Ladew Topiary Gardens is a unique and stunning destination that is sure to awe any visitor. As one of the country's most renowned topiary gardens, Ladew offers a one-of-a-kind experience that is both relaxing and inspiring. The gardens are located in Monkton, Maryland. , and stretch over 22 acres of land. They are filled with over 100 topiary forms that have been shaped into whimsical and imaginative pieces of art. From a giraffe to a swan to a fox hunt, the topiaries are a true testament to the skill and creativity of the garden's caretakers. But what makes Ladew even more exceptional is the fact that it's not just a garden, but a living, ever-changing work of art.
The gardens are designed to be enjoyed in all seasons, with different varieties of plants and flowers blooming throughout the year. In the spring, the area is covered in a sea of vibrant colors as thousands of tulips and daffodils bloom. In the summer, the gardens burst with the fragrant aroma of blooming roses. And in the fall, the leaves of the trees turn brilliant shades of orange and red, creating a visual feast for the eyes. Overall, Ladew Topiary Gardens is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike. It offers a unique experience that is both beautiful and serene, and is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits.
Back In Time With The Garden's History
“When I first bought the farm, I decided to do all the landscaping and planning of the gardens myself, although I knew I would make a lot of mistakes. I made the mistakes, but they taught me the little I know about gardening”, Ladew once wrote. The “little” Harvey Ladew said he knew about gardening, now covers 22 acres of formal gardens and reflects his style, elegance and sense of humor.
With the house mostly completed by 1937, Ladew had turned his attention to the grounds. Thanks to his extensive travels in England and Italy, he knew what sort of garden he wanted. It was to have two cross axes to allow for long vistas with “garden rooms” off each axis. The axes meet at his oval swimming pool, placed in the center of the Great Bowl. Garden rooms — devoted to a single color, a single plant or a single theme — had been the rage in England when Ladew started his numerous foxhunting visits. He was among the first Americans to recreate them on this side of the Atlantic.
Before he died, Ladew made sure that his garden legacy would be preserved for public enjoyment. It exists today as a not-for-profit organization "to maintain and promote the gardens, house and facilities in keeping with the creative spirit of Harvey S. Ladew for the public benefit and for educational, scientific and cultural pursuits.
Touring The Home
Guests who tour the home will get a glimpse into Ladew’s personality when they view his possessions and learn about his interests from on-site docents. They confirmed bachelor’s love of hunting is evident throughout the property, from the wallpaper in the dining room depicting a fox hunt to the equestrian-themed art. Painted glass bay windows in the dining room feature fox-hunting scenes and fox tchotchkes are displayed in a case in the drawing room where Ladew entertained celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, and W. Somerset Maugham. In the corner of the drawing room sits a Steinway piano. Once can almost picture the many notables lounging on the couches and listening to Ladew’s friend Cole Porter playing the popular songs of the day.
Of all the rooms in the mansion, the most popular is the oval library containing nearly 3,000 books and recognized by Helen Comstock in her book, The 100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America. An interesting feature is a secret door hiding in plain sight, which opens to the outside gardens.
Stepping Into The Topiaries
Stepping into the Ladew Topiary Gardens may feel like Alice entering Wonderland. The topiaries are what makes Ladew Topiary Gardens famous. At this Maryland garden, plants aren’t just plants. Instead, they morph into swans, men on horseback, and regal pyramids. There are over 100 unique topiaries that you really have to see to believe. The first set of topiaries most visitors see when entering the gardens is a fox hunting scene. you can see the hunter riding his horse jumping over a fence. In front of the hunter are the hunting dogs. It’s all very lifelike— except they are bushes.
A 20-foot high topiary buddha overlooks the surprising topiary, a sailing vessel in the form of a Chinese junk floating on a pond at the bottom of the hillside iris garden. Bright red sails match the flowering shrubs nearby.
