By Alex Jones
Philadelphia is America’s Garden Capital, with a whopping 36 public gardens within 30 miles of the city—a distinction that no other city in America can claim. Peruse our guide to these glorious green spaces to plan your next garden trip.
Temple University’s satellite campus in Bucks County doesn’t just train students in the school’s highly rated horticulture programs on 187 acres. The historic garden was established as a horticulture school for women in 1910; today, the grounds include spaces dedicated to medicinal and culinary herbs, native plants, perennials, and wetlands plants in addition to formal gardens. Free admission; 580 Meetinghouse Road, Ambler, Pa.
This historic property overlooking the Delaware River in Bucks County boasts not just the ornate, historic Big House, built in the early 19th century, but also 225 acres of grounds. Garden highlights include rare trees and plants, peonies, azaleas and graperies, plus a walled garden planted with a wide variety of roses. $20 per person; 1237 State Road, Andalusia, Pa.
Arboretum at the Barnes Foundation
Although the property of the original Barnes Foundation is only 12 acres, its collections are expansive—more than 2,500 varieties. Some of the trees there were planted way back in the 1880s, so it’s a great place to see century-old and rare specimens, like the South American native monkey puzzle tree and an actual redwood, plus more than a dozen varieties of magnolia. Pay what you wish; 300 N. Latch’s Lane, Merion, Pa.
This Germantown enclave showcases the beauty and life of urban agriculture, wetlands and meadows. Last year, it opened AdventureWoods, a natural materials space where kids can play and explore. Right now, they’re celebrating Year of the Pollinator, a slate of workshops, art and events all about the beneficial insects that shape our world. Free admission; One Awbury Road
The Barton Arboretum & Nature Preserve of Medford Leas
Located in conjunction with the Medford Leas retirement communities, Barton combines formal gardens with preserved natural space between properties in Lumberton and Medford, totaling 200 acres. The nature preserve offers visitors the chance to explore marsh and forest lands on the outskirts of the Pine Barrens in addition to manicured gardens featuring mini waterfalls and groves of native trees. Free admission; One Medford Leas Way, Medford, N.J.
Bartram’s Garden is an oasis of history and nature in a post-industrial environment that’s working to reclaim the riverfront for nature and its neighbors in Southwest Philly. In addition to an array of rare, medicinal and historic plants—like camellia sinensis, aka the tea plant, cranberries and bloodroot—the garden boasts trails for walking and biking, a community garden and free kayaking on Saturdays in season. Free admission; 5400 Lindbergh Blvd.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
As the nation’s only accredited botanical museum dedicated to native plants, this Bucks County preserve showcases 134 acres of plant life; more than 700 of Pennsylvania’s 2,000 native species grow at Bowman’s Hill. Head here for guided wildflower and birding walks and native plant lectures. Adults $6; seniors and students $4; children $3; 1635 River Road, New Hope, Pa.
Brandywine River Museum of Art
This historic mill-turned-museum in Chester County is famous for its galleries dedicated to the acclaimed Wyeth family of artists, but don’t miss its wildflower and native plant demonstration gardens and river trails on your visit. You can even take a tour of the nearby Kuerner Farm, which inspired many of Andrew Wyeth’s works. Adults $18; seniors $15; students $6; One Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, Pa.
Camden Children’s Garden
On the other side of the Delaware River, this garden features tons of activities and attractions for kids—a butterfly house, a dinosaur garden, and rides like the Arrow River Train and the Garden Carousel—plus lots of workshops and events to keep the little ones entertained. Adults $9; Camden residents $6; 3 Riverside Drive, Camden, N.J.
This Main Line estate-turned-garden is home to more than 5,000 plant species, grouped by setting: the Gravel Garden replicated a Mediterranean desert climate, the Serpentine is where vegetables and cut flowers are grown, and the Asian Woods highlight specimens native to Japan, China and Korea, maintained by a team of seven horticulturists. Adults $10; children 13 and under free; 786 Church Road, Wayne, Pa.
The Gardens at Mill Fleurs
One of the more unique sites on the list, Mill Fleurs is a revamped mill turned furniture showcase, rare plant nursery and garden. Visits are guided tour only, but they’re typically led by owner Barbara Tiffany, who will spend a full two hours with you talking and teaching about plants as she leads you through her collection—and feeds you home-baked cookies, too. $25 per person; 27 Cafferty Road, Point Pleasant, Pa.
Grounds for Sculpture
The 42 acres that make up this arts and nature destination were once the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Today, Grounds for Sculpture features multiple indoor art galleries, restaurants, and outdoor gardens that display massive sculptures, many of which depict familiar American figures larger than life. Adults $18; seniors $15; children $10; 5 and under free; 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, N.J.
