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Day Trip: Ladew Topiary Gardens

June 1, 2011

You know it’s summer when it stays light until nearly 9 p.m.

You know it’s summer when banana soft serve sounds like a good dinner.

You know it’s summer when just walking from your house to Metro gives you a lovely ‘glow’ that makes you look like a bedraggled, sticky, tired marathoner.

You know it’s summer when Saturday = day trip.

Yes, summer is here — at least in spirit — and that means it’s time to go day tripping again. There’s nothing I like more than getting IN to my car and OUT of the city, especially when it’s to visit someplace new. Among last year’s day-tripping adventures: Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon and Monticello <– just looking at the photos from that one makes me yearn for fall — what a perfect day!

Can you tell I’m a history nerd?

When my mom suggested driving up to Ladew Topiary Gardens, north of Baltimore, I said ‘sure.’ I don’t know much about flowers — there are about 5 I can name upon sight — but I’m always up for a road trip and exploring a part of Maryland I know nothing about.

And so I put on a floral sundress (to blend in with my surroundings, natch)

and headed north to Ladew Gardens, named ‘the most outstanding topiary garden in America’ by The Garden Club of America. It was certainly the most outstanding topiary garden I’ve ever seen. Also the only one, but I’m sure the Garden Club knows what it’s talking about.

Sure enough, bushes (shrubs? hedges?) were shaped as all different animals and objects.

The fox hunt topiary — the top photo in this post — is Ladew Gardens’ most famous attraction and was actually really cool to see up-close. The rest, well, I guess it’s interesting. Seems like an expensive hobby for Mr. Ladew, a ‘confirmed bachelor’ (ahem) who lived in this giant house alone and crafted the entire garden himself (with a team of landscapers and gardeners doing the dirty work).

I don’t know what all of these flowers are but I do know that each and every one was absolutely gorgeous. From a garden ‘room’ filled with irises to one with nothing but yellow plants, it was a pretty colorful, impressive sight.

I wouldn’t mind a cozy reading nook like this in my dream backyard…

along with a room, nestled amid the garden devoted solely to drinking tea…

but since I don’t have even a patch of grass to my name, I’ll just have to enjoy other people’s outdoor spaces.

As much as I love being an urbanite, there’s also a part of me that would love to wake up every morning to this view:

And since no day trip is complete without a meal, let’s talk lunch. The converted barn at Ladew Gardens is now a cafe serving sandwiches, salad and soup. As tempting as The Harvey (Mr. Ladew’s favorite sandwich! Peanut butter and bacon served on fresh white bread) was, I opted for a veggie wrap (Lettuce, tomato, cucumber and muenster cheese with an avocado spread) and a side of tomato basil soup.

Do me a favor and don’t order this if you visit the Gardens. The sandwich was teeny-tiny and not very filling, while the soup tasted like it came straight from a jar of Prego pasta sauce.

In the spirit of fairness, I’ll tell you that my mom said her chicken salad sandwich (homemade Chicken Salad made with white meat chicken, apples, grapes, and walnuts, served on a fresh croissant) was excellent so maybe I just ordered the wrong thing.

Mediocre cafe, excellent gardens. If you’re looking for an outdoor day trip that smells nice in the DC area, Ladew Topiary Gardens is a good bet.

What’s your favorite kind of day trip? Outdoor adventure? An amusement park? Faraway, fabulous outlet malls?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 9:28 am

    I want to go here! I’m moving to Maryland from Pennsylvania on Friday so any posts like this of cool places to go are super helpful.

    • June 1, 2011 9:35 am

      You came to the right blog! 😉 But seriously, where in MD are you moving? I’d love to pass on any local recc’s or meet up. 🙂

      • June 1, 2011 10:05 am

        Yay! I’m moving to Germantown, MD and I’ll be working in Bethesda. I’d love to meet up, I won’t know many people in the area.

  2. June 1, 2011 9:53 am

    Stunning gardens! I love the first picture with the topiaries that look like little dogs and the picture of the vase with the face. Too precious! I never knew these gardens existed; I would love to check them out one day.

  3. lowandbhold permalink
    June 1, 2011 11:49 am

    Thank you for these posts, I’m definitely making a list!

    • June 1, 2011 12:55 pm

      Let me know if you discover any fun places, too!

  4. June 1, 2011 1:04 pm

    I could not agree more with your idea for a DC Blogger hike! Let’s keep an eye on the weather and see what comes up

  5. June 1, 2011 4:59 pm

    I used to go to Ladew Gardens all the time as a kid with my mom! I loved exploring around there. I also attended a wedding once there – beautiful backdrop!

  6. June 1, 2011 10:25 pm

    My fav. day trip is heading to Toronto and spending a full day exploring the city by attending festivals or exploring and eating. Also, the Toronto Islands offer a lot. I spend a day at Hanlan’s Point replete with a picnic and it was glorious. Also, heading to Niagara wine country is amazing for a day trip. Quaint town, excellent wines, delicious food, gorgeous greenery and a short hour drive away. Win, win.

  7. June 4, 2011 12:04 pm

    I love Ladew, I was just there in early May for their annual Rare Plant and Garden Ornaments, I wish it wasn’t quite so far away from Alexandria, I would love to check out one of their summer concerts.

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