I recently discovered a park two miles from my house in Fairfax County, VA, hidden in a residential area and not visible from the street. It is more than a park, it is a National Historic Site, a Horticultural Center and a beautiful place to spend an afternoon with children, dogs, or on your own.
In 1777, John Moss purchased 540 acres and farmed the land until 1843 when it was sold to Fountain Beattie who rode with Col. Mosby during the Civil War. Beattie raised twelve children along with the fruits and vegetables he sold at market. In 1942 the brick hous,e dating back to 1784, was sold along with 33 acres to Michael Straight. He was not a farmer but a publisher who entertained interesting people like Aldus Huxley and Hubert Humphrey. They enlisted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to plant formal and informal gardens on their land. In 1970 the Straights deeded the house and 16 acres to Fairfax County Park Authority. The county was able to purchase additional acres to form the 31-acre park.
In 1994 a Horticultural Center with classrooms, a research library, meeting space, educational displays and greenhouse opened to the public. The library has 3,000 volumes related to horticulture. There are 22 demonstration gardens along with classes and tours with docents. The historic house has been converted into a tearoom where traditional English afternoon tea is served.
There is an open grassy area with a gazebo, museum, gardens, and the old house surrounding it. Take a path through the woods, across a stream and you will come upon two ponds with lily pads and fountains.
The park has a nationally recognized collection of Witch Hazels. The extract of this plant was used by Native Americans as an astringent applied on sores, bruises, and skin irritations. It is used today in commercial healthcare products. It is very colorful and blooms from September to November.
Green Spring Gardens is located at 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA.