area’s political and historical legacy is well known, but few realize that, in addition to its status as an important political and cultural center, Williamsburg was, and still is, a center of gardening loveliness. See how she grows here. Colonial Williamsburg is a 2-hour drive from the D.C. Metro area.

Gardens #7 through #10 are four of my favorite gardens in the area. They are Glenstone Museum, Dumbarton Oaks, United States National Arboretum, and Hillwood Museum. You can find them in my article “Washington, D.C. – Gardens, Museums, and Estates off the Beaten Track.”

Before heading out to the gardens, check on your favorite blooms. Most sites provide a calendar for your convenience.

I’m hoping to add more hidden gardens in the near future. Is there a gem you’d like to share with us?

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