Set on twenty-five acres adjacent to Rock Creek Park, Hillwood’s gardens feature a diverse and fascinating array of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, offering something to see in every season.
Today's highlights in the gardens:
- Seasonal color was an integral part of the gardens for Marjorie Merriweather Post. The beds bordering the Lunar Lawn were always full of summer annuals. This year we have turned up the heat with an orange and red theme. Here you will find Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’, Coleus ‘Inferno’, Canna ‘Cannova Bronze Leaf Orange’, two types of celosia and Cordyline ‘Red Star’ behind an edging of Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Orange and Red’. This is just part of the nearly ten thousand flowers and tropicals planted in May coming on strong now.
- July is Japanese-style garden month and the water lilies are in bloom. There are many different species in the world, known for their large, oval green leaves and slightly fragrant blooms that float above the water. The flowers come in many shades: pink, blue, purple, pure white and even yellow but ours are a beautiful coral pink color. Nymphaea odorata is the common North American white water lily that is often seen in the wild.
- The cutting garden is really outstanding and one plant of interest is the white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora). White, flat-topped flowers are massed above ferny foliage. This summer annual grows to two feet tall and reseeds heavily so one plant is all you need to eventually fill your garden.
- As you walk to the Adirondack from the Dacha you may notice the Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis var. pumila) blooming along the edge of the path. This shade tolerant perennial stays small, only reaching about a foot tall. The foliage is lacy and makes a wonderful ground cover. The pink flower plumes are an added bonus and provide interest even when faded. It blooms late for an astible and is drought tolerant once established.
Plants of note in the greenhouse:
- The cockle shell orchids (Encyclia radiata) are in bloom and you might smell them before you see them! These small orchids native to Mexico have a wonderful, sweet fragrance that will fill the western orchid house. They also feature yellow flowers with pink striped lips that appear to be upside down. With the lip being at the top of the plant, it looks a bit like a cockle shell, hence the common name.
- There is another unique orchid in bloom in the cymbidium house. Masdevallia Redwing x ayabacana hardly looks like an orchid and has narrow hot pink flowers with long pointy yellow sepals. The genus Masdevallia contains over 300 species, many of them native to the high elevations from Mexico to Venezuela. It is best grown in cool conditions with ample water and humidity.
- Throughout the greenhouses are quite a few bromeliads, members of the plant family Bromeliaceae. A particularly nice specimen is flowering in the cymbidium house. Long flat leaves that are green above and purple below give rise to fiery inflorescences that are tipped in blue. Most bromeliads come from tropical areas of the Americas and are kept as houseplants in the DC metro area. There is a wide selection of cultivars for different indoor lighting environments but few will survive being overwatered.