April showers bring May flowers, and Pennsylvania’s gardens and arboretums will soon be putting on quite the show decked out in all in their finest floral glory! Grab your camera and get ready to snap some blooming happiness!
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square — widely recognized as one of the greatest gardens in the world — is a place of unparalleled beauty all year round, but spring is when it’s arguably at its blooming best. With an almost countless number of tulips, crocuses, winter-aconite, glory-of-the-snow, and daffodils blanketing the grounds and the Meadow Garden’s flowering trees and shrubs bursting with color, it’s truly a flower-lover’s paradise. The garden’s spring season is from Mar. 30 to May 5, with reservations and timed tickets required to ensure you will have the best possible experience.
Whether you’re a history buff or a plant lover Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia is a definite must-see destination! America’s oldest living botanical garden dates to the early 1700s and happens to be one of only a handful of identified prehistoric sites (think 5000 years prehistoric!) in Philadelphia. Stroll through 45 acres of parkland, wildlife habitats, tidal wetlands, and reclaimed meadow — all abloom with beautiful native and exotic plants. While the grounds are free and open to the public year-round, you might want to opt for a guided tour of the house and garden for a true appreciation of John Bartram’s vision and place in history as America’s first botanist.
Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve
See beautiful snow trillium, trout lily, spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, bluebells, wood poppy, and a myriad of Pennsylvania’s other native spring wildflowers when you visit Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve in New Hope. Explore the grounds on your own (open daily from April through June and select days other times of year), or take a guided tour, offered April through October on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (depending on naturalist availability), to learn about the plants you spy and the preserve’s other natural wonders. You’ll want to keep your ears and eyes open to spot some of the 31 types of warblers whose serenades fill the spring woodlands.
Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (LEAF)
Gardens aren’t the only place to see beautiful spring flowers. Many types of trees also get in on the action, with beautiful flowers adorning their branches and among the trees’ spring green leaves. The Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (LEAF) in Erie invites you to walk amid its more than 800 shade, flowering and evergreen trees, stroll along its pathways, and enjoy the beauty of Cascade Creek. You also can see a variety of early spring plants at the arboretum’s Benjamin Winter Garden.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Your olfactory receptors will be going full throttle this spring with a trip to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh at its spring flower show, “A Closer Look,” where you’re invited to literally go “nose-to-petal” with thousands of aromatic lilies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and many other spring favorites — all set within whimsical themed displays. The spring show is from Mar.16-Apr. 14, but visit the conservatory and botanical gardens any time of year for a feast for the senses!
Quiet Creek Herb Farm
Through the beauty of the farm, as well as classes and seminars, Quiet Creek Herb Farm in Brookville does an excellent job of educating its visitors about conservation, ecological thinking, and sustainable living. In addition to its lush gardens of organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers, Quiet Creek has 30 acres of nature trails, straw bale houses, and a wind/solar energy system, which offer a unique experience for visitors.
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Step outside and enjoy the warm breezes of spring among thousands of flowers decked out in all their spring finery at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakmont. Opened to the public in 2015, the garden is a true renaissance story as hundreds of acres of land damaged by decades of deep-mining, strip-mining, and clear cutting have been transformed into a botanical oasis. Explore 60 acres of outdoor splendor along miles of groomed trails, the ADA-accessible Garden of the Five Senses, the Dogwood Meadow, Hillside Pollinator Garden, and the Heritage Homestead, a restored 1784 log house.
Penn State Mont Alto
Admire the efforts from Arbor Day 1905 when students from the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy — established two years earlier — searched for native tree species not present on campus and brought back and planted more than 400 specimens representing 30 species. These original plantings were then augmented by seeds from other trees native to the United States. Download the Groves Map before you go to stroll by majestic trees from all over the U.S. and indeed the world at the Historic Arboretum at Penn State Mont Alto, which continues to provide a training ground for students as well as a research site for the development of new hybrids.
Did you know that Hershey is more than just yummy chocolate treats and fun amusement rides, but also a plant lover’s dream destination? While botanical treasures can be found in every season at Hershey Gardens, spring is definitely “tulip time,” with 20,000 tulips in 100 varieties that are sure to delight. After a stroll through the gardens, be sure to check out the stunning Milton and Catherine Hershey Conservatory and tropical Butterfly Atrium with its hundreds of butterflies from around the world fluttering by.
The Arboretum at Penn State
When you think of Penn State, flowers, trees, and gardens probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. The Arboretum at Penn State and H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens may just change that! The botanic gardens offer ten acres of floral beauty. Be sure to stop in the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden that’s based on the area’s geology — complete with a wading stream, cave and hidden passageway big enough for kids and grown-ups. In spring, the Marilyn Quigley Gerhold Wildflower Trail is a must-visit destinaion.
Hope Hill Lavender Farm
Since 2011, owners Wendy and Troy Jochems began planting the luscious lavender seen at the Hope Hill Lavender Farm. This farm’s several species of lavender are all hand-harvested and used for culinary purposes, oil, and dried lavender bouquets. You can enjoy the farm’s thousands of lavender plants during normal business hours, or take a formal tour on Saturdays in June through August. Explore Hope Hill’s gift shop and treat yourself to their lavender-infused body lotion, shampoo, and soy candles.
Ready for a real workout and view of some beautiful spring flowers? Visit the 650-acre Tyler Arboretum in Media where you’ll find manicured gardens, woodlands, wetlands, and meadows all decked out in spring’s finest. The arboretum offers 17 miles of trails ranging from the family-friendly to the far more challenging, with some steep hills passing by the property’s historic ruins. Their ADA-compliant Scenic Loop and paths in the Wister Rhododendron Garden, along with the ADA-accessible Thoreau’s Cabin, Fort Tyler, and Tulip Tree House guarantee all can enjoy nature’s splendor.
Dating back to the early 20th century, the land surrounding the Chanticleer estate was originally developed as a way for the well-to-do to escape the heat of Philadelphia. Today, the estate boasts what has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. With thousands of plants on 35 acres ranging from lush green lawns to hardy perennials, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at this breathtaking city escape. Opening day this year is Mar. 27, on Wednesday to Sunday through Nov. 3. Parking is limited so plan to reserve a spot before you go.
Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is comprised of more than 4,000 acres of pristine stake park and forestlands. A trail system invites visitors to hike and explore the park and observe the wide diversity of plants and wildlife. The park’s mixed deciduous forest is dominated by oak, maple, cherry, and poplar trees with an understory of witch hazel, serviceberry, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. Wildflowers are common and include the early blooming trillium and spring beauties that grace trail edges, as well as goldenrod and sow thistles that color the fields and roadsides well into November.
To learn about more gardens and arboretums in PA, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, X (Twitter), Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to never miss an update and sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter.