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These Gorgeous Public Gardens May Still Be Open

The Washington Post’s Weekend Section Friday featured “Best Bets” that are all outdoors and include most of my favorite places in DC. They’re all free and OPEN, at least the outdoors part and at least for now.

But DON’T go when it’s crowded! Go back during an off-time, which would definitely be after the cherry blossom blooms have faded and the frenzy over them has passed.

Here are the 6 available outdoor places available even in a pandemic – and especially worth visiting especially during one. Just check their websites or Facebook pages before you go because things can change. (SEE UPDATES BELOW.)

Also check the Washington Gardener website, where editor Kathy Jentz is posting updates.

All the photos here were taken in April. See lots more photos of DC-area gardens in April and even more in May. They’re on DCGardens.com, a website that I created in 2013 to show off local public gardens by month, and to compile resource info for local gardeners.

Back to our current situation: I worry that if we crowd these spaces unsafely, the authorities may have to close them. When I visited the Arboretum Friday a staffer told me he’s hoping that they will close completely because it’s been so crowded.

The National Arboretum’s Magnolia Grove.  Easily just 15 minutes from Greenbelt.

UPDATE: CLOSED AS OF 3/22Hillwood Museum and Gardens usually charges an entrance fee; not now.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens – so accessible from Greenbelt – doesn’t have water lily blooms until summer but it’s a magical place in spring, too. Photo credit: NPS photo: M. Marquez.

UPDATE: CLOSED AS OF 3/21. The importance of Tudor Place is something I recently learned from my architectural history professor at the University of Maryland. The home was designed by William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol.

The Franciscan Monastery’s first floral peak is in April, when the tulips are blooming. It’s even more spectacular in May when the roses are at their peak. There are quiet, contemplative gardens there, too.

We learned today in the Post that the first person in DC to die from the coronavirus was the Monastery’s beloved John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, who ran the whole facility and did it so well. A friend of mine volunteered in his office for the last decade or so and they became good friends. I heard so much about him, I came to love Brother Sebastian, too.

The famous cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin are peaking this weekend, so they’re included in the Post’s “Best Bets,” but I passed on it myself. Then I heard that even at 7:30 a.m. Thursday it was crowded. Thankfully today, nearby streets have been closed, among other government actions needed to respond to citizen indifference.


But nearby, there are plenty of Smithsonian Gardens to enjoy, and they’re all open.

Also nearby and open are the outdoor gardens of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

I’m told that there’s one public rest room still open on or near the Mall – at the FDR Memorial. No more taking rest room access for granted.

Follow Susan Harris:
“Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com and direct the nonprofit Good Gardening Videos.org.”

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