Green Spring Gardens packs a lot into its 31 acres—demonstration gardens, a horticulture center and library, ponds, and a network of paved and natural paths. Designated a National Historic Site, the garden park also preserves the Moss Historic House, built in 1780.
Like Vienna's Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, it is a hidden oasis of beauty and inspiration in the midst of busy Fairfax County. Both Green Spring and Meadowlark are among the most beautiful gardens in the DC area.
While there is a lot to see at Green Spring, everything is close together and easy to see. In fact, the garden is ideal for folks with limited mobility who want to enjoy beautiful gardens without a lot of walking.
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Green Spring is especially beautiful in spring and summer when flowers are in bloom. But even in chillier months, there is beauty to enjoy. In fact, the garden's National Witch Hazel Collection is a highlight of winter visits.
As with most botanical gardens, visitors are asked to stay on paths and protect the plants. Activities that can damage the grounds, including ball playing and biking, are not allowed (see the Green Spring rules for details). Leashed dogs are welcome as long as you clean up after them and stay on the paths.
Explore more: 15 Gorgeous Gardens In Virginia and Washington DC.
Green Spring's Horticulture Center
Before you start exploring the gardens and the historic house, stop in the Horticulture Center and pick up a map. Inside you'll find an extensive horticultural library, a shop, art exhibits, a greenhouse, and information on upcoming programs.
The shop has a lovely selection of gardening gear and plant-inspired home goods. We found a warm scarf on sale and bought some gardening tools and pretty fern-painted coasters.
Exploring the Flora at Green Spring Gardens
The gardens at Green Spring are grouped by theme, and many illustrate how the plantings could be recreated by the home gardener. It's a wonderful mix of inspiration and practical advice that makes this garden a favorite.
A rock garden greets visitors outside the horticulture center. Around the back, you'll find cute children's and family gardens where kids can play while they learn about nature. In fact, Green Spring hosts regular Family Fun events and special programs for children.
Demonstration gardens showcase distinct approaches to planting. For example, the pretty Wildflower Garden is layered with colorful plants. Further along the path, peek through the fence at the Edible Garden and admire the pumpkins, peppers, and other delicious veggies growing there.
If you're up for a bit of exploring, follow one of two paths into the woods of the Virginia Native Plant Garden. You can take the steeper gravel path or a meandering dirt path bordered by native plants and trees.
The dirt path leads downhill to a wooded stream valley. Cross the metal bridge, then follow the short boardwalk through the woods.
Follow the boardwalk and you will arrive at two small ornamental ponds. Here visitors can relax on a bench or at a pretty gazebo. You will likely see ducks, geese, songbirds, butterflies, and turtles as you enjoy the view of the quiet ponds.
Continue past the ponds and up the hill, stopping to admire the historic springhouse cottage.
Continue up the hill to the historic house, but before you go inside take some time to explore the gardens and woods in the back. You'll find beautiful Sycamores and pines overlooking the ponds. Closer to the house are lush mixed borders and azaleas.
Back on the main pathway around the lawn, enjoy a trellised rose garden, peonies, and more colorful flowers.
The wide brick pathway leads back to the Horticultural Center, passing lovely shade gardens and more beautiful trees.
The gazebo here is a popular event space for small celebrations and wedding photography. Note that photography reservations and permits are required and restrictions may apply.
When you finish exploring the gardens, be sure to visit the Garden Gate Plant Shop.
The Green Spring Historic House
If possible, time your Green Spring Gardens visit when the Historic House is open. (Wednesday – Sunday, noon – 4:30.) Inside, you can explore the downstairs rooms of the house and visit the shop and tea room.
The Historic House interior was refurbished after the house had fallen into disrepair. Fortunately, many of the interior details were constructed to mimic the house's original time period. For example, there are beautifully dovetailed, paneled doorways.
The Historic House at Green Spring changed hands many times over the years. From 1878 to 1917, it was the home of Fountain Beattie. He served as a Civil War lieutenant and rode with Confederate raider, Captain John Singleton Mosby. Fountain and his wife, Anne, lived in the house with their twelve children, six boys and six girls.
The final owners, Michael and Belinda Straight, deeded the house and 18 acres to Fairfax County. A fascinating and detailed description of the house's occupants and modifications over the years is at NoVAhistory.org.
Special Events at Green Spring Gardens
The Fairfax County Park Authority hosts many special events at Green Spring throughout the year. Programs at the Historic House include full English teas plus special whiskey and other tasting parties. The public programs are very popular, so get your tickets early. You can also schedule private teas and tasting parties at the Historic House to celebrate special occasions.
In addition, there are special events in the garden and horticultural center for families, children, and adults. For example, visit the gardens on the first Saturday of the month to go on a themed nature scavenger hunt. In May, Green Spring hosts a Big Plant Sale featuring plants, expert advice, a food truck and bake sale, and special activities.
There are several rental facilities available at Green Spring for celebrations, meetings, memorial services, and other private events. Rental facilities include space in the Historic House, the horticulture reference library, a classroom, and two gazebos.
Green Spring Gardens Essentials
Here is essential information to help you plan your visit to Green Spring Gardens:
- Green Spring Gardens is located at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria, Virginia. The main entrance to the gardens is on Witch Hazel Road, from Braddock Road.
- Admission is free and the park is open daily from dawn to dusk. The Horticultural Center and restroom facilities are open Monday to Saturday 9:00 – 4:30, Sunday noon – 4:30.
- The gardens are managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority with extensive support from the Friends of Green Spring (FROGS).
- Visit the park website or call 703-642-5173 for additional information.
- Much of Green Spring Gardens is stroller and wheelchair accessible including the paths and gardens around the central green. A paved road next to the Historic House leads to the ponds and is ADA-compliant.
- Leashed dogs are allowed in the gardens, but only service dogs are allowed inside the buildings.
Here is a map of the gardens, which you'll find on a sign near the Horticultural Center.
Things to Do Near Green Spring Gardens
Extend your visit to the garden at these nearby Northern Virginia gems:
- 25 Fun Unique Things to Do in Alexandria VA
- Huntley Meadows Park Wetlands and Boardwalk Trail
- Lake Accotink Park Trails and Outdoor Fun
During our visit to Green Spring Gardens, some people briskly strolled the paved paths for a little exercise amid the beauty. Others, like us, explored in a more lazy, slow-paced way to fully enjoy this Fairfax County oasis.