Pennsylvania is filled with expansive, awe-inspiring gardens and green spaces, but there will always be something magical about a tucked away gem. A secret garden. A place that you have to know about to know. Next time you’re planning an event, be it an intimate wedding, an outdoor birthday party, a casual picnic with friends, or even an afternoon with a good book, find an enchanting pocket of blooms off the beaten path.
Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden
Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden offers a chance to enjoy nature in the city and also to learn something. Based on the horticulture of ancient Israel, the space boasts 100 temperate and tropical plants along with a cascading waterfall, a desert section, and a bubbling stream. Native to the middle east, much of the flora must be stored inside during the colder months, so be sure to plan your visit, event, or party for the summer months.
The Pusadees Garden is technically a Thai restaurant, but one built around an exquisite garden. Behind the modern, single-story storefront on Butler Street lies an intimate green space complete with vine-covered trellises and twinkling lights. Even in colder weather, a glass-walled section of the dining room will make you feel like you’re still al fresco. Reach out to ask about hosting a rehearsal dinner or cocktail party under the stars.
We simply had to include a place that boasts an actual “secret garden.” The Discovery Garden is verdant community space, dedicated to the memory of a local young woman named Courtney Leigh Claton. It comprises eight themed gardens, including one designed to attract butterflies and one modeled on an English “cottage garden.” The Secret Garden is a wonderland for young imaginations and features interactive learning boards, a wooden bridge, a rabbit hole tunnel, and a rainbow garden complete with a pot of gold. If you want to book this special spot for your next birthday party or cookie swap, reach out to the Hollidaysburg American Legion.
Hintz Alumni Garden
The Hintz Family Alumni Center, a historic building and gathering place for Nittany Lions young and old, boasts an idyllic garden sown with colorful flowers. Take a break from the bustle of campus to sit by the edge of the pond, watching the fish dart to and fro and listening to the birds chirp. This is an enticing spot for a simple picnic, or for special occasions such as engagement or graduation photos. The eye-catching building also boasts reception rooms for your indoor/outdoor fête.
The bustling 19th Century logging industry spurred the creation of Hardscrabble, a raucous neighborhood on the banks of the Susquehanna River. In 1924, the rough-and-tumble pocket of the city was demolished and replaced with this charming, colorful little park. Not all of the historic building foundations were removed, influencing the idiosyncratic design. These days, the Sunken Garden is a dreamy spot to watch the water, while the wooden gazebo is a memorable backdrop for a wedding proposal or maternity photos.
The Peace Garden at Memorial Plaza
As with a few other entries on this list, the Peace Garden at Memorial Plaza is actually a section of a larger park — but that’s what makes it such a hidden gem. This particular sanctuary was the brainchild of Polly Underwood, a local woman short of gardening experience but long on passion. Originally designed in the early ‘90s, it was revamped by Jill Hudock 20 years ago. Spring is an especially beautiful time for an afternoon picnic, elopement, or surprise proposal as three types of cherry trees, including Weeping, Kwansen and Mt. Fuji, are in full bloom.
Conestoga House & Gardens
Head behind the high walls of the historic Conestoga House & Gardens to discover an enchanted wonderland of flowers, ivy-covered walls, and elegant hedges. Located just two miles from the city center, the gardens showcase 3,300 annuals, 400 tropical plants, more than 160 varieties of perennials, and 160 rose bushes from 20 different varieties. All the plants are clearly identified, making it a great place for gardening inspiration. Bonus for the young (or young at heart): There are over a dozen topiary animals scattered throughout the property. The verdant site hosts bridal showers, weddings, engagement parties, and al fresco dinners.
Perth and Addison Park
Society Hill, Philadelphia
Stumbling upon this pocket park, tucked amidst a warren of colonial rowhomes in a historic section of Philadelphia, is an unexpected joy. With its brick pavers and beautifully maintained flower beds, the Perth and Addison Park is a dreamy spot for a book club meetup or a casual first date, and it’s also lovely enough for engagement photos.
National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Center City, Philadelphia
The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square. The Headquarters House includes an exquisite courtyard. Edged by red brick walls and lined with ornamental hedges and flowers, this is truly a secret garden — and one that can be booked by the public for events and weddings.
John F. Collins Park
Center City, Philadelphia
The John F. Collins Park is another tucked-away garden in the city’s busy business district. Built in the 1970s — the cool, geometric design speaks to the era — this pocket of greenery is an ideal spot for lunch on a warm day or an intimate party. Enter through the ornate iron gates and be transported.
Malcolm Gross Rose Garden
Located within the much larger Cedar Creek Park, the Malcolm Gross Rose Garden is all about its namesake blooms. Enjoy the brightly colored roses along with water lily-filled ponds and a sweet columned gazebo. If you’re looking for a place for an impromptu wedding, look no further — the space is first come, first served.
This lovely idyll was actually created by a professional wedding officiant. After years of marrying couples at massive venues and resorts across the Poconos region, she felt there was a need for something more intimate — a garden that was just right for a last-minute elopement or a simple party with close friends and family. Sown with trees and flowers, and boasting a small pavilion for rainy days or a post-ceremony drink, Harmony Gardens offers the backyard wedding of your dreams. No backyard of your own required.