Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Gardens
Hillwood Estate is an impressive Georgian-style mansion that was the former home of wealthy businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post and houses her collection of French and Russian decorative art. While most visitors might focus their attentions on the mansion and its Fabergé eggs, I was here with the exclusive purpose of exploring the many themed gardens that surround the residence. There was plenty to see including an extensive greenhouse, French and Japanese gardens, ambling pathways, a rose garden, and even a putting green. This past spring was my first visit to this hidden treasure of a garden that seems to get overlooked with so many larger, more famous gardens in the area.
A winding driveway lined with azalea bushes in bright bursts of white, pink, and fuchsia lead up to the Motor Court and the entrance to the mansion, which I promptly skipped to make my way the working greenhouse just beyond, where you can view an impressive collection of orchids, ferns, and other indoor-dwellers. The Cutting Garden nearby was filled only with functional flowers that have been used to decorate the dining tables inside the house since the days of its original owner.
Marjorie Post hosted many high-profile events at Hillwood and her delight in entertaining guests is reflected in her design of the garden. There are open areas for socializing while also offering places for quiet contemplation. The design of ivy-walled “garden rooms” allows each different section a sense of seclusion showcasing its unique charm. One could imagine guests from a party on the Lunar Lawn wandering through the Rose Garden along to the Friendship Walk or exploring the Japanese hillside garden.
Final Rating: Somehow in my exploration of the gardens in and around DC, I have overlooked Hillwood all these years. Perhaps it was the focus on the fancy mansion or the steep suggested donation the kept me away, but now I look forward to my next visit and recommending it to others. Hillwood is a hidden garden gem right inside the city but has a transportive quality that makes it feel like an old country estate. FOUR BLOOM RATING