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:
- Hillwood’s gardens were designed to have wonderful autumn interest and there are still beautiful pockets of fall color to see. One area not to be missed are the dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in the motor court. These majestic deciduous conifers are turning a wonderful orange brown and light up the space. It’s hard to believe these were only five feet tall in 1960.
- Another area to visit is the French parterre where the Japanese maples (Acer japonica) behind the statue of Diana are at peak color. This is a great example of the variety in fall color found in this species where one is a dark red, another a clear red and another orange. Japanese maples come in a wide variety of sizes as well with dwarf trees maturing to only eight feet tall while standard trees may reach more than thirty.
- Another spot not to miss are the red maples (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’) near the Mid-Century Master exhibition in the Adirondack Building. The ‘October Glory’ cultivar is living up to its reputation as an exceptional fall color performer with beautiful bright red leaves. The specific epithet rubrum means red and this color is also evident in the flowers, fruit, buds and leaf stems. Acer rubrum is medium sized tree native to eastern North America.
- It’s not only the leaves making an impact. Out at the Four Seasons Overlook, the common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is also in bloom. Typically multi-stemmed, this small native tree puts out flowers in autumn at the same time as its leaves are falling. The fragrant flowers hug the branch and are starburst-like with thin, yellow petals. In certain lighting, the flowers make the whole tree glow.
Plants of note in the greenhouse:
- The glory flower (Tibouchina heteromalla) is making quite the statement in the entrance house. Spikes of purple flowers reach nearly seven feet in the air. The plant’s big fuzzy leaves are also quite unique and have a velvety silver look. In an outdoor setting, the leaves can turn a bit orange towards fall. This Brazilian native needs to stay indoors for the winter in the DC area but has become quite popular in Florida.
- There are quite a few interesting orchids in bloom. One really prolific bloomer is the hybrid Zygonisia Maui Melody ‘Indigo’ that has beautiful purple flowers with a white center. The color of the lip is opposite with purple edged in white. This Zygonisia has South American origins and likes ample moisture with good drainage.
- The hay-scented orchid (Dendrochilum glumaceum) is also flowering. This Southeast Asian native produces multiple stems of tiny white flowers that bloom in profusion. It is a very nice compact plant that can resent being repotted. Take time to stop and smell this orchid… it does smell a bit like hay.