Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, a hidden jewel in Northern Virginia

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is located just south of the Dulles Toll Road, near Wolf Trap National Park, and is easy to miss. I drove past it for years and never knew it existed.I discovered Meadowlark on Facebook after my photographer friend, Dennis Govoni, posted beautiful photos of its gardens, trails and lakes. I believe the lakes are ponds, but they’re named Lake Caroline, Gardiner and Lena, and they’re stunning, so let’s go with it. Wednesday morning, before the passage of a strong cold front , I met Govoni at Meadowlark for a morning photo shoot. It was my first visit, and he was my tour guide.The weather was perfect. The temperature was 60 degrees, there was a gentle breeze, and the morning sunlight was clear and bright. Our photos from Wednesday’s shoot are featured in this article, along with a few other shots from past seasons.Much of the 95 acres of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens was donated to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) in 1980. In the years that followed, NVRPA bought a contiguous parcel of land and began building a large public garden.Three lakes were created in the park’s largest stream basin, and a network of trails was made through woods and meadows. Hosta, day lilies and cherry trees were planted, and later azaleas, lilacs and irises were added.The park opened in April 1987, and its visitor center opened in 1992. By 1999, Meadowlark had developed a native plant conservation program, which now includes three collections of native plants: Virginia native trees, Virginia native wetland and Potomac River Valley plants.The park is open in all seasons and showcases flowers and trees too numerous to mention in this article. Here’s a link that lists the various flowers and blooming trees that can be viewed throughout the year.Meadowlark has the only public Korean bell pavilion on the East Coast. It serves as a cultural landmark for Korean Americans. The pavilion includes the Bell of Peace and Harmony, handcrafted by Korean artisans and measuring 2.18 meters high. It weighs three tons.The park also includes a restored log cabin dating back to 1755 and ruins of an 18th-century springhouse from occupants of the land during colonial times. Photos of the log cabin and spring house are below.The Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is an annual tradition. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the garden is transformed into an animated light show. It’s a family favorite during the holidays, and tickets usually go on sale in October.Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is at 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna, Va., 22182. The admission fee is $6, or $3 for seniors 55 and over and kids 6 to 17. Children under 6 are free.

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