*Immediately adds to bucket list*
Ladew Topiary Gardens
Credit: Helen Normal

Just a short drive north of Baltimore's hustle and bustle, you'll find the bucolic community of Monkton, Maryland. Land of horse farms and vast swaths of verdant countryside, the quiet locale is also home to what the Garden Club of America has deemed the "most outstanding topiary garden in America." Opened to the public in 1971, Ladew Topiary Gardens is a living tribute to one man's passion and the work of those who cared enough to preserve it. Here, sneak a peek at the Southern treasure, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Ladew Topiary Gardens The Cottage Garden
Credit: Helen Norman

A New York native and outdoors enthusiast, Harvey Smith Ladew bought his 250-acre Maryland farm in 1929. Influenced by the stately gardens he'd toured in his travels to Europe, particularly those in England, he set about reimagining the grounds, over time transforming 22 acres into manicured gardens with sculptures, water features, and more than one hundred topiaries. While for years he'd informally welcomed guests to tour his gardens, in 1971, Ladew officially opened them to the public, founding a nonprofit organization to preserve and care for his historic home and ensure that his gardens would continue to thrill and delight, even after he was no longer there to tend them. He passed away five years after, but his legacy lives large.

Ladew Topiary Gardens The Hunt Scene
Credit: Helen Norman

"We have learned over the last year and a half how important places like Ladew are to our communities," says Emily Emerick, the gardens' executive director.  "So many beautiful gardens are created and lost. We are extraordinarily fortunate that people made the effort to create the nonprofit that is Ladew today. Tens of thousands of people come every year to stroll the gardens, visit the house, explore the Nature Walk and Butterfly House and participate in one of many programs or events."

Ladew Topiary Gardens The Yellow Garden
Credit: Helen Norman

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the gardens are also hosting Anne Blackwell Thompson as an artist in residence—a nod to Ladew's interest in painting and sculpture. From October 9 through October 22, visitors can see her botanical compositions, which were foraged from the gardens themselves.

"As a naturalist with a particular interest in horticulture and public gardens, I strive to embrace nature's rich palette through harvesting plant material," says Thompson. "My hope is that every specimen captures a feeling, connecting us to our natural world. The wildflower fields and nature walks were my refuge during the pandemic, and the serenity of Ladew Topiary Gardens was a peaceful and magical escape."

The garden closes for the season on October 31, so be sure to plan your visit soon.

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