Studious frog

September 23, 2006

One of the facilities at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md., is a reference library of around 4,000 volumes on horticulture for adults and children, If you visit, you’ll have to share the bench in the visitor center with this fellow. He’s very absorbed in his book. I wonder if it’s The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.

One step at a time

September 9, 2006


Heart Smart Trails are generally one mile in length or less and follow a level path. Bronze medallions are embedded in the path every 1/10 of a mile, so walkers can keep track of the distance they have gone. A mile may not seem like much, but for patients recovering from heart surgery, every step counts. This Heart Smart Trail is at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md.

Wings of Fancy

September 3, 2006

Wings of Fancy” is the live butterfly exhibit currently showing at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md. It’s quite an experience to be in the midst of so many beautiful butterflies from Central and South America as well as the more familiar native Maryland species as they flutter freely around you.

The leaves are turning

September 2, 2006

Summer hardly arrived, it seems, and now it’s September, and the first signs of autumn are showing themselves at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md., and elsewhere in the Washington area.


August 31, 2006


This Japanese-inspired teahouse is at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.


August 28, 2006

They’re not goldfish although they are distant relatives; they’re young koi—carp. Tank upon tank of koi in various stages of maturity can be found at Lilypons Water Gardens in Maryland, and mature koi swim in the waterlily beds on the 300 acres of property.

Nishikigoi meaning brocaded carp refers to the beautifully colored and patterned fish that are prized in freshwater ponds. They can grow to as much as 36 inches in length, and you can pay anything from a few dollars to as much as several thousand for a koi depending on size and rarity.

Koi appeal not only to people, but also to predators, especially the blue heron. When you pay big bucks to stock your fish pond, the last thing you want is someone stopping by on the lookout for a meal, so as well as providing rocks and other hiding places for their fish, some owners dot fake koi around their ponds. (I guess you could call them “dekoi,” and I bet any number of people already have.) They are amazingly realistic. Made of plastic and nd suspended on a nylon filament anchored to the bottom of the pond by a weight, they move with the water currents and appear to be swimming. But one beakful and the blue heron stalks off in disgust.

Fighting City Hall

August 27, 2006

Barry’s Magic Shop in Wheaton, MD, has been part of the Washington, D.C. scene since 1974, and it draws customers from all over the Washington metropolitan area not only because of its superb stock, but also because of the friendliness of its owners, Barry Taylor (also a professional magician) and Susie Kang (also a professional photographer).

Imagine the dismay of the owners, their customers, and Wheaton residents for whom Barry’s has been a landmark for more than 30 years, when Montgomery County forcibly acquired title to the building Barry’s occupies and threatened the business with eviction. As part of a large-scale redevelopment project, the country wants to demolish the building to improve the alley connecting Georgia Avenue (the main drag) to the parking lot behind the building.

Montgomery County claims to want to assist Barry’s in moving to another building, but the owners say relocation will be a financial hardship to this family-owned small business: “We are unlikely to quickly find any suitable alternative business site which has the space and commercial access for anywhere near the rent that we have been paying under our [current] lease,” they explain.

Customers and Wheaton residents have rallied and written to local officials, and one (otherwise very developer-friendly) City Council member up for re-election has offered support. If he’s re-elected, his good faith remains to be seen.

If I understood Susie correctly when I spoke with her last Friday, any reprieve for Barry’s is temporary. Six or seven years from now, the Wheaton Redevelopment Program will eventually bulldoze Barry’s and other small businesses, among which are an aquarium and tropical fish store, a store selling supplies for professional cake decorating, a store selling current and old comic books, an Italian grocery, and several others. In their place will be office buildings and chain stores like Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and Target.

Such is progress.

Yes, it’s an outhouse

August 21, 2006

It’s an outhouse, but it’s far from rustic, and it isn’t a hole in the ground. Lilypons Water Gardens uses a high-tech composting toilet system that requires no water and produces nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer.

Before you wrinkle your nose, it is entirely odor-free (unlike porta-potties) and the composting toilet process is completely safe.

In fact, it is more safe and less polluting than a traditional sewage treatment plant, where toxic substances from factories and homes enter the system along with human waste. The sludge produced by sewage treatment plants is used as fertilizer in spite of the fact that some of the toxic substances have not been removed. The composting toilet, on the other hand, produces fertilizer that is natural and free of chemical toxins.

Water sprite

August 20, 2006


This pensive lady watches over one of the demonstration water gardens tucked away at Lilypons Water Gardens in Maryland.

Water gardening

August 19, 2006

If you live in the Washington area and you’re thinking of putting a pond in your garden, the best place to go is Lilypons Water Gardens. There you’ll find all the inspiration you need, supplies, countless kinds of water lilies, koi, and experts to help you plan and stock your water garden. They’ll even install it for you.


Lilypons is about an hour’s drive from Washington in the countryside of Frederick County, Maryland. Once there, you can wander 300 acres of water lily and lotus beds, koi tanks, water gardens, and water features. The business has been family owned and operated since 1917, and it shows in the friendly atmosphere—how many garden centers do you know that encourage you to bring a picnic lunch and eat al fresco?