Rainfall has averaged just 25 percent of normal over the last two weeks in the D.C. metro region. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)

During the height of the heat over the last two days, it wouldn’t have hurt to give your gardens a soaking since we’ve been on the dry side for the past two weeks. But - if you didn’t - don’t stress too much. In fact, that is the theme of today’s blog. After a day of craziness - perhaps made worse by the recent stifling heat - gardens can really take the edge off.

There is nothing like retreating to your own garden nook for a little relaxation after a hard day. However, even if you don’t have your own there are a ton of great candidates in the Washington, D.C. area.

If you are anywhere near the National Mall, the Smithsonian has an abundance of gardens. My favorite is Mary Livingston Ripley garden between the Hirshorn and the Castle for the unique combinations and less formal setting. There is also the U.S. Botanical Garden. Not only do they have the great conservatory but their new installation of native plants and water features outside is fantastic as is the newly refurbished Bartholdi fountain and park across the street.

Bartholdi Park

Outside of D.C., the best of the best in Maryland by my reckoning is Brookside Gardens. They have lots of room to wander. Or, if you have the time, picnic or walk your dog.

On the Virginia side, there are several to choose from including River Farm on the Potomac, Green Spring Gardens, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and the Mount Vernon Estate.

Please share your favorite gardens with us too!

As for my own garden, if it has been a rough day, going in for just a little work can really defuse the tension. But when it comes to just relaxing, there is nothing like the murmur of a water feature and the visual joy of frolicking birds. Not to mention, there is something soothing about listening to a breeze brush through tall grasses and trees.

A garden’s sense of smell can also bring a peace that is transforming. There are so many choices. For me a crushed sprig of rosemary or a pinched leave of mint is great to ease the mind.

Big leaf hydrangea

I do enjoy the visual treat of birds and butterflies and always make sure to plant plenty of things to draw them in. Blooming sage, cardinal flower vine and hostas for the hummingbirds are a beacon. Millet for the finches is a must. Butterflies flock to the aptly named butterfly bush and butterfly weed and always some fennel for the tiger swallowtails.

I am off to the garden to unwind now before the rain. Happy relaxing.