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Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden

Brighton Azalea Garden
Brighton Dam's Azalea Garden

Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden

How could I have lived in this area my whole life and never have known about the Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden? This week while checking my Facebook posts (doesn’t everyone do this?) I came across the most beautiful photos from my friend Nancy Janson. Where in the world was she? Imagine my surprise when she wrote right back and said she was at Brighton Dam!

Of course, I knew where that was and might have even driven by it a time or two, but I never knew about their Azalea Garden. Pretty much my entire life, Spring was for working. Growing up at Behnke’s, we were all expected to work after school and on weekends, and then I got married to, of all things, a nurseryman. Married life was more of the same. You worked in the Spring and were so tired you never even considered visiting places like this azalea garden. Sad to say, but I have never even been to the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was on my to-do list after we closed the garden center, but then COVID came along. Maybe next year I will get there. In the meantime, I will keep exploring and finding treasures like Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden.

Information On Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden

In 1959, this garden was created and had over 22 thousand azaleas. While we were walking along the gravel paths, we noticed many new plantings, so I imagine that they keep replacing and adding to the collection. The garden covers 5 acres and includes the most beautiful Kousa Dogwood Trees that, according to the website, were added in the 1990s.

The Brighton Dam Azaleas Garden overlooks Triadelphia Lake, and the morning we walked along the lake was so spectacular. I will need to go back with a book and sit and read on one of the many benches you will find while walking. Just looking at the still water with the birds chirping seems to me to be a perfect place.  Here is a video I found on the Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden  website. I believe it was taken many years ago because the azaleas are much taller now. 

Memories Of Another Garden 

One of the best things was the first thing I saw after we parked and walked across the road to the garden. My grandmother’s favorite garden poem, The Kiss Of The Sun, was there on a huge sign. That started our walk off on a good note, and it only got better. I felt like I had to pinch myself because I kept remembering my grandparent’s private gardens in Burtonsville. He, too, had many many azaleas and other plantings in the small wooded area to the side of his home.I think if the property had been kept up after they passed away and the property was sold, it would have looked similar to what I saw on our walk.

I hope you find time to see this garden which is so close. I know I will be going back even when the blooms are long gone. 

Here is the poem that so many including those that walk through this public garden love.

The kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer to God’s heart in the garden

Than anywhere else on earth

Dorothy Gurney

1858 – 1932

Brighton Dam's Azalea Garden
Brighton Dam's Azalea Garden Sign
Brighton Dam's Azalea Garden Blooms
Brighton Dam's Azalea Garden Welcome Sign

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Thanks so much Harold for sharing this. Raymond Bellamy Sr created something that his family must be so proud of. I hope the new owners are able to get his gardens back to what they once were.

  2. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for the pictures and video of the Brighton Dam Azaleas! It’s been a couple of years since I have been there to enjoy the Azalea Gardens. Raymond Bellamy Sr., lived in a Sears house in Cheverly on Cheverly Avenue. He would have events in his gardens in Cheverly for the scouts, host weddings and allow Cheverly organizations to have events there. His children lived there in Cheverly until about 3 or so years ago. They moved and the property was sold. The new owners are working to restore the gardens although it will be a labor of love, and money, to do so.

    Thanks for sending and providing a wonderful trip down memory lane!

  3. Brighton Dam is terrific, and they have done so much in the last 10 years to make it even better.
    When Lois and I first went there around 1975, it was very informal and undeveloped. It’s great they have made it so much better and more accessible for the public.

    1. It really was nice. I could see from the video that they never had the nice gravel pathways that we got to walk on. I am glad there are so many hidden treasures right in our back yard.

  4. Stephanie, The Brighton Dam Azalea Gardens were a stone’s throw from our family’s property on Brighton Dam Road. Every spring we would drive down the hill from our family farm and visited the gardens. There was usually a nesting pair of Canadian geese with their fluffy goslings eating grass along the edge of the gardens. The public is allowed to canoe on the lake with permission from the Park Rangers. Thank you for the pictures!

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories of these beautiful gardens. Canadian Geese were always my grandmother’s favorite bird. She would stand and gaze at them whenever they would fly by. We saw the canoes on the shore across the lake when we were walking.

  5. Our kids really enjoyed that place when we visited years ago. I’m also generally busy in spring, so I rarely get around to these things on my own. If you haven’t been there, another favorite spot for three seasons is the four-acre walled garden at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens in Leesburg, a bit over an hour away from us (maybe closer for you). The kids called it the Secret Garden, after the book and movie. There is a series of tiny terraces, each one a “pocket” garden of maybe 8’x12′, along the east-facing wall. There are allees, ponds, formal and informal spaces, an herb garden, and really something for everyone. Right now is prime time, but you can go anytime from spring well into the fall and have a wonderful visit.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful place for me to go see. As Spring is almost over, I might wait and go this summer. I am sure there will be many beautiful flowers blooming. I think one of my biggest regrets in my life is not taking time to go exploring different places. That ends now! Lots of exciting places to explore. Thanks for the idea.

  6. Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden is a very well kept and guarded regional secret.
    My wife and I lived in Laurel 13 years before learning of this local Colorado Springs-like “Garden of the Gods” treasure. For sure, it’s a gorgeous contemplative place for a relaxing and colorful spring stroll. I had forgotten about those profusely blooming azaleas until reading your article today. I wonder if your grandparents, Albert and Rose Behnke, were aware of it?

    Thank you,
    Dennis Kassner

    1. I would guess that my grandparents did know about the garden. He seemed to know about all the different private and public gardens, plus I would say he might have donated some azaleas to them, as he did with the US National Arboretum Azalea Garden. I hope that you get to go see the gardens this year. I am sure they are still beautiful even after they finish blooming. And the best thing is, we always have next year.

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