Enjoy a Enjoyable Winter Visit to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County – Capital Gazette
Only this time, I left my good dog, Millie, at home recovering from some sort of digestive disorder. Ah, well, Brookside only allows service dogs, anyway, and Millie’s not my service dog; Rather, I am someone who served her.
Brookside Gardens is a 54-acre botanical garden within Wheaton Regional Park. It is divided into more than a dozen distinct areas, from the water park to the rain garden to the Japanese-style garden. I was surprised and delighted that Laila and I had so much fun visiting the garden in the middle of winter.
When I stopped by our daughter and son-in-law’s house, Laila met me at the door and her first words were: “Mimi?” Mimi is her name for Millie. The expression on her face made me interpret her question as: “What are you doing here without my favorite dog?” But that passed quickly. She was happy to see me, even without Mimi.
She often wondered what she would remember about this stage of her life. I have a few random, fleeting memories of myself around that age: a mouse sneaking behind an upright piano in the basement, a welder making bright sparks on a wrought-iron railing, and a toy car with pictures of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on it.
Laila’s vocabulary expands in scope as quickly as her height. However, there are times when he babbles incomprehensibly, but in a very conversational style. I’m tempted to record one of these monologues and play it back for her in a couple of years to see if she can remember what she seriously meant to say.
On this particular day, she was very quiet sitting in her car seat. I undid her belts, adjusted her knit hat and zipped up her jacket against the cold.
She wrapped her little hand around my little finger (although of course it was her who wrapped it around her little finger) and we walked down the walkway from the nature center to walk through the two connected conservatories. Stepping into the warm, humid air, she was fascinated by the exotic plants and flowers that grow in the tropical atmosphere.
At the end of the second conservatory, we returned to the cold and walked along one of the attractive paved paths. She loves to swing along the top of retaining walls, and we’ve found a bunch of opportunities for this specific type of fun.
We met a pair of Canada geese that immediately captured Layla’s attention. They were pecking at the grass on the manicured lawn surrounding a small pond. Laila took two steps toward them, then stopped with a jolt when the goose said in its nonverbal chatter that she should keep her distance. Laila got the message. Don’t mess with wild geese.
She looked up and pointed to the rest of the herd on the far side of the pond. We watched as they dragged their feet up the bank and entered the water. They all took off in one big fell swoop, into a traffic jam full of horns and flapping wings. We both stared in wonder as they flew overhead.
We climbed over the rocks and found a bell-roofed gazebo with such perfect acoustics that I couldn’t resist singing “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.” (I’ll teach her early about the joys of silly songs.)
I learned that 414,150 people visited the gardens last year, though on this particular day we only met a handful, all of them fascinated by Laila. She, in turn, was fascinated by the employees who were busy removing strings of Christmas lights from several trees and bushes. “Lights!” She said.
Apparently, one of the park’s biggest annual events is the holiday lights show from late November to early January, where the gardens are transformed into a winter wonderland with over a million twinkling lights.
I’ve heard that there is a fantastic display of model trains in a room near the conservatories which is a popular feature of the festival. I was sorry to miss it. I love model trains. I’m sure Lily would have enjoyed it too. However, there was plenty to keep us entertained.
Laila seemed fascinated by the small saplings along the walkway. She gingerly touched the shiny green leaves with pin-prick points. After carefully examining the third file, I heard her mutter to herself: “Holly,” as if she was creating a new file in her memory. Her curiosity will make her a great naturalist.
After a few hours, it was time to go home for lunch, but Laila was having too much fun thinking about leaving. There were puddles of rain dripping through her rubber boots. A park bench to sit on. Nice people who stop by to chat with them. A stick that turns into a walking staff. You can’t walk without a walking stick, after all.
Eventually, I convinced her to take my hand and get back to the car. We walked a full mile, which seems like three miles to someone with short legs.
When we got home, Laila showed signs of fatigue; Although he’s not the cranky kind, which should be expected for an almost two-year-old.
She watched her mother hand her a plate of her favorite lunch: bananas, berries, black beans, and cold corn tortillas, some of which had actually fallen into the slot, miraculously. Then I went for a diaper change and an afternoon nap, so I headed home. It’s time for my afternoon nap too.
Before I left, I got a hug and a kiss and I heard her say, “Goodbye.”
- 1800 Glenallan Street
- Wheaton, MD 20902
- Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
- Submission is free.
- No pets are allowed, but there is a nearby dog park in the Oribau Road area of Wheaton Provincial Park, and leashed pets are allowed in all other areas of Wheaton Provincial Park.
- Restrooms are available in many public buildings.