It's modest in size, just 1.5 acres, but this formal Victorian garden, in New Castle, Del., installed in 1847, is believed to be the oldest surviving garden in the Delaware Valley.
The space, at peak this month, adjoins an extraordinary 22-room, 14,000-square-foot Federal mansion that was the largest house in Delaware when built in 1801 by the son of George Read Jr., who signed the Declaration of Independence.
The house's second owner, William Couper, added the garden, described in a 1901 issue of House and Garden magazine as being significantly old and worthy of note. Its restoration, begun in 1991, is a continuing project.
The garden, designed by Philadelphia landscape artist Robert Buist, is divided into sections: a formal parterre flower garden, a specimen garden filled with exotics and native favorites, a fruit orchard and kitchen garden. In bloom this month: dahlias, calla lilies, feverfew, butterfly weed, baby's breath and the bottlebrush buckeye.
The house and garden overlook the Delaware River, just a half-block from where William Penn first stepped onto American soil in 1682.
Not to be missed: a stroll along the Strand. This wonderful cobblestone street in Delaware's Colonial capital is home to some movie-set-worthy historic houses and terrific peek-a-boo views of their gardens.
The Read House and Gardens, 42 the Strand, New Castle, DE 19720
* Open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10a.m. to 4 p.m.
* Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors and students ages 13-21, $2 children ages 6-12. Garden-only admission is $1.
This kicky sculpture garden in Solomons, on the St. John Creek, is a little tough to figure out at first, but it's worth a visit.
Upon entering, it seems like one big parking lot. But walk into the Southern Maryland woods and you discover lines of pine trees, bushes and ground cover that serve as frames for several art installations.
There's a Council Ring (art you can sit on), and a Generations Room, which illustrates the evolutionary process -- both the forest's and mankind's -- with life-size limestone and mosaic-tiled figures advancing through wooded "mini-rooms." There's the Surveyor's Map, a floating walkway terminating at a lookout above the tree canopy. And there's a wonderful sculpture fountain called Tribute to the Oyster Tonger.
The 30-acre property, just north of Solomons Island, was bought by Francis and Ann Koenig in 1960 but was never developed. The couple donated the land to Calvert County in 1991. A year ago, the garden became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, which will allow it to display some of the institution's traveling exhibitions. At the moment, the garden is working to acquire sculptures on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.
Annmarie Garden, Dowell Road, Solomons, MD 20629
* Open daily 10 a.m. to 4p.m. Free admission.
Put this remarkable garden on your to-do list right now to catch the last of the rhododendron and viburnum blooming season. Just a few weeks ago, the five-acre site in Bethesda was ablaze in intense shades of pink, coral, purple and white, transforming it into a kind of fairyland. Not surprisingly, the garden draws lots of painters eager to capture its color.
The garden is so lush it's hard to believe that it was just woods in 1941 when purchased by William McCrillis, a former assistant to the U.S. secretary of the Interior. McCrillis began collecting rhododendron and azaleas along with rare trees and shrubs.
The well-known Brookside Gardens now manages the gardens, open to the public since 1980. There's also an art gallery, open from noon to 4 p.m. (except Mondays).
In recent years, Brookside has added many shade-tolerant species to enrich the collection and extend the bloom season. On the blooming schedule this month: hydrangeas, Japanese irises and roses.
McCrillis Gardens, 6910 Greentree Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
www.mc-mncppc.org / parks / brookside / mccrilli.shtm
* Open daily 10 a.m. to sunset. Free.
Historical Society of Talbot County
It doesn't get much better than this: an award-winning reproduction of a formal Federal garden with not one, not two, but three historic houses along with a just-renovated museum.
The garden, designed in the early 1960s, features more than 100 English boxwoods, a terraced shade garden and a bed planted with perennials known to exist in Maryland during the Federal period -- day lilies, sedum, lamb's ear, Japanese irises, phlox, asters and perennial geraniums.
In late summer, the crape myrtles take over. As docent Dana McGrath notes: "It's like a cloud of pale pink out here."
The houses offer a journey through three centuries of Talbot County history with "The Ending of Controversie," a reproduction of a 1670 homestead; Joseph's Cottage, the original residence of an Eastern Shore cabinetmaker; and the James Neall House, a brick townhouse built circa 1810.