Droplets of rain were just beginning to fall out of the sky when I arrived at Brookside Gardens on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, the visitor center provided refuge. The last time I was at this beautiful public garden in Wheaton, Md. was to visit their dahlia flower sale, but I also ran into plenty of joggers, power walkers and adults with prams and a rambunctious five-year-old (or two.) I’m not a curmudgeon by any means, but there are times when you just want to enjoy a lovely green space and all its lovely plants without squealing kids or neon orange running shorts competing for my attention. Going to Brookside, late afternoon on a weekday was a genius move on my part! Why did I not think of this sooner?
Even before the drizzle had stopped fully, I was impatient to venture out for my little nature walk. The air was damp; misty almost, but lent itself well to the serene atmosphere I was looking to enjoy. The garden quivered with a life and vibrance I’d only witnessed one other time at Fallingwater. Yes, it’s springtime — but somehow I didn’t think this joie de vivre would have been quite as apparent without the rain.
Like the typical city person, always rushing off to one place or another, I had just about a half hour for a nice stroll and chose to go to the south end of the garden. I’d barely reached the path towards the Labyrinth (a walking meditation ring) and the Japanese Tea House, when frenzied sounds of throaty honking filled the air. Geese waddled about on the grass in pairs, keeping up the cacophony as they launched themselves into the nearby pond. Bees flitted from flower to flower; a jogger or two bounced along the path.
Besides that, the park was quite empty. It was the perfect moment to go sit in the Japanese Tea House (a wood structure built over the water) and watch the geese float by while daydreaming about upcoming lazy summer weekends. It was the perfect opportunity to visit the Reflection Terrace, a stone memorial built to remember the D.C. sniper victims and really contemplate the fragility of life. And it was the perfect time for a photographer to capture the garden’s beauty without having to accommodate crowds.
But I did have to watch out for those geese. With few humans around, they were all over the landscape and didn’t hesitate to come scuttling after you, wings flapping and honking menacingly if you upset them. “Be careful with those guys,” I said to three exuberant children who looked tempted to chase after a pair of waterfowl and their little goslings. Sure enough, when the little girl stepped too close for Mama Goose’s comfort, she opened her mouth to let out a threatening hiss. Dad followed her example.
The children ran off. Although Mama Goose kept a beady eye on me, she wasn’t attacking, so I lingered just to grab a couple more snapshots. But my half hour was up. It was time to go back to weekday reality.
1800 Glenallan Ave.
Wheaton, MD 20902
The grounds of Brookside Gardens are open every day of the year.
Gardens: Sunrise to Sunset.
Visitors Center: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Conservatories: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.