by Marie Mims Butler
Hello. My name is Marie, and I am a GardenComm Region Crasher. Social meetings, connect meetings, regional meetings, and national symposiums. I crave the adventure, companionship, and inspiration that meeting with other GardenComm members delivers. In May, Region 2 Director Kathy Jentz lured me out of Region 4 to Maryland with a tantalizing blog post.
Here was a chance to venture behind the gorgeous scenery in gardens and garden centers. The promise of fresh, regional foods shared with fellow garden communicators sealed the deal for me. Road trip!
To ensure a fresh start for the day, I drove up from southeastern Virginia on Thursday. Happy hour “Up on the Roof” of my Bethesda hotel eased the tension of driving through tornado warnings and I-495 traffic. Cool breezes, rosy sunset, and the softest outline of the mountains in the distance. Ahhh…
For the first time ever, I hauled myself out of bed for an early morning photo shoot. McCrillis Gardens was worth the wake up. This 5-acre, naturalistic garden is truly a hidden gem in a residential area in Bethesda. Once a private residence of a well-connected plant collector, it is now under the auspices of Brookside Gardens and the Montgomery County park system. The promise of seeing azaleas is not particularly special to a Virginian, but the first picture I took was of an azalea. I’ll admit I’m a “purdy flower” person. At McCrillis, the woody plants (trees and shrubs) had me gasping and “Oh wow”-ing at every turn in a path. My favorite? Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’- the pagoda dogwood. Standing like white lace against the sky, it could be a wedding venue all by itself. Head gardener, Nancy Woods, eagerly led us on a plant-centric tour and even sent us a thank you for visiting. McCrillis is a small garden with a big, green heart.
For those who can properly program a GPS (which lets me out), our next destination was a mere 20 minutes, but another world, away. Glenstone is in the heart of mega rich Potomac, MD. The private residence/art museum is available to visit by reservation, only. According to their website, “Glenstone is a place that seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape into a serene and contemplative environment.” Amen to that! Our own tour member, Susan Harris has expressed the story our Glenstone tour far better than I can on the blog Garden Rant.
In the midst of modern elegance blending seamlessly into the created, natural setting, I found myself puzzling over the giant monkey head that crowned the property. (My take on art can be rather shallow.) I came to learn that Split-rocker is not a giant monkey head, but a split image of a child’s rocking pony and rocking dinosaur. Artist Jeff Koons was expressing the split in his family as he and his wife divorced. Split-rocker towers 37’ and is planted with over 24,000 plugs of annual flowers and grasses! I was stunned to hear it had been on display in NY City and Versailles. So much for my big monkey head assessment. For those who would like more visual insights into Glenstone, YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, CBS, and others have videos online. Best of all, make a reservation and experience the art that is Glenstone in person.
Our next destination, another accurately programmed GPS 20 minutes away, was the fabulous new neighborhood rising from an old shopping mall site, Pike & Rose. Offices, retail spaces and living spaces are combined with a tremendous sense of environmental responsibility. Green roofs are mandatory! Our group was treated to a rare tour of Up Top Acres’ 17,000 square foot farm on the sixth floor of the Pallas building. Rare, because climbing a very steep ladder was required to reach the garden. Gardener Sara Servin enthusiastically described the challenges and rewards of growing vegetable in urban settings. For instance, staking tomatoes is a problem on a rooftop, so they are grown inground at their Navy Yard location. Litter is another rooftop issue. Most recently, old CDs have been found all over the garden. ???. Oh the story those could tell…
With so much focus on growing fresh produce, our lunch from Sweetgreen was deliciously appropriate. We gathered our preselected salads served in compostable bowls and found seats in a shady spot in one of many gathering spaces designed into the Pike & Rose community.
It’s amazing what can be achieved when conscience, design, and investment blend in harmony.
Leaving the urban for the rural, we headed to Seneca Creek State Park to see the last of the blooms in the Schwartz Peony Garden. In 1915, fascination became an obsession for real estate broker Edward Schwartz. His collection led to founding a nursery specializing in peonies. When Edward P. Schwartz’s property was sold after his death, a fraction of his collection wound up in Seneca Creek Park. A sampling of his varieties has been arranged in neat, volunteer-tended, rows. The rest have gone feral in the adjoining field. It’s almost surreal to see peonies popping up at random in a field of grasses and weeds. What a magnificent sight Mr. Schwartz’s original plantings must have been. As we prepared to leave, treats awaited us in the parking area. Raffle prizes were awarded, and the generous gifts of elephant ears and agapanthus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs were handed out. Thank you, generous donors!
On to Susanna Farm Nursery in Boyds, MD where fantasies of Japanese maples and conifers come to life. Attendees took advantage of the opportunity to shop for themselves or their clients, observe the specimen forms of plants they already have, add to their photo libraries, and recharge their cell phones. I saw several stunning Japanese maples from Susanna Farms when I visited Brookside Gardens the following day. Definitive right plant in the right place.
As temperatures soared, Lilypons Water Gardens offered refreshing views andchampagne punch. Whenever I think of water gardening, Lilypons is my first resource for aquatic plants and water garden supplies. Now I will remember them as thoughtful hosts in a beautifully tranquil setting as well.
To conclude our whirlwind day, the remaining, hungry souls gathered at locally owned May’s Restaurant in Frederick, MD. Cold beverages, witty conversation, and fresh seafood were enjoyed by all. (Well, almost all. Louise had meatloaf.) To those who were driving home that night, safe travels were wished while more shopping and sightseeing tips were passed along to those, like me, who were staying overnight before heading out.
GardenComm offers me irresistible travel opportunities that I often pair with visits to friends, family, and even more gardens. I like to expand the experience! Perhaps it’s time you joined me in Region Crashing. We can form our own support group, Region Crashers Anonymous, and encourage each other to jump those boundaries and boldly go where few GardenComm members have gone before. Are you with me?
Meet the Author
Marie Mims Butler is a GardenComm Region 4 Director, speaker, and gardening enthusiast. Residing in Cheaspeake, VA, Marie is ready to travel at the jingle of a keyring. Want to share tales? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.