Who says cherry blossoms get to steal the spring flower spotlight? There are plenty of stunning floral displays that will be blooming in D.C. this upcoming season! While the cherry blossoms grab all the attention, there's an abundance of spring flowers that often get overlooked—most of which can be found in grand displays across our very own city!
Hopefully, after getting your fill of the cherry blossoms, you’ll be inspired to learn more about the other plant life blooming around our nation’s capital. Daffodils, tulips, redbuds, and more are just waiting to be discovered.
Enid A. Haupt Garden
The Smithsonian Institution building is the oldest building on the National Mall and it certainly looks the part, a giant gothic castle in red sandstone around which all the other buildings and museums were established. This architectural wonder also harbors the Enid A. Haupt Garden, one of D.C.’s best-kept secrets. The garden is actually comprised of three unique sections: the Parterre, the Moongate Garden, and the Fountain Garden, which are designed to bring together the cultures and architecture of the surrounding museums and buildings. Spring in the Moongate Garden with its weeping cherry tree and pink granite gates is simply breathtaking
A Victorian parterre is at the center of the garden with Jean Paul Carlhian's Moongate Garden on one side and the Fountain Garden on the other. The Moongate, inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, was designed as an extension of the Sackler Gallery of Art, and the Fountain Garden, which references the gardens of the Alhambra palace in Spain, connects to the Museum of African Art. All three gardens form the roof of the building that houses these museum’s extensive collections.
Step through the elaborate iron gates on either side of the castle and time seems to slow as you follow any number of brick pathways through the four-acre quadrangle. This garden seems very secluded from the outside world but extremely welcoming once you are within its walls, with endless benches, tables, and areas for gathering.
U.S. National Arboretum
The Arboretum has so much to offer year-round on its acres of land just outside the city, but there is nothing quite like the full azalea experience around the end of April. The azalea gardens are spread out all over the slopes of Mount Hamilton, varying from the orderly oasis of the Morrison Garden to the riot of colors spilling down the hillsides carved out with meandering paths that make up the Glen Dale azalea hillside. The blooming of the azaleas at the arboretum is a full immersive floral experience that rewards the curious garden enthusiast and nature photographer alike with pathways all over the hillsides allowing you to admire the azaleas from many different perspectives.
On a quiet (weekday) afternoon, you can sit and soak in the beauty of the tranquil Lee Garden next to a small pond or climb the steps to the enchanting brick-walled Morrison garden with its tidy boxwood hedges framing the flowers perfectly around a small fountain. If the crowds with loud children crash the calm, there are any number of paths to duck through tunnels of color to more secluded areas away from the masses. Mind you, these gardens are only a fraction of what can be found at the US National Arboretum, but at peak bloom, the azaleas deserve all the attention! You'll also find the National Bonsai Museum here, a wonderful little museum with an amazing horticultural collection includes 150 miniature specimens, lovingly doted on by an expert bonsai staff.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Hidden deep in a northeast DC neighborhood is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Spring brings warmer temperatures and signals spring flower blooms, like Daffodils, and Cherry blossom bloom at the entrance around mid to early April. When the flowers or the heat become too much, you can take the boardwalk through the trees into the preserved tidal marsh, apparently, the only one left in the city. The park is worth visiting other times of the year as well: one spring I found the ponds devoid of lotus flowers but surrounded by beautiful yellow irises. Also, make sure to explore the area hidden behind the visitor center where there are several pools of ancient and extremely rare water lilies.
This small garden, just steps away from the Tidal Basin but often overlooked, packs a major punch every spring when 10,000 tulips burst on the scene and give the cherries a little competition with their wild colors and showy petals. This garden is one that you stumble upon accidentally when visiting the cherry blossoms or seen as a blur of color through a car window passing on Independence Avenue. Although the garden is also planted with annuals in the summer and chrysanthemums in the fall, the garden is most famous for its tulips and often referred to as the Tulip Library.
Originally planted in 1969 as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s Capital Beautification Project, the Floral Library is a large oval-shaped garden consisting of 93 flower beds with grassy paths crossing in-between. The garden was based around the concept of putting “masses of flowers where masses pass,” making the grounds of DC more appealing and engaging. The library theme is explained by the use of a numbered catalog and map which lists each of the unique varieties of flowers in each bed for easy identification. In order to achieve the impressive sight of hundreds of tulips in beautiful uniformity, new bulbs are flown in from the Netherlands each year to insure similar heights and blooming time.
The Franciscan Monastery
When you come to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, you won't believe you're still in DC city limits. It's a place like no other for architecture and garden lovers. The monks and volunteers there have cultivated acres of beautiful gardens that are a quiet place for a stroll, prayer, or meditation. The gardens are populated with crypts and catacombs, sculptures, grottos, altars, and a chapel. Winding, flower-edged pathways beckon leisurely strolling. But the most relaxing spot is hands-down the nearby cloisters, which enclose a formal rose garden with benches ideal for quiet contemplation. The tiny Portiuncula Church here replicates St. Francis’s original church in Italy. Make sure to check out the sanctuary inside while you're there, too--lots of beautiful, indoor art to see.
Hillwood Estate is an impressive Georgian-style mansion that was the former home of wealthy businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post and houses her collection of French and Russian decorative art. While most visitors might focus their attentions on the mansion and its Fabergé eggs, don't miss your chance to explore the many themed gardens that surround the residence. There was plenty to see including an extensive greenhouse, French and Japanese gardens, ambling pathways, a rose garden, and even a putting green.
Curious? There's more!
Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it