Brookside Gardens is More Appreciated than Ever


I come to praise a public garden in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. for helping thousands of locals get outdoors in nature, move their bodies and feel a little saner while staying covid-safe. It’s Brookside Gardens, a 50-acre county garden that’s kept its outdoors open all this year. 

As you can tell from this panoramic shot of their Visitors Center, they don’t skimp on color.

Brookside Gardens October 2020

My favorite spot in the fall is this line of ginkgo leaves at their purest yellow. 

Visitors at Brookside Gardens October 2020

Near the entrance is their annual display of mums, which normally is indoors but since being moved outdoors it’s more popular than ever. Photo ops galore!  

Brookside Gardens Self Station October 2020

The display includes a frame for portraits and two selfie stations where visitors could prop up their phones for the shot. 

Brookside Gardens October 2020The Full 2020 Report

I spoke with Ellen Hartranft, Visitors Services Coordinator for Brookside, for more details about how covid has affected the garden.

Sadly, their major holiday events – the Garden of Lights and the indoor railroad display – had to be cancelled.

The Visitors Center closed in March but reopened in mid-August (including rest rooms and the gift shop.) Despite its being closed for so long, with no rest rooms available, visitation this year has been up 75 percent over normal years!

I’m not surprised, hearing from so many of my friends that they’re visiting more than ever, and arranging get-togethers there with family and friends. Nobody’s back yard is as large and safe for socializing as Brookside’s 50 acres. Also, there’s no entrance fee, and parking is abundant.

Brookside Gardens October 2020

As a visitor myself – a visitor in the vulnerable age group – I appreciated that only one person is allowed in the rest room at a time. And only six people or family units are allowed in the Visitors Center at a time. To accomplish those safety measures, administrative staff and volunteers have been commandeered into doorman positions.   

Of course lots of things have gone virtual – both adult and children’s programming. But not everything. The spring plant sales were held online with curb-side pick-up. Friends of Brookside Gardens held their own plant sale – with record-breaking proceeds.

And the public has been able to hold their own small events there – weddings, memorials, and parties, all complying with the county’s 50-person limit, which includes staff and vendors. (Brookside reduced its event fees to be in line with the smaller event size.)

So kudos for everything Brookside does for the public, especially this year!

Now enjoy a few more scenes from late October.

Brookside Gardens October 2020

Brookside Gardens October 2020

Brookside Gardens October 2020

Brookside Gardens October 2020



  1. Public Gardens are really coming through with plantings and programming for reducing the angst around COVID and the elections. They are showing now WHY they are not just a feel-good luxury, but a necessity. I hope the general public keeps this in mind when the next round of tax-cuts to their local parks department budgets are threatened or when their favorite public gardens send them a fund-raising letter.

  2. I cannot say enough good things about Brookside. It’s a garden that allows those who may not visit botanical gardens or other private gardens to see excellent plants and crazy-gorgeous design. The Plant Collections Manager, Phil Normandy, is one of the very few plantspeople who answer your questions with an aim to making sure you understand – not merely to show off his knowledge base, which is extensive. Who knows how many horticultural careers he has inspired! For those who visit the Washington DC area and have a little time to explore, it is very much worth the trip. And, I can’t believe I’m sharing this, but the Wheaton Regional Library (super close by) has a used bookstore with an excellent garden section and silly prices. I definitely shouldn’t have shared that. -MW

  3. Nice garden to visit. Very nice. They have some great pollinator plants, so important in the fall. I’d love to see them lose the double bloom hardy mums, since they may continue this outdoor display. The single bloom mums are huge pollinator attractors and they need the nectar more than ever in October and November. They can educate the public about the difference. From my garden this week, nearby Brookside:

  4. My late husband and I visited Brookside a number of years ago, and loved it. It’s definitely on my list of places to go back to!


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