The Gardens at Ashland Terrace

Kate Savage


The Ashland Terrace Public Cutting Garden, nestled in the heart of the Chevy Chase neighborhood, and Lexington’s only public cutting garden, is not only an unintentionally well-kept secret, but also the amazing accomplishment of one remarkable person’s dedication and love of gardening.

“Folks can put their money in the donation box at the entry, take a pair of scissors off the hook on the pole, go over next to the shed, grab a repurposed bottle, pour water from a watering can and then get to snipping and building their own posey."

Ashland Terrace, a ladies home for independent seniors, was first incorporated in 1923. The building that exists today at 427 South Ashland Avenue was built in the ‘60s, however there are articles dating back to much earlier that reference a garden of sorts. But the vision of a cultivated garden came in 1991 with the hiring of new director Ric McGee. “I think Ric had in her mind this dream of having a garden that could bring our residents together with folks in the neighborhood. So that’s when she started to create what’s evolved into the garden that’s out there now: the public cutting garden,” said Kelly Weber the current Director.

Ric recalls when she started there was no real garden, few parking spaces, room for only 22 residents (today there’s room for 35), no second dining room and only one elevator. “In 1991 when I began at Ashland Terrace, and before the garden as it exists today was established, I tilled an area behind the home for a spring flower and vegetable garden because I’ve always been a gardener and I thought it would be a nice way to introduce a little bit of horticultural therapy,” said Ric. By June of the following year the garden was a “big hit” and the ladies and family visitors had started enjoying and picking the flowers.

For the next few years the garden continued in this modest capacity. Then in 1998 the Board elected to renovate and expand the home. This renovation was almost completed by the end of the following year when out of the blue, they received a donation from the daughter of a former resident for a koi pond. This then became the impetus for an expanded garden.

With a computer-generated rendering of the proposed garden created and donated by landscapers Nature’s Expressions, Ric mailed out solicitation letters to potential donors and set about fundraising for a new and larger garden. By mid-March 2000 about half the walkways had been completed, the rose garden planted with 38 roses and the fence had been erected, when a resident made a generous donation for the purchase of two teak benches. The garden was taking shape.

By May community donations for the garden totaled $11,341.00. The six raised beds for the front garden were constructed thanks to the volunteer labor of an Eagle Scout, and in 2001 they were able to run their first notice for ‘You Pick Flowers’ in the Herald-Leader. Ric’s notes, which she has fastidiously kept, record that first year’s seeds and flowers sales as $2200. Today they gross close to $7000. All proceeds are used for garden upkeep.

In June of 2003 a mailbox was installed at the garden entry with brochures, scissors and a donation box that then, and to this day, operates on the honor system. Signage offers flowers starting at $0.25 a stem for the smaller varieties and $0.50 for the larger blooms with $0.25 for a snip of herbs. 

“Folks can put their money in the donation box at the entry, take a pair of scissors off the hook on the pole, go over next to the shed, grab a repurposed bottle, pour water from a watering can and then get to snipping and building their own posey,” said Ric. “I think some people go so far as to leave ten dollars but only cut five dollars’ worth,” she added. 

Then, for those with no time to stop and smell the roses, pre-cut bouquets are for sale at the home every Friday during the flowering season usually starting in June.

A certified monarch waystation was added in September 2015 and provides Monarch butterflies and other pollinators with plenty of food choices. The rose garden, bushes now numbering 50, are reserved for the residents to enjoy, but everything else can be cut and the choices are many.

Ric retired as Director in 2014 but still lovingly maintains the garden at Ashland Terrace, now affectionately referred to as “Ric’s Garden”. It’s Lexington’s only public cutting garden with in-season flowers, herbs, raised beds, fishponds, benches, a butterfly station, and a fairy garden. A true oasis in the middle of Chevy Chase and, all thanks to the generosity and commitment of one person with a mission, it’s available for the public to enjoy.