Located on 50 acres of public display space, the Brookside Gardens is an award-winning recreational area within the Wheaton Regional Park. The gardens include distinct areas including the rose garden, the children's garden, the azalea garden, the formal garden, the Japanese style garden, the fragrance garden, and the trial garden. There are two conservatories on the grounds which are open year round. The Visitors Center features a horticultural reference library which is a popular destination for those researching botanical subjects. Best of all, there is no admission fee for the garden.
The Brookside Gardens opened in 1969 and celebrated four years of planning and work by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The original grounds of the gardens included the formal gardens leading to the Wedding Gazebo, the Azalea Walk, and the planting by the entrance of the gardens. At that time, the Conservatory was the home of office space, a library, a sub-tropical display house, and a glass house for smaller propogation. Originally, the gardens were about 25 acres. Over the next thirty years, the garden would more than double in size.
Currently, there is a 15 phase plan in development for the future of the gardens. The plan should take about a quarter century to complete. Funding for the renovations comes from private donations. The first phase of the plan includes the renewal of the main entrance area of the gardens, in an effort to create a welcoming space that is safe filled with artwork. The second phase will involve storm water management. Phase three includes additional structural work, and will allow for ornamental plantings to enhance the stretch of streams in the garden.
Currently, Brookside Gardens is 54 acres in size, 32 of which are cultivated gardens. They employ 29 full-time staff and 50 part-time staff, and enjoy the help of over 1000 volunteers. It is not uncommon for the garden to attract over 400,000 visitors per year. The goal of the garden is still to foster an appreciation for gardening and horticultural science through its plants, events, and learning opportunities.
The garden also offers fitness opportunities for visitors. The Heart Smart Trail encourages visitors to walk through the garden on one of several trails that are approximately one mile in length, follow a level surface, and track their distance with medallion markers every 1/10th mile.
The McCrillis Gardens is an area donated in 1978 and managed by Brookside Gardens. This is a shade garden featuring ornamental trees, shrubs, flowering bulbs, groundcover, and perennials. There is a pavilion and benches provided for those who would like to stroll through this colorful section of the garden and relax. Plan a visit to the garden for one of the annual special events, or on a weekend when children are in need of something to do and the family wants to be outside enjoying the weather. The holiday season is also a great time to visit the park and enjoy the light displays. Admission to the garden is free and it is open daily from 10:00 am until sunset year round.