Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, (410) 634-2847, adkinsarboretum.org. This 400-acre sanctuary on the Eastern Shore is focused on preserving a huge collection of plants native to Maryland. Walk along the more than 5 miles worth of trails along streams, meadows, and gardens, and check out their more than 600 species of local plant life. And they've got tons of programs year-round, so check that out if you need some direction, as opposed to aimless nature-enjoyment.
Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenalian Ave., Wheaton, (301) 962-1400, montgomeryparks.org/brookside. A part of Wheaton Regional Park, this 50-acre garden has a ton of displays to check out, from aquatic gardens to a woodlands area, or, provided your allergies don't kick in at a moment's notice, a fragrance garden. And if you want learning along with your nature-gawking, check out the on-site horticultural reference library.
Chanticleer, 786 Church Road, Wayne, Pa., (610) 687-4163, chanticleergarden.org. It requires a trek up toward Philly, but this 35-acre garden features segments of orchard and beautiful landscaping, along with wooded areas of both native and Asian plants.
Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave., (410) 367-2217, cylburnassociation.org. Who knew you could check out 200 acres of nature right here in the city? From rose gardens to wildflowers and tree collections, it's good to know there's a place for those who want to hang out with the green stuff without shelling too much out to get there. And dogs are allowed!
Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 3100 Swann Drive in Druid Hill Park, (410) 396-0008, rawlingsconservatory.org. The Conservatory isn't a big place, only a half-acre of outdoor space, but with its array of greenhouses, it packs a punch. The greenhouses range from Mediterranean to African and even desert in theme and promise to have something beautiful in bloom year-round.
Dumbarton Oaks, 1703 32nd St. NW, Washington, D.C., (202) 339-6401, doaks.org. Designed in the early 1920s by landscape gardener Beatrix Ferrand, this research library-cum-botanical garden features lawns, gardens, and a mix of flowers and other plant life.
Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, (410) 557-9466, ladewgardens.com. Like many huge botanical gardens, Ladew was built by a wealthy benefactor. But the founder of this garden hung out with the likes of Cole Porter, Charlie Chaplin, and T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia). The gardens reflect the late Harvey Ladew's eccentricities with some pretty wild plant sculptures in addition to the traditional gardening and flower fare.
Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org. So you might need to make multiple visits with this one. Unless you plan to spend an entire day there (which might be a good idea, given the distance), you'll have a hard time taking in the more than 1,000 acres' worth of gardens, conservatories, and fountains.
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