Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, MD is one of the most beautiful gardens in the US, and it very well be one of the most outstanding topiary gardens as well.
These public gardens located in Harford County, just a short drive north of Baltimore. It has 22 acres of gardens to explore and so many fun treasures for kids. Really, Ladew Gardens is magical. Read on for our guide as to how to maximize your visit!
History of Ladew Topiary Gardens
The gardens were designed and developed by Harvey Smith Ladew. In 1929 Harvey Ladew bought the Pleasant Valley Farm from the Scarff family. He created the topiaries after his extensive travels to England. In addition to the topiaries, he crafted 15 garden rooms that are absolutely gorgeous and serve as focal points throughout the garden.
It’s only fitting that the topiaries in Ladew’s garden have this theme, as they are located in the middle of Maryland’s land of horse farms and pastures. The gardens are considered one of the best topiary gardens in North America and the favorite of the Garden Club of America.
The topiaries are what makes Ladew Topiary Gardens famous. There are over 100 unique topiaries that you really have to see to believe. The first set of topiaries most visitors see when entering the gardens is a fox hunting scene. you can see the hunter riding his horse jumping over a fence. In front of the hunter are the hunting dogs. It’s all very lifelike— except they are bushes.
Along the main lawn area are carved swans on top of yew hedges.
Towards the back of the gardens there are topiaries carved like hats or chess pieces. You almost feel like you are Alice in Wonderland, wandering through these larger than life topiaries.
If you keep walking towards the wildflower meadows, you will encounter a topiary carved into a boat, complete with a sail.
And if you are seeking some peace and zen, check out the giant Buddha topiary. It will certainly put you in a calm mood!
One of the features of Ladew Topiary Gardens that I think is so incredibly enchanting is the series of secret themed elaborate gardens throughout the 22-acres. As you start exploring you will encounter so many private garden areas. Many have quiet places to sit, maybe a fountain or statue.
There is a Woodland Garden, a Victorian Garden, Berry Garden, Pink Garden, Rose Garden, Keyhole Garden, and more!
The Yellow Gardens have bee hive baskets and a beautiful stream flowing through it.
You really won’t believe how many secret gardens there are. You and your kids can easily get lost playing hide and go seek, sharing a picnic, or just enjoying a few quiet moments in nature.
There are so many incredible fountains and water features inside Ladew Topiary Gardens as well. The biggest fountain is the one in the middle of the great bowl.
The fountain here is part of a large pool that reportedly was Ladew’s swimming pool. It’s surrounded by a large field you kids will absolutely love running around in.
Azaleas and Tulips
Our absolute favorite time to visit Ladew Topiary Gardens is in the late Spring when the tulips are at the end of their peak bloom and the azaleas are in all of their glory.
This is typically the first week or two of May. And honestly, the azalea garden is absolutely spectacular! Most of the azaleas are in the Garden of Eden. And yes, this garden is complete with a statue of Adam and Eve- with azalea blooms strategically placed to keep the garden PG.
A favorite feature for kids will be the Koi Pond. The centerpiece of this pond is the ship-themed topiary in the middle of it. It’s actually pretty remarkable.
But the pond is jam packed with orange koi and your kids will love watching them and letting the koi nibble at their fingers.
Lily pads and Wisteria
Even though our favorite time to visit is May, the summer in Ladew Topiary Garden is also completely amazing! If you visit in August it’s likely you will see the gorgeous lily pads.
You will also see bright purple wisteria crawling up the side of the historic manor house.
Other flowers in bloom
Depending on when you visit, there are other fantastic flowers in bloom as well. When the Rose Garden blooms, roses crawl over porticos and garden gates. It’s remarkably beautiful.
In the spring there are lilacs and you can drink in their scent as you stroll by. There is a large iris garden, daffodils, foxgloves, and more.
Wildflower Meadow and Nature Trails
There are numerous nature trails around the property.The trail is a mile-long nature walk on a boardwalk and gravel path through various natural features.
The Wildflower Meadow is also a great place to explore. The meadows are open wildflower fields blooming throughout the season.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Pick up a nature-themed scavenger hunt for your kids to complete when you purchase your admission tickets in the gift shop. The scavenger hunt is a great way to engage your kids in observation of the gardens, wildlife, topiaries, and other fun features.
From July through early October the Butterfly House is a great place to visit with kids. Kids can grab a magnifying glass and study the life cycle of native butterflies and caterpillars.
The butterflies are pretty too and if you are lucky you will have a few land on you!
Special Annual Events and Educational Programs
The serenity of Ladew Topiary Gardens is great for a day trip at any time. But there are loads of fun events and activities that go beyond the formal gardens.
- Garden Festival- a spectacular plant sale and fundraiser; happens in May
- Pumpkin Glow- the very popular (it sells out almost immediately every year) fall festival and pumpkin carving experience in October
- Christmas at Ladew- see the Historic Manor decorated for Christmas and take in Christmas lights
- Maple Magic Sugaring Weekends- collect sap and learning how to make maple syrup; happens in February
- Nature Explorers Program- family programs, nature camp, and more. Dedicated to environmental learning for kids; programs run throughout the summer
FAQ/Know Before You Go
The main season is 1 April to 31 October. However they are also open for special events in December and February. During the main open season, the hours are M/T/Th/F 9am-4pm; Sat and Sun 9am-5pm. Closed Wednesdays. And during the summer they are open until 8pm on Tuesdays.
Adults $17, Seniors and Students $12, Children (2-12) $5, Under 2 FREE.
The gardens are huge and not every part of the landscape is wheelchair accessible. However, every effort has been made to open much of the main garden to accessibility needs with wide, paved pathways.
Yes. There are nice public restrooms at the manor house next to the gift shop.
The Ladew Café is open from 11 am – 3 pm and has menu options that include sandwiches, salads, quiche, sweets, and more. You can also bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds while eating. The only rules are no alcohol and you have to pack out any trash.
Really, any time. However, our favorite time to visit is the last week of April into the 1st 2 weeks of May- whenever the azaleas are in bloom. Our second favorite time to visit is in September when the Clear Meadow Farms sunflower fields are in bloom, because those fields are very close to Ladew and at this time of the year the lily pads will be in bloom.
Make a Day of It!
There are so many fun places to visit nearby. Here is a quick list of our favorites:
- Rocks State Park: Both Kilgore Falls and the King and Queen Seat
- Clear Meadow Farms Sunflower Fields (in September)
- Jarrettsville Creamery and Deli
- Eden Mill Nature Center
- Annie’s Playgound