US National Arboretum 3501 New York Avenue N.E. Washington D.C. (202) 245-2726
The National Arboretum is home to many wonderful trees and plants, and contains an extensive collection of trees, ferns, spring ephemerals, and wildflowers at “Fern Valley”, a naturalized stream garden. Plants are best viewed in the early spring when spring bulbs are blooming. This is an excellent place to view trees and plants that have achieved their mature size.
National Zoo 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. (202) 673-4717
The zoo has beefed up their flora and fauna exhibits to offer many naturalized plantings throughout the park. Specialized gardens include a Native American garden, African American Garden, organic vegetable plot, and butterfly gardens. Many native and exotic plants are displayed throughout the park in settings and combinations that are sure to provide inspiration for the home garden.
Brookside Gardens Glenallan Avenue Wheaton, Maryland (301) 949-8230
Brookside Gardens offers an extensive display of azaleas, including many native selections for consideration in the home garden. The garden combines many native trees and plants with exotic species. Best viewed in the spring. Brookside offers an excellent horticultural library, lectures. and garden tours.
London Town Publik House Londontown Road Edgewater, Maryland (410) 222-1919
Open March through November, London Town Publik House contains an eight acre forest garden that combines native and exotic trees and plants. Theme gardens include: a meditation garden, native azalea trail, winter garden, and wildflower walk.
Audubon Naturalist Society Headquarters at Woodend 8940 Jones Mill Road Chevy Chase, Maryland 20015 (301) 652-9188
Originally a traditional Georgian mansion and formal gardens, Woodend has been “made over” into a natural landscape and nature center. Nature trails highlight many excellent native trees and plants, while wildflowers and gardens to attract wildlife are exhibited in individual demonstration gardens. Nature and conservation lectures and demonstrations are regularly offered.
Green Spring Gardens Park 4604 Green Spring Road Alexandria, Virginia (703) 642-5173
Home of many beautiful gardens, Green Spring offers a woodland trail with many native trees and plants. Many demonstration gardens are offered including townhouse gardens, a moisture loving “swale” garden, rock, herb, rose, perennial, and water conserving gardens. The new education facility offers a new library, lectures, guided tours, and extensive horticultural information.
Laurel Ridge Conservation Education Center National Wildlife Federation 8925 Leesburg Pike Vienna, Virginia (703) 790-4437
Those who would like to draw wildlife to their backyard will benefit from the wildlife demonstration garden located to the side of the main building at Laurel Ridge. The backyard demonstration garden offers many fine trees, shrubs, and native plants as well as a large water garden that would be suitable in any residential setting. Further along, the Mountain Laurel Trail is a woodland nature trail that highlights many native trees, plants, and wildlife in their natural setting. The trail is paved and handicapped accessible.
Meadowlark Garden Regional Park 1624 Beulah Road Vienna, Virginia (703) 255-3631
Originally a farm, the park is now home to an extensive public garden that includes many naturalized gardens and native plants. Self guided trails lead visitors through herb, butterfly, water-side, woodland, and collector gardens of ornamental grasses, daylilies, peonies, iris, daffodils, and other plants.
These are just a few of many public gardens in the Washington metropolitan area. Aside from public display gardens, there are many other “natural habitats” where native plants can be viewed such as the bluebell walk at Bull Run Regional Park, and the nature trails in Rock Creek Park.
When viewing native plants, it’s best to acquire a good field guide that contains pictures so you can identify the flora you see as you explore the vegetation around you. The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (Eastern Region) is an excellent resource guide for beginners.
Whether you decide to convert the entire yard over to a nature habitat garden or just enjoy native flora and fauna on weekend hikes, you will enjoy the endemic beauty of plants that were here before the first settlers set foot on our soil. Nature and native plants are all around you, and there really is no place like home for creating a less demanding, more fulfilling garden sanctuary! Happy gardening!