Hagley Museum and Library
Once the site of the original DuPont Powder Works, Hagley’s 235 acres on the Brandywine River features exhibits on the site and the company’s history, including reenactors living early 1800s-style in the Workers’ Hill Community. The original du Pont home and garden are open for tours, too. Adults $15; seniors and students $11; children 6-14 $6; 5 and under free; 200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, Del.
Haverford College Arboretum
Haverford’s collection of trees is another historic gem on the list, with a unique design including rings of five and seven trees that were planted as far back as the 1830s, when the Quaker school was first founded. Don’t miss the Smith-Magill formal flower garden, the Asian gardens, or the natural meadow, a more recent addition. Free admission; 370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pa.
Henry Botanic Garden
Visits to this “wilderness garden,” begun by botanist Mary Henry, are by appointment only—but guests won’t be disappointed, with collections of rare and native plants on display in addition to the natural beauty of the landscape. While there are designated walking paths, guests are encouraged to wear long pants and sturdy shoes. $10 per person; 801 Stony Lane, Gladwyne, Pa.
Henry Schmieder Arboretum
Located at Bucks County’s Delaware Valley University, this century-old, 40-acre space includes collections and gardens centered around herbs, conifers, roses, irises and peonies. For the past two years, planning has been underway for a restoration of the garden that will include interactive and educational exhibits. Free admission; 700 E. Butler Ave., Doylestown, Pa.
The Highlands Mansion & Gardens
This 18th-century summer-residence-turned-public-garden features verdant, rolling hills, 2 acres of formal gardens and a restored, 1920s-era greenhouse. Tours of the gardens and mansion are offered at 1:30 p.m. most weekdays or by appointment. Adults $5; seniors $4; students $3; 7001 Sheaff Lane, Fort Washington, Pa.
Hortulus Farm Garden & Nursery
Built on an original William Penn land grant property in Bucks County, Hortulus has a long history of dairy farming. Today, it’s still a working farm and nursery, with 24 gardens spread over 30 of its 100 acres that guests can tour on their own. For an additional donation, you can get a tour from the founders themselves. $15 per person; 60 Thompson Mill Road, Wrightstown, Pa.
James G. Kaskey Memorial Park
Better known as the Biopond, the small pond and greenhouses that make up this petite garden are tucked away on Penn’s campus—and the oldest green space on the campus, begun as a research garden in 1897. At only 3 acres, Kaskey Park is home to more than 500 trees, serves as a teaching garden for biology students at the university, and provides a home for wildlife including birds, crayfish and frogs. Free admission; 433 S. University Ave.
Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens
This Main Line estate-turned-public-park and botanical garden is known for its azalea gardens, with more than 5,000 azaleas, rhododendrons and hybrids, in bloom from March through July, in addition to woodlands, wildflowers and a historic house. The bog garden, the arboretum’s most recent addition, is home to moisture-loving species such as cranberries, the endangered swamp pink and carnivorous plants such as sundews. Free admission; 631 Berwyn Baptist Road, Devon, Pa.
Laurel Hill & West Laurel Hill Cemeteries
The nation’s first historic landmark cemetery, Laurel Hill is the resting place of famous Philadelphians like Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane and beloved Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas. Its 32 acres are also the home of more than 300 species of rare trees and shrubs. Free admission; 3822 Ridge Ave.
Perhaps the best-known of the Philly region’s botanic gardens, Longwood has it all: formal gardens, ornate architecture, meadowlands, greenhouses, and ponds full of exotic tropicals over more than 1,000 acres. The garden’s blooms and light shows draw guests from all over the region year-round, especially at Christmastime. Adults $23; seniors and college students $20; kids 5-18 $12; kids 4 and under free; 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa.
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
The official arboretum of Pennsylvania, Morris is home to several state champion tree specimens such as ginkgo, giant sequoia, and a 250-year-old Bender Oak. Don’t miss the Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery, the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in North America, with a koi pond and unique, outsized specimens of ferns like bird’s nest, maidenhair and bear paw. Adults $19; seniors $17; walkers/cyclists $10; youth 3-17, military and students $10; children under 3 free; 100 E. Northwestern Ave.
Mt. Cuba Center
This vast, du Pont-owned garden and nature preserve just increased its holdings to include the nearby Red Clay Reservation, adding another 500 acres of natural land. Visit and tour the formal gardens, woods and meadows, or head there for Twilight on the Terrace for live music, food trucks and lawn games on select summer evenings. Adults $10; children 5-17 $5; children 5 and under free; 3120 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, Del.
