WEEK Eight #EXPLORETHERESERVE: Gardens & Flowers of the Ag Reserve
Welcome to #explorethereserve week eight, the last one for 2020! The end of the year may seem to be an odd time to highlight gardens and flowers–after all, most plants lie dormant and the landscape is less than colorful. But even a winter garden and landscape hold important lessons for us–we wouldn’t expect a flower to bloom year round and we shouldn’t feel obligated to always be productive or busy. Slumbering nature reminds us to rest and to remember that all things pass; even the cold and dark winter will become a warm and sunny spring in time. Come explore the gardens and flowers of the Ag Reserve with me!
What is Explore the Reserve?
This community outreach project highlights weekly locations with ideas for getting off screens and heading outside to improve mental and physical health, explore our corner of MoCo, and provide inspiration for COVID-safe adventures in and near the Ag Reserve.
Click here to read more about #explorethereserve. Check out past #explorethereserve adventures linked at the bottom of this post.
Barnesville Gardens & Flowers
Drive past the church to the rear parking lot near the pavilion and follow the signs down the hill to the prayer garden. There are many large trees on the grounds and the prayer garden itself makes a meandering small loop with the Stations of the Cross, benches for resting, and a large gazebo at its center. The path surface is crushed red stone but it’s not terribly accessible due to the walk down the large hill. It’s a peaceful spot for contemplation and quiet.
Beallsville GARDENS & FLOWERS
Alden Farms houses David Therriault‘s amazing stone sculptures in an idyllic garden setting. Paths are natural surface with little to no grade. Check his website/social media for visitor info.
28 acres of grounds that include a meditation garden and a labyrinth. Paths and accessibility vary. Please contact Am Kolel to be sure your visit doesn’t coincide with an event.
boyds GARDENS & FLOWERS
Black Hill is one of the best local parks, with opportunities for hiking, boating, and learning about nature. The area around the Nature Center includes an aquatic garden and various themed gardens with a variety of plants. Certain paths are easily accessible and others more challenging. This is our family’s favorite local park.
This nursery offers unique evergreens and Japanese maples on a gorgeous farm that will soothe your spirit and delight your senses. Paths are natural surface and accessibility varies. Please check their website or social media for visitor info.
Dickerson GARDENS & FLOWERS
This beautiful family farm at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain grows numerous varieties of lavender and offers artisanal lavender products. Most of the farm is visited via natural surface paths so accessibility varies; they are working on a centrally located lavender garden for visitors who aren’t able to walk long or graded distances. NOTE: While currently closed to visitors, check out their online shop–I love their lip balm.
No matter the season, Sugarloaf Mountain is a magical place. Its popularity has exploded during the pandemic, so you may like to visit on off hours/days. Trails are rough surface, so accessibility is a challenge but there are many overlook and picnic spots that are not. In the spring and summer, mountain laurel and wildflowers emerge from its slopes.
Poolesville GARDENS & FLOWERS
Recently, this open space park became home to a native tree arboretum and a pollinator garden planted in the shape of a butterfly, thanks to a local Girl Scout project. The paths are paved and mostly level, so they are very accessible–also a great place for young kids learning to ride a bike or scooter.
Located in the center of historic Poolesville, this garden has been quietly resting for a few years; last spring a local Girl Scout decided to restore the garden as her project. It’s also adjacent to the lovely historic house and grounds of Locals Farm Market and cafe–look for a David Therriault stone sculpture nearby. Accessibility is via natural surface but is not a long distance.
All are welcome at the KPC Temple Grounds and Peace Park for a taste of Tibetan culture and to savor the serenity of nature. Paths on the temple grounds are mostly level and natural surface, a short distance from parking; trails in the Peace Park are rougher and accessed via a flight of stairs. Enjoy the wildflowers in the natural areas of the Peace Park. Read my previous Explore the Reserve post focused on KPC here.
The sunflower secret is out–the fields are sure to be packed in July during prime bloom season but McKee-Beshers is also home to wildflowers and aquatic plants. Paths are natural surface, mostly level, and some are a short distance from parking. Read my previous Explore the Reserve post focused on McKee-Beshers here.
At the corner of River Road and Elmer School Road, a hayfield bursts into beautiful blooms of milkweed around late June.
Don’t have space or optimal growing conditions at your home for a garden? Want to learn how to grow your own food in a supportive community space? All are welcome to join. The garden is accessed via a paved sidewalk. The garden grounds are a level organic surface. Check out the beautiful native plantings along the street fence line.
Another wonderful local Girl Scout project–this one in progress. When complete, the Rosary Walk will offer an area for prayer and contemplation on the church grounds adjacent to the parking lot.
Though not accessible to the public, the ground around the solar array is planted with a variety of wildflowers to attract and support pollinators. The solar array is adjacent to LM Stevens Park.
Seneca GARDENS & FLOWERS
This site on the C&O features Seneca Creek, a lockhouse, Seneca aqueduct, and the nearby historic Pooles Store. The accessibility varies here, depending on the condition of the gravel parking lot and towpath surface. There is a hill to access the towpath at Riley’s. During the spring, head upriver on the towpath to enjoy a carpet of wildflowers.
