Brookside Gardens is Montgomery County’s incomparable, award-winning 50-acre public display garden located within Wheaton Regional Park. Included in the gardens are several distinct areas: Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden with labyrinth, 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 enjoyment.
The glass-covered Conservatories house a large tropical plant collection and provide seasonal plant color displays that include spring, summer, fall, and holiday shows. They are also used for special exhibits such as the Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly Exhibit. The garden surrounding the Conservatories displays a collection of unusual conifers and ground covers as well as several specimen trees. Adjacent to the Conservatories is a Rain Garden.
Grown-up drinks made from fresh ingredients in the garden are all the rage, and some of the combinations may be surprising. Visit the Cocktail Garden (designed by gardener Kelley Heim), located in the Trial Garden, to see the plants used in Cocktail recipes. There are countless possibilities for fresh and unusual blends. The Trial Garden is located along a hillside overlooking the east side of the Conservatories. In spring, over 10,000 spring flowering bulbs are featured followed by summer displays of new and unusual plant varieties, imaginative design ideas, and changing theme gardens. These six asymmetrically curved beds formed by brick walls of varying heights are currently host to a vegetable display bed, a Low Maintenance Bed, and a bed featuring annuals from the All-American Selections Program. In autumn, thousands of garden mums complete the season in blaze of color.
This garden features Japanese iris and many other water-loving plants along the banks of two ponds. A gazebo, located at the edge of the Azalea Garden, overlooks the Aquatic Garden. The Anderson Pavilion, built in 1991, sits on a small island in the upper pond. Thousands of daffodils grow along the creek from the Visitors Center Garden entrance to the Conservatory Garden entrance.
The Azalea Garden is a semi-wooded area that features over 300 varieties of azaleas represented by 2,000 plants. Rhododendrons, witchhazels, hollies, Japanese andromeda, sweet-box, skimmia, bulbs, and a large assortment of shade-tolerant perennials are also featured. Early azaleas begin blooming in mid-April, with the others commencing bloom near Memorial Day. This sequence provides a longer season of bloom than you’d see in typical home landscapes. Azaleas are planted in masses of a single variety to give maximum impact. A network of paved and mulched paths allows access to the plantings.
This warm and sunny habitat for butterflies is the perfect place to learn about butterfly gardening. Native and cultivated plants supporting the butterfly lifecycle fill this walled retaining bed from May through late fall. Butterflies native to Maryland can be viewed up close in all stages of the lifecycle, from the eggs to the caterpillars to the chrysalides to the adults. The outdoor butterfly garden is located on the west side of the conservatories.
In the Children’s Garden’s School’s Outside! exhibit, kids can learn in a fun outdoor classrooms planted with colorful flowers, “alphabet plants,” topiaries, and other curiosities like a “Little Library.” Each classroom offers a lesson that will connect the garden to several classroom concepts. We hope this garden will inspire you to have fun while learning how plants relate to math, science, reading, music, art, and even lunch and recess!
From the months of June through September, approximately 100 different rose varieties interplanted with ornamental grasses and perennials provide a radiant profusion of color. The formal geometric presentation of this garden invites spectators to closely view and indulge in the fragrances of this popular plant. Reflecting pools, sitting nooks, and a shaded pergola encourages visitors to stay awhile.
Examples of all types of roses can be found in this garden including hybrid tea, rugosa hybrids, grandiflora, English, miniature, floribunda, shrub, groundcover, polyantha, climber, Gallica, hybrid musk, and the garden rose. Other plants of interest in this garden are crape myrtle or Lagerstroemia x ‘Apalachee’, Amsonia hubrechtii, or blue star, and Fagus sylvatica ‘Rohan Obelisk’, or upright purple beech. Look for the many All-America Rose Selections awarded by the American Rose Society.
The Gude Garden was created beginning in 1972 as a memorial to Adolph Gude, Sr. who was a prominent local nurseryman. M-NCPPC landscape architect Hans Hanses designed the Japanese-style landscape of soft rolling hills and ponds as well as the Japanese Teahouse overlooking the ponds.
