From ephemeral spring woodland wildflowers to dazzling, drought-resistant prairie plants, the flora found in a broad slice of the eastern United States is represented in the Fern Valley Native Plant Collection. Many of the plants in the collection are native to the Washington, DC area; in addition, prairie plants that you might see on the western edge of our eastern forests; plants of the sandy, flat Coastal Plain in the southeastern United States; and trees, shrubs, and woodland flowers of New England are also part of the collection.
The Fern Valley Native Plant Collection is organized by habitat and geography into areas that give a feel for the nature of the different regions of the eastern U.S. The landscape flows subtly from the sunny prairie and old-field meadow plantings to the northern forest with its hemlocks and sugar maples, through the Piedmont area where a small stream and pond highlight wetland plants like cardinal flower. Below the pond, the sluggish water and dense forest mimic the mystique of primeval Coastal Plain forests. Because native plants offer so much diversity, there is something blooming in the collection every month of the year.
The woodland plantings are at their peak in early spring before the towering canopy of tulip-trees, oaks, and beeches leaf out and shade the forest floor. As shade deepens and summer progresses, ferns unfurl their fronds, and Fern Valley’s woodland becomes a welcome cool and shady respite from the heat. Most of the showy blossoms of summer are found in the meadow and prairie, including coneflowers, blazing stars, and four milkweed species. As summer nears an end, asters, goldenrods, and native grasses adorn the prairie planting with a symphony of color and movement. Cooler autumn days bring bright fall foliage to trees and yellow witch-hazel blossoms. Even in the depths of winter, when the garden is dormant, it is a magical place.
TIPS FOR VISITORS
The Fern Valley Native Plant Collection must be enjoyed at an unhurried pace. Plan to spend at least an hour wandering through and admiring the artistry of nature. Extensive sections of Fern Valley’s gravel trails are handicapped-accessible.