The Secret Gardens Unlocked
One of the features of Ladew Topiary Gardens that I think is so incredibly enchanting is the series of secret themed elaborate gardens throughout the 22-acres. We LOVED the gardens - it is a magical place with wonderful little hidden spots for the littles to find and explore. The azaleas and tulips were in bloom while we were there and the colors were spectacular! You are free to go everywhere - all the giant lawns are free game for scampering and there are little bridges to cross and treasures to find (look for the little garden with the chess piece statues!) There is a rose garden, a red garden, an herb garden, a keyhole garden, water lilies, iris and so much more. You really won’t believe how many secret gardens there are until you see them yourself.
A large yellow dovecot (big birdhouse for pigeons & doves) with golden straw bee skeps lined up behind repeating the color. A modern, stylized gazebo anchors the central part of the garden.
The spirit of Ladew Topiary Gardens echoes The Secret Garden, “Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”
Tivoli Tea House
We also were delighted by the Tivoli Tea House — an old ticket booth from an English theater turned into a pink entertaining space for Harvey Ladew. Note the gilt frame hanging on the wall that borders a window, highlighting the beauty of the landscape outdoors rather than an artist’s creation. A framed portrait on another wall conceals a built-in bar for refreshments, featuring Mr. Ladew’s trademark pink elephant glassware.
The Great Bowl
Ladew’s garden “master plan” began with the creation of the “great bowl,” a sweeping expanse of lawn north of the house embellished with an oval swimming pool. Enclosed by high hedges of hemlock and yew and accented with twelve topiary swans, today the great bowl serves as a venue for garden concerts.
Relaxing Moments By The Koi Pond
The centerpiece of this pond is the ship-themed topiary in the middle of it. It’s pretty remarkable how the gardeners can cut all the bushes into different symbols and shapes. The pond is jam packed with orange koi fish. This was my favorite spot to sit back in relax in the trees as we watch the koi swim around.
Fluttering Around The Butterfly House
The Butterfly House at Ladew is an all native butterfly house. Ladew staff, interns and trained volunteers gently net butterflies and moths on Ladew’s grounds and place them inside the Butterfly House where they have all that they need to live complete life cycles. This means that we are able to showcase not only butterflies and moths, but also eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and cocoons! In addition to highlighting these beautiful insects, the plants that they rely on are also integral to this exhibit.
Learn how you can support butterflies in your own yard! Trained Butterfly House docents and educational signage guide visitors through the natural gardens and life cycles of over 20 species of local butterflies, moths and caterpillars.
Be amazed! Many of our visitors return to the Butterfly House on a regular basis as fascinating changes happen quickly in the summertime. An explosion of caterpillars one week means that shortly after, butterflies are emerging from their chrysalis, or eggs are hatching!
Exploring The Nature Walk
We especially loved the nature trail, you can find the entrance just behind the big pirate ship topiary in the pond. When Harvey Ladew lived on the property, this area was used as a pasture for his horses as well as a steeplechase course. After years of inactivity on the land, nature reclaimed this area of Ladew. The Nature Walk at Ladew was opened in 1999 and provides a contrast to the cultivated, formal gardens with pathways through a natural landscape. Guests can experience the various wildlife habitats of Ladew, which is located within the Piedmont Plateau and a part of the Gunpowder watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to educational signs along the 1-mile trail, there is a short boardwalk through the wetland forest and a bird blind for bird observations. Along the way, you may notice some remaining fence posts from the former horse pasture.
Special Annual Events And Educational Programs
The serenity of Ladew Topiary Gardens is great for a day trip at any time. But there are loads of fun events and activities that go beyond the formal gardens.
Garden Festival- a spectacular plant sale and fundraiser; happens in May
Pumpkin Glow- the very popular (it sells out almost immediately every year) fall festival and pumpkin carving experience in October
Christmas at Ladew- see the Historic Manor decorated for Christmas and take in Christmas lights
Maple Magic Sugaring Weekends- collect sap and learning how to make maple syrup; happens in February
Nature Explorers Program- family programs, nature camp, and more. Dedicated to environmental learning for kids; programs run throughout the summer
Dates: April 1 - October 31,.2023 Hours: Monday, 9 am to 4 pm Tuesday, 9 am to 4 pm
Thursday, and Friday, 9 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm
Admission: Adults: $17
Seniors: (62+) & Students: $12
Children: (2-12): $5
Children: under 2: Free
Address: 3535 Jarrettsville Pike