The Teahouse is located on an island planted with bamboo, unusual conifers, and ground covers. The Gude family donated many of the specimen trees and shrubs, including the beech trees, blue Atlas cedars, southern magnolia, and most of the conifers on the island. The Kousa dogwood collection was added in 1991. Over the years, the ponds have become home to many species of wildlife and colorful Japanese carp (koi) donated from private collections. In 2006, a labyrinth was installed by staff and volunteers. The ponds and dams located in the Gude Garden were repaired and restored to their original beauty and function in 2014 and a new Labyrinth was installed.
A new Rain Garden was installed in the fall of 2007 and planting was completed in the spring of 2008. It is located to the right of the entrance to the Conservatories in the area that was formerly called the Rock Garden. The rain garden was designed by Ann English of the Low Impact Development Center.
Rain Garden planting plan (pdf, 263KB)
For more information on Rain Gardens and Rainscapes visit the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Rainscapes.
This one-acre garden highlights the existing forested wetland with its bald cypress, canopy of tulip poplar, understory of spicebush, and groundcover of mayapple, fern, and skunk cabbage. A newly planted native plant garden expands the palette of plants, with approximately 124 species and cultivars of Maryland native plants.
A boardwalk running the length of the garden provides an observation deck and two overlook areas for garden viewing and also serves as an accessible pathway between Brookside Gardens and the Brookside Nature Center. It is located at the far-east end of the gardens across from the Conservatory Parking Lot.
The formal gardens are a series of distinct rooms that include the Perennial Garden, the Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and the Fragrance Garden. They are linked by a flagstone walk with a focused view up to the Wedding Gazebo.
The Perennial Garden consists of the walled space closest to the Conservatory building, with planted beds inside the perimeter wall and a pool in the center. The beds contain tree Wisterias, roses, Jasmine stephanense, Buddleia, and Prunus x cistena for structural interest behind the seasonal progression of Alliums and other herbaceous perennials, including Geraniums, Sedums, Panicum, Lespedeza, Calamagrostis, Anemones, Asters, Acanthus, and Agastache, among many others.
The plantings display a variety of plants that are adapted to hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. The color scheme consists mostly of cool tones and pastels that compliment the granite wall. In summer, the central pool is transformed by the addition of tropical water lilies and other aquatic plants.
The Yew Garden is a distinct room created within clipped yew hedges. The plantings are more varied than in the Perennial Garden, with annuals, tropicals, and other tender plants added in season for a mixed border or cottage garden impression. The color scheme includes more bright, bold colors to contrast against the dark background hedge.
Also called the Round Garden, the Maple Terrace best illustrates the idea of interplanting. The curved, raised beds come alive in early spring with a succession of flowering bulbs beginning with Eranthis, Galanthus, and Iris reticulata cultivars, and moving into summer with Triteleia (Brodiaea) ‘Queen Fabiola’. The groundcover of Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, or Blue Leadwort, covers the fading bulb foliage and flowers throughout the summer, finishing the season in scarlet brilliance, complimentary to the ‘Suminagashi’ Japanese maples. The bed encircles an intimate sitting area of benches accented by colorful containers of tropicals and annuals.
The Fragrance Garden displays plants which posses a fragrance at some time in their yearly growth cycle. The fragrance may reside in the leaves, stems, roots or flowers. Many bulbs and perennials are permanently displayed in the perimeter areas along with fragrant tress, shrubs, vines, and roses. The central beds change seasonally from mass plantings of bulbs and spring flowers to designs for the summer that showcase heat-tolerant fragrant plants including lotus cultivars.
Perennials in the permanent collection include many fragrant members of the mint family, Lamiaceae, the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), or celery family, Lily family members, as well as cultivars of Dianthus, Geranium, Phlox, Helianthus, Filipendula, Paeonia, Acorus, and others.
Beginning in 1976, Brookside Gardens sponsored several plant collecting trips to Japan and Korea to bring back plants of potential garden merit. Barry Yinger, a noted plantsman, amassed plant collections to evaluate by gathering plants in the wild and from nurseries. After the last trip in 1982, selected plants from the entire collection were sent out for formal observation by evaluators at approximately 10 test sites throughout North America. Those found to have superior garden merit, to be pest resistant, and to be suited to commercial production have been introduced into the trade.
Although the plant introduction program is completed, many of the plants from the program can be seen in plantings around the Visitors Center and elsewhere at Brookside Gardens. Below is a partial list of plants that Brookside Gardens has introduced.
A partial list of Brookside plant introductions: