Hidden up in Van Ness, Hillwood Museum and Gardens is a few acres of green, colorful, luxe heaven. The tagline for the museum is “where fabulous lives” and I think that is the best possible way to sum up the place.
You drive up to the gates (yes, it is gated, they also recommend you have reservations to visit the grounds, though that is not required, we did not) and a guard lets you in. You drive up a windy, steep azalea-lined road, and are directed to the visitors center where you check in. The suggested donation is $12, and not particularly suggested, much more mandatory. But well worth it. After you are given a map and the lay of the land by guides, you’re set free to roam the house and the gardens.
There are many, many gardens to explore at Hillwood. There is the french parterre, the rose garden, a putting green, a Japanese-style garden, a lunar lawn, and a cutting garden. But I think it might be easier to show you, than tell you what those are like.
I decided to visit Hillwood based on looking at the pictures of it submitted for the We Love DC pool on flickr, so I think you should fall in love with it the same way, it’s the best possible way to share. So, Hillwood Gardens in pictures, for your viewing pleasure.
See, wasn’t that more descriptive than I could ever be? So those are the gardens, but the other part of the experience is the greenhouse, and the mansion. The greenhouse is full of orchids and other plants that are fun to take macro photographs of. So, I will again, show you, not tell you about. It’s a holiday Friday, and you’re rather look at pictures than do tons of reading, right? Right.
So finally, you get to the mansion. The mansion wasn’t why I went to Hillwood, but it is why I will go back. That place is absolutely gorgeous. It is the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post (familiar name, right?) who was called the unofficial queen of DC in her time. She was married and divorced three times, inherited a lot of Post Cereal and General Foods Corporation money, and generally super rich.
While we were there we were able to see her collection of costume gowns, and boy did that woman like to dress up and spend money. Touring her house you can see her huge collection of Russian art, plates, chalices, dishes, boxes, pins, everything, you name it.The house itself is also a work of art, with gorgeous rooms like the breakfast room overlooking the lunar lawn.
Mrs. Post died in 1973 and left her collection and estate as a museum. Can you even imagine looking at your belongings and deciding they should be a museum? I can’t. But she could, and I’m happy for that. She has massive amounts of beautiful, sparkly, fun things. People, her closet is bigger than my apartment, and I only wish I were joking. Also while you’re visiting, you should stop by the cafe, and have tea. They serve a full course 2 p.m. tea, with crumpets and champagne, and you can, be well, what else? Fabulous.
Hillwood is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on select evenings and Sundays. The estate is closed during the month of January and on national holidays. For more information, you can call 202-686-5807.