- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 11, 2004

Brookside Gardens — 50 acres of paths, rose gardens, aquatic gardens, pavilions and gazebos and a maple terrace — can be a perfect setting for a Sunday outing, allowing parents to enjoy gorgeous vistas while children run off some steam.

In the fall, the gardens feature such plants as ornamental grasses, autumn crocuses, water hyacinths, autumn witch hazel and the wonderful fall colors of the Japanese maples, dogwood, winged euonymus, holly and viburnums.

One of the gardens is dedicated to children. It’s called the Fairy Folk Garden and features mystical clues and a chance to try on fairy wings or an elf hat.

“Children love the Fairy Folk Garden,” says Lynn Richard, children’s program coordinator. “It really encourages children to use their imagination.”

The children’s garden features illustrations of fairies by Cicely Mary Barker, an early 20th-century British illustrator of postcards and children’s books.

If fairies don’t float your boat but trains do, take a short but steep walk through the western edge of the park to Pine Lake and Shorefield picnic area and playground. Brookside Gardens and Shorefield are both part of Wheaton Regional Park.

Besides large and elaborate playgrounds featuring numerous tall slides, there are an old-timey carousel and a miniature train, both open on weekends.

The train, modeled after an 1863 C.P. Huntington engine, offers a 10-minute ride through forest and meadow, over a trestle bridge and through a tunnel. The $1.50 rides surely will please most toddlers and preschoolers.

Another family favorite in this part of the park is the 1915 carousel, built by the Herschell Spillman Co. of North Tonawanda, N.Y. In the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, the carousel was operated on the Mall in the District, after which it was moved to Wheaton Regional Park.

Another highlight for children are the many ducks and geese that hang out under trees and in ponds in Brookside Gardens.

There also are temporary exhibits, such as “Wings of Fancy,” a live butterfly show that runs through Sept. 19. The next temporary exhibit will be “Garden of Lights,” starting Nov. 20 and running through Jan. 9. It will feature a winter garden illuminated by 600,000 lights.

For children who want to develop their interest in gardening and all things floral, various weekend activities are scheduled during the fall. Among the events is a talk on leaves Thursday and an all-day event called “Grow With Plants,” on Saturday.

On Oct. 3, Ms. Richard will talk about the history of tea at a Garden Tea Party.

“I teach the children tea-party etiquette and a little bit about the history of tea,” Ms. Richard says.

Children learn that tea was discovered by a Chinese emperor 4,000 years ago, that it was popularized in England in the mid-1600s and came to America in the 1670s.

Whether families choose to participate in children’s programs or just take a stroll through the gardens, Ms. Richard says she hopes they come away with an increased appreciation for wildlife.

“I hope that they gain a love of nature and plants,” she says, “and want to help take care of nature. That’s what I hope.”

WHEN YOU GO:

LOCATION: Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Exit 31 and merge onto Georgia Avenue north. After about three miles, turn right onto Randolph Road. Then make a right onto Heurich Road, which dead-ends into Glenallan Avenue.

Hours: 9 a.m. to sunset

Admission: Free, but there are fees for certain programs

Parking: Brookside Gardens has a large parking lot.

More information: 301/962-1400 or www.brooksidegardens.org

Notes: Brookside Gardens is part of Wheaton Regional Park, which features large picnic areas, elaborate playgrounds, a 1915 carousel and a miniature train modeled after an 1863 C.P. Huntington engine. All these child-friendly activities, located just southwest of Brookside Gardens, can be reached easily on foot.

Upcomingchildren’s events:

• Thursday — Leafy Tees, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Learn about different leaves. Bring a white T-shirt to imprint with painted leaves. Fee: $5. Registration required. Appropriate for children ages 5 to 8.

• Saturday — Children’s Day, “Grow With Plants,” 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This all-day event will feature performances by Wendy Whitten, the singing scientist, and Flumpa, the wide-eyed adventurous frog. Other activities include story time by Lynne Cherry, who will read from her new book, “How Groundhog’s Garden Grew,” and lessons about good garden bugs, composting critters and the differences between fruits and vegetables. Free. Children of all ages are welcome.

• Oct. 2 — Saturday Morning Story Time, 10 to 10:30 a.m. and 10:30 to 11 a.m. Participate and listen to nature and seasonal stories that will encourage a child’s imagination and creativity. The story will be followed by a hands-on craft. This free event continues on Saturdays through Dec. 11. Appropriate for children ages 3 to 6.

• Oct. 3 — Garden Tea Party, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Learn about the history of tea and tea-party etiquette. Dress-up is encouraged. Fee: $12. Appropriate for children ages 5 to 10. Registration required.

• Nov. 2 — Pomander Balls, 1 to 3 p.m. Learn about pomander balls, which hundreds of years ago were thought to protect people from disease. Today the wonderful smells of pomanders are used to freshen closets and drawers. Combine oranges, cloves, spices and ribbon and make one for yourself and a friend. Fee: $8. Registration required. Appropriate for children ages 5 to 10.

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