Happy Public Gardens Day!


National Public Garden Day may be new to you – it's only in its second year – but it's bringing some much- deserved and -needed attention to the places most gardenblog readers already know and love.  And GardenRant's quite happy to help spread the love because we're fans.IMG_8457

First stop, the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C. for a media availability with our pal Paul James, who was hired to promote the cause by the folks at Rainbird – a company I'm happy to plug.

Shall we pause and conjure up captions for the uncomfortable-looking Paul here?  I nominate "If I grit my teeth will this stalker go away?"

But back to business.  Here's what Paul thinks about public gardens:  They've always wow'ed us and turned us on to plants and design, but these days they're also about sustainability and food-growing and cooking.  He pointed admiringly to the less than perfect lawn there at the USBG as a just one example of teaching and leading by example.  And he bemoans the undervisitation of public gardens and that's so true – even here in D.C. where they're free.

Now for some photos.  First, the Rose Garden looking the best I'd ever seen it (with the American Indian Museum in the distance) and it's nothing like the typical rose garden.  First, these babies get no spraying at all, something that's been achieved by the judicious ditching of any rose that suffers from disease here in the Mid-Atlantic Humidity Belt.  And it's not one of those boring rose-only displays but a real garden with perennials and groundcovers, too.

IMG_8462Next stop, the Ladew Gardens of Monkton, MD just north of Baltimore.  It's famous for its topiary but that's just the opening act in this 15-garden show. 



Ladew's Yellow Garden is my favorite in late April.

Here's more photos from my recent visit to Ladew and what I learned from the head gardener about their lawn care, composting and other smart practices employed by public gardens today.

Your Favorite Public Gardens, and How to Promote Then
I've shared two of my local favorites but there are lots more and I visit not just in season but throughout the year, even on Christmas Day.  But tell us about your favorites and why you support them.

And how about some ideas for making their programs and their utter gorgeousness better known?  I think they should do a little courting of their most adoring fans – gardenbloggers – and we'll happily spread the word.  Give us press passes to a function, or have a little event just for us.  We come cheap, so just coffee, donuts, and the chance to interview the staff would buy all sorts of promotion.  More ideas?


  1. “… even here in D.C. where they’re free.” – I’d change that to where MOST are free, Ladew as on example, has a nominal fee, but really the price is not the stumbling block. The problem is people are BUSY and a public garden visit gets squeezed in maybe once a year for Mother’s Day or to attend a wedding. What we need is to move that visit priority UP the long to-do list of people’s lives. Make it a “must do.” How? One way, offer events there that they cannot do elsewhere in crowded urban settings: outdoor yoga, kite festivals, movies on the lawn, etc.
    One flaw with many “public” gardens is that public transit does not go there (again, witness Ladew), so that makes them essentially not “green” and inaccessible to an audience they really want most to reach and educate. Gardens need to partner with their local govts to re-think how folks are able to access and use these public amenties. If folks cannot get there, you need to reach out and bring them there.

  2. The San Francisco Botanical garden, formally known as Strybing Arboretum is at the top of my list for many good reasons.
    It’s still free to enter and it’s location in the the Golden Gate park is fantastic ( next to the museum of art, the academy of sciences, the conservatory, great neighborhood restaurants and on the public transportation line )
    The collections are diversely wonderful. You can wander from the New World Cloud Forest to the Australian garden to the large cactus and succulent garden then hit the rose, biblical and display gardens… plus a lot more !.
    The Helen Crocker Horticultural library is located in the Botanical Garden so if you are in question about a plant you have an entire hort centric library to turn to . The library also has monthly art shows.
    And speaking of shows, there is almost never a month that goes by that there is not an event, class, society meeting or lecture happening on the ground of the Botanical Garden.
    It is the heart of the horticultural world here in Northern California.

  3. When you say public garden, I have memories of living in Victoria, Canada, where basically the whole city is a public garden. (My favorite bits were Glendale Garden, Playfair Park, Abkhazi and Government House.) Here in Boston I think that the Arnold Arboretum is tops. A public garden at its best should reflect the local flavors, and that what make these gardens so unique.

  4. If in NYC, check out Piet Oudolf designed Battery Park Gardens at bottom of Manhattan and wander up the west side towards Battery Park City. Intriguingly designed memorial to Irish immigrants.
    Also check out Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City for an excellent southern Rockies centered landscape of ideas. I learned to plant fall crocus amongst thyme and other low growing Mediterranean herbs: unusual take home message for this VT gardener!
    And yes, public gardens are becoming far more interesting than they used to be. I used to avoid them as high maintenance bland collections of plants, but no more.
    Also the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is another gem.

  5. Anyone nearby to little Rhody, please stop by Blithewold – the very best public garden in the state, says me. Mention Garden Rant and I’ll give you the dime tour!

  6. Hey there – I submitted one of your pictures to cuteoverload and they posted it. They link back to you so I hope you get lots of new visitors! 🙂

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