Things to Do

Lush Gardens to Tour Around DC This Spring and Summer

Flowers, fountains, and trees—oh my!

Photograph by Erik Kvalsvik/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

Bright yellow daffodils, purple hyacinth, and pink tulips have been blooming all throughout the DC area, and even more blooms are on the way as the city continues to wake up from its wintry slumber. Whether you join a docent for a tour or explore on your own, here are seven gardens—plus some residential neighborhoods—to stroll through this spring and summer:


Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

4155 Linnean Ave., NW

Photograph by Erik Kvalsvik/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

Thirteen acres of manicured gardens decorate the sprawling but secluded Hillwood Estate, which was the pride of Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Known for her lavish Washington parties and teas, Post envisioned the gardens as “outdoor rooms,” each one with a different theme. Low plantings and symmetrical footpaths line the formal French parterre garden, while iris, phlox, and other blooms often fill the “cutting garden,” used to supply the estate with fresh cut bouquets. Starting on April 9, the estate’s horticulturist Jessica Bonilla will lead spring garden tours for visitors. 

Cost: $18 suggested donation.


Enid A. Haupt Garden

1050 Independence Ave., SW

Photograph by Hannele Lahti/Smithsonian Gardens.

Those who wander behind the Mall’s Smithsonian Castle stumble upon the enchanting Enid A. Haupt Garden, known for its blooming saucer and tulip magnolias and historical cast-iron garden benches. At the heart of the grounds is the French-style Parterre, an ornamental garden filled with symmetrically planted flowers, such as tulips. Nearby is the tranquil Moongate Garden whose design was inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, and features a circular pool of water. Next to the entrance of the National Museum of African Art, is the Fountain Garden, a Persian and Islamic style garden featuring a central fountain and water channels. Beginning in June, the gardens will offer weekly tours each Wednesday at 10 AM.

Cost: Free.


Brookside Gardens

1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton

Photograph courtesy of Montgomery Parks, M-NCPPC.

You can find 50,000 daffodils at this 50-acre botanical oasis, which was once featured in Yelp’s “Top 25 Gardens in North America.” Explore the many distinct areas within Brookside, including the trial garden (home to 10,000 spring flowering bulbs), an aquatic garden, the butterfly garden, a rose garden, and a Japanese-style garden, as well as more formal gardens, including a perennial garden, a yew garden, a fragrance garden, and more. Enjoy bright tulips, viburnums, and redbuds this time of year, followed by azaleas and wisteria. And don’t forget to stop by the glass-covered conservatories housing a collection of tropical plants too. Different themed tours are offered throughout spring and summer, including a rose garden and maple terrace tour in April; an azalea and rhododendron tour in early May; and a pollinator meadow tour in June.

Cost: Free.


Green Spring Gardens Park

4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria

Photograph courtesy of Tuan Pham/Green Spring Gardens.

The grounds at this national historic site are home to more than 20 thematic displays, including a rock garden, a Virginia native plant garden, an edible garden, a wildlife garden, and more—all serving as an outdoor classroom and inspiration for home gardeners. The park also features a nationally recognized Witch Hazel collection, which contains more than 200 specimens, a greenhouse, two gift shops, and a horticultural reference library. As a bonus, the park is one of the few public gardens that allows leashed dogs on the grounds. Check here for upcoming garden talks, events, and tours.

Cost: Free.


Dumbarton Oaks

1703 32nd St., NW

Wisteria overhangs the sides of the Urn Terrace in April 2017. Photograph by Spencer Lenfield/Dumbarton Oaks.

After purchasing the 53-acre hilltop estate more than a century ago, art collectors Robert and Mildred Bliss hired Beatrix Farrand, the “mother of landscape architecture,” who helped plan “every garden detail, each terrace, bench, urn, and border,” according to the estate’s website. Visit the Rose Garden for approximately 900 roses in a variety of colors or the Fountain Terrace for antique water fixtures and tulips. As you wander the estate’s gardens, keep your eyes open for blooming spring starflower, grape hyacinth, and tulips this time of year. First come, first served tours are available on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 2:10 PM.

Cost: The gardens require a $11 day pass, though the museum is free.


Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna

Photograph by Tom Stovall/DC Gardens/Flickr.

Flowering cherry trees, lenten rose, and Potomac Valley native wildflowers fill these botanical gardens with color in April, followed by azaleas, rhododendron, and flowering plums in May. Throughout the 95-acre plot, much of which was donated to NOVA Parks in 1980, you’ll find three lakes, three gazebos, and a Korean Bell pavilion featuring a three ton bell, among other points of interest. There are also three different native plant collections, including the Virginia native Tree collection, the Virginia Native Wetland collection, and the Potomac Valley collection, filled with flora of the Potomac River basin. Join the park’s recurring Just a Walk tour, for a guided one-hour walk that encourages quiet contemplation.

Cost: $8 for adults aged 18-54, $4 for adults over 55 and children aged 4-17.


Franciscan Monastery

1400 Quincy St., NE

Photograph courtesy of the Franciscan Monastery.

Learn about the lush gardens of Northeast DC’s Franciscan Monastery as well as the friars who designed them during free weekly tours of the monastery’s grounds, starting in April. The tours take visitors through a formal upper garden, filled with roses and tulips; a freer and more natural lower garden; as well as the property’s century-old greenhouse, vegetable garden, and bee apiaries. In front of the church, the open-air rosary portico surrounds the grounds and features the Hail Mary in 150 languages. Visitors can also tour the gardens, which are open daily, on their own.

Cost: Free, but donations are welcome.


Residential Garden Tours

Multiple locations.

Photograph by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels.

You don’t have to visit a professionally manicured space to see bountiful garden blooms. Talented home gardeners live all around us. Feel inspired by their handicraft by joining one of the area’s neighborhood garden tours:

Cost: Varies.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor