Set on twenty-five acres adjacent to Rock Creek Park, Hillwood’s gardens feature a diverse and fascinating array of herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees, offering something to see in every season. Right now is a good time to see the "bones" of the gardens, a wonderful montage of plant textures and colors only seen at this time of year. If it's chilly, take a moment to warm up in the greenhouse and see our orchid and tropical plant collections.
Highlights in the gardens:
- Full of buds, a slight rise in January’s temperatures have pushed some of the winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) to open. An early harbinger of spring, its bright yellow flowers bloom from January to March and contrast nicely with bright green, trailing stems. This mounded shrub can have a great effect planted above a wall where it will tumble down for an impressive show. See ours along the drive to the visitor’s center.
- Another plant of interest are the paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) in the western lunar bed. Their flowers buds are swelling and are quite noticeable from a distance. These deciduous shrubs from China have fragrant pale yellow flowers and leaves that are dark green above and grey-green beneath. Edgeworthia grows to six feet high and wide. Ours are relatively small yet but certainly worth a look.
- The Nellie Stevens holly (Ilex 'Nellie R. Stevens') at the cutting garden is still full of big reddish-orange berries. A great holly for fast growth and heat tolerance, this pyramidal tree can reach 15 to 25’ high. We have noticed some winter burn on its leaves and others across the area. We will just have to be patient and wait for the new leaves to come on.
Suspense is growing in the greenhouse for Orchid Month in March. Our orchids are putting up long flower spikes in anticipation. In the meantime, there's still lots to see including a bunch of orchids already in bloom.
Plants of note:
- The fringed star orchid (Epidendron ciliare) has small unique white and green flowers with fringed lips. A native to Puerto Rico and the western hemisphere tropics, it can be found growing amongst tree limbs and rock outcroppings. It is thought to be pollinated by a moth at night. Come check it out in the greenhouse.
- The Aliceara Marfitch ‘Howard’s Dream’ orchid has a long flower stalk of raspberry colored blooms. The unique, almost tie-dyed patterns on the petals make it worth seeing up close.
- The black jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor) is known for its foliage as much as its flower. Right now, you can see both. The striking, velvety, deep maroon leaves have pink veins that run down the length of the blade. Its small white flowers grow in clusters on upright stalks. The flowers can be long lasting even up to a month or more.
- Another great flower that can be overwintered as a houseplant is the Cape primrose (Streptocarpella saxorum). Its purplish-blue flowers, fuzzy textured foliage and small stature brings interest to the front of a container. It’s these same characteristics that makes it perfect for an indoor window sill. The Cape primrose is typically a very forgiving plant as long as it’s kept out of direct sun. It is flowering heavily in the greenhouse now.