Some people travel the across the globe to see the best gardens, but really, they need only stick to the Philadelphia area: the region has so many quality places to experience nature in all its flowering glory that it could be named the garden capital of the world.
54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
The country’s oldest botanical garden has been around since the time of Benjamin Franklin, and though you may not be able to pluck roses without fear of thorns, a visit here need not be short like a winter’s day. Sayings aside, Bartram’s — nestled in Fairmount Park and along the Schuylkill River — boasts one of the most dramatic views of the Philadelphia skyline, not to mention the oldest Gingko tree in the land. John Bartram’s home still stands, as does his cider press, which is carved into the bedrock.
786 Church Rd.
Wayne, PA 19087
Chanticleer is called a “pleasure garden,” and you can’t help but wish this place — somehow — could be your home. “Eclectic” best describes some of its features; the Ruin Garden, for instance, is home to a sarcophagus-like fountain. In the Tennis Court Garden, you won’t find a McEnroe brother or a Williams sister, but you will see roses, poppies, daises, and irises. The view from the main house, which looks down a dramatic hill to a koi pond and Asian woodlands, is breathtaking–it’s worth the price of admission alone.
1001 Longwood Rd.
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Longwood Gardens has dubbed itself “the world’s premier horticultural showplace,” and you’d be hard-pressed not to consider this Kennett Square landmark among the greats of the globe. The 11,000 plants both indoors and out only brush the surface of this site; other highlights include the fountain shows, live concerts, the Christmas display (featuring 500,000 lights!) and the Terrace Restaurant (try the mushroom soup–you are in Kennett Square).
515 Painter Rd.
Media, PA 19063
In the early 1800s, the descendants of the man who purchased this massive tract of land in what’s now Media, Delaware County, planted the seeds — literally and figuratively — for this 650-acre arboretum. Native trees from that era and earlier still survive there; five plants — including the Yulan Magnolia and the Cedar of Lebanon — are state champions. All ages are invited for year-round educational programs, but kids will especially love climbing in the giant bird’s nest or exploring the treehouses.
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE 19735
Henry Francis du Pont said of his 60-acre garden on 1,000 acres of farmland in Delaware that “color is the thing that counts more than any other.” True to his word, color is the defining feature of this place, where plants bloom along rolling hills and curvy paths from late January to November. Of course, you can always hoof it, but there’s so much to take in that Winterthur offers a tram ride narrated by garden staff to highlight what’s blossoming and to show off other areas of the estate. You’re also encouraged to check out the collections in the library and museum.
5070 Parkside Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Located in Fairmount Park, Shofuso is a 17th Century-style Japanese mansion and garden that provides a picturesque setting for everyone from individual nature enthusiasts to small wedding receptions. Come for a traditional tea ceremony, or stroll along the pathways and gaze at the hinoki cypress, flowering plum, and bamboo — not to mention those cheeky koi fish. At various times throughout the year, Shofuso even throws a “moonviewing” fete, where sushi and sake are on the menu and partygoers sing songs as they watch the full moon rise over the pine trees.
631 Berwyn Baptist Rd.
Devon, PA 19333
This Main Line treasure covers 46 acres in Devon and is open dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. There’s always something in bloom; its mainstays are rhododendrons, azaleas, and native wildflowers. Your digital camera will reward you with memories of the stunning landscapes, especially in leaf-peeping season and during the winter, when the pond and stream ice over and snow lines the trails. Admission is free, but most of the time, this place feels literally priceless.
3400 West Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
When one hears “zoo,” the first thought is — of course — animals. But did you know that the Philadelphia Zoo is situated on a 42-acre Victorian garden? And when you’re not looking at lemurs, lions, aardvarks, and aye-ayes, the tree-lined paths and waterways offer a look at a different kind of nature than the 1300 creatures that call this “garden” home.