Apart from attractions including a 77-room Victorian-era mansion and a collection of vintage cars once used on the estate, this du Pont property is home to the largest formal French gardens in North America. Come for the Maze Garden and Sunken Garden, stay for the grand fountains and ornate sculptures. Adults $18; seniors/military/students $16; kids 5-16 $8; 4 and under free; 850 Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Del.
PHS Meadowbrook Farm
The onetime home of J. Liddon Pennock, Jr., was bequeathed to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society after the florist and gardener passed away in 2003. Now, it’s where specimens for the organization’s annual Flower Show are grown and a 25-acre public green space with formal and informal gardens and ornate features, many of which were added over the years by Pennock after exhibiting at the Flower Show. Free admission; 1633 Washington Lane, Jenkintown, Pa.
The Philadelphia Zoo
An attraction in its own right, Philly’s zoo—the first in the nation—was originally conceived as a botanical garden with exotic creatures. Today, its animal residents are more of a draw, but it’s still home to 42 acres of green space, including a massive English elm that’s said to have been planted by John Penn, son of William, around 230 years ago. Adults $24.95; kids 2-11 $19.95; kids under 2 free; 3400 W. Girard Ave.
Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
This “garden of ideas” covers all 425 lush acres of the school’s campus in Swarthmore. In addition to providing work-study and learning opportunities for the college’s students, Scott Arboretum boasts 4,000 plant varieties well-suited to our growing zone and offers paid tours and programming with a goal of supporting home gardeners in the area. Free admission; 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, Pa.
Shofuso Japanese House & Garden
While Shofuso House itself has been in place since 1953, the 17th-century-style garden harks back to Philly’s 1876 Centennial Exposition, when it was first planted—the first Japanese garden ever in North America. Today, the grounds feature a koi pond, viewing garden and a tea garden, with events like tree pruning workshops and tea ceremonies taking place throughout the year. Adults $12; seniors and children 6-17 $8; children 5 and under free; Lansdowne and Horticultural drives, West Fairmount Park
Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden
The newest addition to the 30+ gardens list is this Villanova estate, easily accessible by regional rail. It’s unique in that its previous owners wanted to preserve the property’s natural beauty—that means enormous trees unpruned for a century, twisting into unique shapes and contours you won’t see at other public gardens. And at 42 acres, it’s small enough to see the whole thing in one visit. Free admission; 1829 East County Line Road, Villanova, Pa.
Spread over 650 rolling acres, this Delaware County garden is one of the country’s oldest arboreta. With heritage crabapple, lilac, cherry, and magnolia trees, it’s the perfect place to go for a springtime stroll on 17 miles of walking paths, or spend an afternoon spotting birds or hanging out at the Butterfly House. Adults $15, seniors $13, youth 3-7, military and students $9, kids 2 and under free; 515 Painter Road, Media, Pa.
Tyler Formal Gardens at Bucks County Community College
Look for the French and Italian influences in this four-tiered formal garden, built in the 1930s to decorate the landscape of one of the last great estates built in the U.S., as well as bronze sculptures by onetime owner and horticulturist Stella Elkins Tyler. The garden boasts impressive specimens of lilacs, magnolias, tree peonies and native dogwoods among its collections. Free admission; 275 Swamp Road, Newtown, Pa.
The name of this northern Chester County green space means “where sky meets water”— and with a stepped waterfall and riparian forests on the banks of French Creek tributary Beaver Run, you’ll see why. In addition to wetland, meadow and forest, Welkinweir features walking and hiking trails and rare plants donated by award-winning plant breeder Lloyd Partain. Pay what you wish; 1368 Prizer Road, Pottstown, Pa.
Outside the meticulously curated historic-house-turned-museum are nearly 1,000 acres of garden space at this Chester County site. True to original owner Henry du Pont’s style, plantings are color-coordinated and designed to bloom in succession nearly year-round. In summertime, that means lots of purples, pinks, whites, reds and yellows. Adults $20; children 2-11 $6; seniors and students $18; 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Pa.
Head to this West Philly green space for history, greenery and beautiful blooms: In addition to flowering trees, some of the plots are topped with Victorian cradle graves and adorned with period-appropriate plants and flowers by volunteers in the park’s Grave Gardeners program. Bring a picnic blanket, your dog or a book and spend some quiet time among the stones. Free admission; 4000 Woodland Ave.
Fans of roses will love this historic Germantown estate, established in 1690. Its grounds are home to a rose garden first planted in the 18th century that now includes species extinct outside of Wyck. There’s also a bustling urban farm, which includes a Victorian-era glass greenhouse, which seeks to maintain the traditional agricultural methods. Free admission; 6026 Germantown Ave.