Quaker farmer John Bartram laid roots in Philadelphia’s first botanical garden in 1728 on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Known as ‘botanist to the king’, Bartram himself could not have predicted the impact his gardens would have on the city, and what it would mean for his own legacy.
The story of gardening in the American colonies can be traced back to Bartram and his son William. Dedicated botanist’, the father and son duo dedicated their lives to the study of horticulture, introducing more than 200 plants into cultivation.
Wanting to introduce the brilliant hues of North America’s autumn foliage to the United Kingdom, seeds were sent back for planting in select parks and gardens – a gift that can still be enjoyed today.
US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were frequent visitors to Bartram’s Gardens, as was Bartram’s close friend, Benjamin Franklin. A signature of Bartram’s Garden is the Franklinia Alatamaha, a native tree that was saved from extinction and named in honour of the famed inventor himself, Benjamin Franklin.
Bartram and his family were Quakers, a Christian religion that had deep attachments to nature and their surroundings. With their love of nature, Quakers set about establishing gardens around the Philadelphia area.
Outside of the city in Kennett Square, fellow Quakers and twin brothers Joshua and Samuel Peirce planted an arboretum (a botanical garden devoted to trees) around their home in 1798. The arboretum wasn’t fully matured until the 1880s, but by the 20th century, the property was in disrepair; that is, until industrialist Pierre S. du Pont purchased the land, saving the trees and grounds in 1906.
Over the next several years, Du Pont was to gentrify the area by adding fountains, water gardens and conservatories, all in an effort to restore the estate back to its former glory. Renamed Longwood Gardens, it’s one of the most famous horticultural displays in America today.
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Within 30-miles of downtown Philadelphia, you will find over 35 gardens to enjoy, giving Philadelphia its nickname – ‘America’s Garden Capital.’
Enjoy these gardens on your next visit to the Philadelphia area:
- Ambler Arboretum
- Arboretum at Barnes Foundation
- Awbury Arboretum
- The Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve of Medford Leas
- Bartram’s Garden
- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
- Barandywine River Museum of Art
- Camden Children’s Garden
- The Gardens of Mill Fleurs
- Grounds for Sculpture
- Hagley Museum and Library
- Haverford College Arboretum
- Henry botanic Garden
- Henry Schmieder Arboretum
- The Highlands Mansions and Garden
- Hortulus Farm Garden and Nursery
- James G. Kaskey Memorial Park
- Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens
- Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries
- Longwood Gardens
- Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
- Cuba Centre
- Nemours Estate
- PHS Meadowbrook Farm
- The Philadelphia Zoo
- Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
- Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
- Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden
- Tyler Arboretum
- Tyler Formal Gardens at Bucks County Community College
- The Woodlands
YOUR PHILADELPHIA GARDENS GETAWAY STARTS HERE