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!
Are you a history buff as well as a plant lover? Then 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
Get ready to be dazzled by the beauty of snow trillium, trout lily, spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, bluebells, wood poppy, and a myriad of Pennsylvania’s other native wild flowers when you take a stroll through Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve in New Hope. Explore the grounds on your own or take a guided tour, offered every day (weather permitting) by trained naturalists, to learn some fun facts about the plants you spy and the preserve’s other natural wonders. You’ll want to keep your ears and eyes open to spy some of the 31 types of warblers whose serenades fill the spring woodlands.
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 more than 240,000 tulips, millions of crocus, 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 Festival of Fountains springs to life on May 7 as sprays of water from 1,719 jets dance through the air all summer long, beckoning you to discover the garden’s many other wonders just waiting for you amidst its 1,077 acres of horticultural splendor.
LAKE ERIE ARBORETUM AT FRONTIER PARK (LEAF)
Spring is always welcomed with open arms at the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (LEAF) in Erie. The arboretum is open year-round and 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, the aptly named Canopy of Color, where you’re invited to get literally “nose-to-petal” with thousands of aromatic lilies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and many other spring favorites — all set within whimsical themed displays. The show goes through April 19, then the summer flower show The Hidden Life of Trolls opens at the end of the month — equally guaranteed to provide 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 are being transformed into a botanical oasis. Explore 60 acres of outdoor splendor along three miles of groomed trails, including a mile that is ADA-accessible, play-and-discover Exploration Stations specially designed for children, 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. This arboretum, at Penn State Mont Alto, 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 28,000 tulips including more than 30 cultivars that are sure to delight. After a stroll through the gardens, be sure to check out the recently opened and stunning Milton and Catherine Hershey Conservatory, complete with 500 to 600 butterflies from around the world fluttering by in the indoor tropical Butterfly Atrium.
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 may just change that. This seven-acre gem is open to all, inviting you to wander through its 11 different gardens. You won’t want to miss the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden that’s based on the area’s geology — complete with a cave and its hidden passageway big enough for kids and grown-ups, or imagine yourself living at the time of the dinosaurs in the Grove of the Ancients featuring plants whose origins date back to the days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
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 four species of lavender are all hand-harvested and used for culinary purposes, oil, and dried lavender bouquets. Visitors can enjoy the farm’s more than 1,600 plants in four different varieties: Provence, Grosso, Hidcote, and Munstead. Explore Hope Hill’s gift shop and treat yourself to lavender body lotion, shampoo, and soy candles.
Ready for a real workout and view of some beautiful spring flowers? Go to 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. Check out the wildflower walks, offered every Wednesday.
Dating back to the early 20th century, the land surrounding the Chanticleer estate was originally developed as a way for summer homes 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 more than 5,000 plants on 35 acres ranging from lush green lawns to hardy perennials, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at this breathtaking city escape.
LAUREL HILL STATE PARK
Laurel Hill is surrounded by thousands of 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. While there, visitors should also be sure to view the incredible 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake.
To learn about more gardens and arboretums in PA, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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.