Ag reserve Flowers For You
There are a number of talented floral businesses based in the Ag Reserve. Though you can’t visit their gardens, you can take home a beautiful bouquet or order arrangements for a friend, family, or special occasion.
Gypsy Flower Farm features naturally and organically grown flowers and offers flower shares and bouquets and arrangements.
Sungold Flower Company offers a mix of sustainably and organically raised flowers with responsibly foraged elements for a look that is seasonally distinctive.
GARDENS & FLOWERS Just Outside the ag reserve
The Washington, DC area is home to numerous stunning gardens, including Brookside Gardens, Lilypons Water Gardens, the National Arboretum, Dumbarton Oaks, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and so many more! But since this blog series is focused primarily on Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve, here are a couple more suggestions that are close by.
Inside Seneca Creek State Park Button Farm is an example of living history from the 19th century US, when slavery dominated agriculture. Button Farm seeks to tell this story through its grounds, animals, plants, and Underground Railroad programming. Visitors can explore the museum garden and enslaved quarters truck garden to learn what crops would have been grown at this moment in history.
Glenstone Museum is one of my absolute favorite places to visit in the area. It melds art, nature, and landscape in innovative and engaging ways. There are accomodations for accessibility; their website shares details. The on-site restaurant and cafe are delicious as well. Check their website for ticketing and visitor info.
This sprawling park offers so many opportunities for recreation including yurt camping (on my to-do list!) and in the spring is home to beautiful wildflowers. The accessibility varies, depending on what you’d like to visit and do.
Once an impressive garden in what is now old-town Gaithersburg, the plants are now on site at Seneca Creek State Park. Visit in May and June to see thousands of lush peonies in bloom. Click here to view a historic panoramic photo of the original massive garden.
Now that the winter solstice has passed, our long, dark nights will begin to give way to longer days of light and warmth. We can dream of brighter days ahead, and if you’re anything like me, some of those dreams are sure to include flowers. Let’s hope 2021 is full of flowers for us all.
OPTIONS & IDEAS FOR WEEK eight #EXPLORETHERESERVE: Gardens & Flowers of the Ag Reserve
- Use a wildflower app or book to identify and appreciate what you see
- Bring a camera or sketchbook to document the flowers and plants
- Take a magnifying glass to examine flowers’ intricate structures
- Observe how bees, butterflies, and wildlife interact with the plants and flowers
- Consider volunteering at any of the parks or community gardens listed
- Plant your own pollinator-friendly garden
- Educate yourself about pesticide use
- Purchase several different varieties of honey from a local beekeeper and hold a honey tasting
DIG DEEPER INTO LOCAL HISTORY, NATURE, & CULTURE
- Bread and Beauty: A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve This wonderfully photographed cookbook captures not just the beauty and flavors of the Ag Reserve but its history and people too.
- Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, National Audubon Society Up your birding game with this Audubon guide.
- Field Guide to Eastern Region Wildflowers Let Audubon expand your knowledge of wildflowers
- A Year Across Maryland: A Week by Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region Highlights the best time to observe and experience various plants, animals, and experiences in the nature of Maryland.
(AFFILIATE MARKETING NOTICE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you purchase a book from any of the Amazon links above, I will earn a small commission fee.)
SUPPORT AG RESERVE LOCAL BUSINESSES
While you’re out and about, help support local businesses by stopping in for a snack or meal. Please check operating days and hours via business websites and social media. Many of these are small, family-run operations with funky opening hours/days. I recommend:
- Cafe 107 Grab a quick bite to eat or a coffee
- The Healthy Hub Healthy smoothies, energy teas, and light bites
- Mexican Grill Best Mexican food in MoCo
- Rocklands Farm Historic farm, vineyard, and great picnic spot
- Savage & Sons Farm This family’s farm store offers local meats, eggs, and food products, including local honey.
- Windridge Vineyards Vino and food trucks with a view
LET’S KEEP EXPLORING THE AG RESERVE
New adventures will be posted each Wednesday morning on the Taste Travel Teach website and linked via the Taste Travel Teach FB page.
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- Use the hashtag #explorethereserve to share your experiences/photos on social media to inspire others and build community.
- Suggestions for upcoming #explorethereserve adventures? Click on the Contact button here.
Thanks for reading and taking part in #explorethereserve. I hope you enjoyed learning, exploring, and discovering more about Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve.
I’m taking the next week off to enjoy Christmas and the holiday season with my family. See you in January 2021 for a new #explorethereserve adventure!
ABOUT TASTE TRAVEL TEACH & CHRISTINE RAI
- Click here to learn more about me and my credentials.
- Check out my shop for unique products with my creative flair (see image above, L)
- Contact me here about teaching a class, leading a tour, or speaking to your group.
- My current project: I’m finishing up my first book, a sunny guide for positive living featuring my vibrant multimedia art (see image above, R).
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Copyright Christine Rai, 2020