Are you crazy about plants? Always looking for something unusual to plant in your garden or grow on your windowsill? Then spend the day immersed in horticulture at three
fabulous gardens with fantastic plant collections.
Plan for a very full day of adventure! If you want to make it a weekend of plant exploration, treat yourself to an overnight stay at the Joseph Ambler Inn in North Wales, a short drive from the gardens listed below and downtown Ambler.
Stop 1: The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University
580 Meetinghouse Road, Ambler, Pennsylvania
Open year round from dawn to dusk. Visit their website for more information, ambler.temple.edu/arboretum.
➔ Temple University Ambler has a long history of horticulture and landscape design. Established as the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1910, the 187-acre campus represents a unique mix of natural and designed landscapes. The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University has a diverse range of learning gardens, from formal perennial gardens to a green roof garden, which provide a rich diversity of garden experiences. They are committed to celebrating the achievements of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women and preserving the historic significance of the campus. Its three areas of focus are sustainability, the health benefits of gardens, and the history of women in horticulture, agriculture, and design.
➔ One garden feature that you must see while visiting is the Arboretum’s centerpiece garden – the Louise Bush-Brown Formal Perennial Garden. This magnificent garden was first planted in 1928 and was designed by Beatrix Farrand, with input by James Bush-Brown. Another garden feature you must see is the Wetland Garden, located behind Cottage Hall. Sustainable elements include recycled-glass pavers, biological filtration of campus storm water runoff, a solar fountain and native plant communities.
➔ Schedule a guided tour with the arboretum director or take a self-guided tour of the rich campus environments.
Stop 2: Morris Arboretum & Gardens
100 E. Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Open daily, hours vary with the season. Visit morrisarboretum.org to plan your visit.
➔ Morris Arboretum & Gardens is a historic public garden and educational institution. It promotes an understanding of the relationship between plants, people and place through programs that integrate science, art and the humanities. More than 12,000 labeled plants of approximately 2,500 types are growing in Morris’ living collection. These include representatives of the temperate floras of North America, Asia, and Europe. This historic collection traces its foundation to John Morris’ interest in plants from around the world, and includes plants collected in China by E.H. Wilson at the turn of the century. Many of the Delaware Valley’s “trees-of-record” (the largest of their kind) are found in the Arboretum. Most notable are the katsura, Engler beech, Bender oak, and trident maple.
➔ As a plant enthusiast, you can’t miss The Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery. It is the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in North America. Originally built in 1899 under the supervision of John Morris, the fernery stands today as a historical time piece, documenting the British obsession with ferns and glasshouses during the Victorian era. Whether accompanied by children or not you will want to explore Out on a Limb, a Tree Adventure Exhibit. Get a bird’s eye view of the forest from 50 feet up, perched on a canopy walk high above ground level.
➔ After exploring the grounds, stop by The Shop to treat yourself to a locally crafted item or a book on identifying local birds, your purchase supports the Morris’ mission.
Stop 3: PHS Meadowbrook Farm
1633 Washington Lane, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Visit meadowbrookfarm.org to plan your visit.
➔ PHS Meadowbrook Farm is a destination for every plant enthusiast! Meadowbrook is a 21-acre property where visitors can enjoy formal and informal gardens, seasonal plantings, and an extremely diverse plant palette. Bequeathed to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society by J. Liddon and Alice Herkness Pennock in 2004, The Gardens at PHS Meadowbrook Farm have been lovingly cultivated for more than 80 years. The terraced garden was designed on a linear axis with intimate focal points directing your gaze down the vistas. Many of the focal points and accents in the garden are gazebos, structures, and statues repurposed from the years Mr. Pennock spent exhibiting at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Pennock created a series of lush “garden rooms” throughout the terraces using evergreen backdrops for colorful, seasonal plantings. The gardeners draw inspiration from what he left behind and still fill the garden beds and containers with hundreds of annuals, tropicals, and perennials every spring and summer to provide a stunning show to visitors throughout the growing season.
➔ There is much to admire as you walk through the gardens an old pair of cloud pruned Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock), an enormous cloud pruned Taxus baccata (English yew), espaliered Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia), a grove of Franklinia alatamaha, and a large Acer griseum (paperbark maple). In addition to formal garden beds around the house, the PHS Gardens at Meadowbrook Farm include a large display garden, pollinator garden, cutting garden, xeric garden, cacti and succulent garden, rain garden, rock garden, and woodland path. All the plant material used in the garden is grown by the fabulous PHS Growing Center on the property. This unique opportunity allows for some very unusual plant material that you will find tucked away in all corners of this garden.
➔ It is free to wander the gardens. Be sure to stop by The Plant Shop, where you can purchase some of the plants on display in the gardens, as well as unusual varieties of cacti, succulents, ferns, begonias, tropicals, alpines, and perennials all grown on site in the Growing Center. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic. Spread out a blanket in the grass, take a seat by the pool, or find a quiet spot in the shade to enjoy your food.
Additional Recommendations Nearby
➔ Take a stroll through quaint downtown Ambler, grab some food at one of the many restaurants, a drink at Forest & Main Brewing Co., or enjoy the Ambler Farmers’ Market. If you are looking for an activity to do after dinner, swing by the Act II Playhouse for a play or the Ambler Theater that specializes in independent, art, and foreign films.
➔ Art and horticulture seem to pair very well together. If you have time, consider visiting Woodmere Art Museum, just a 5-minute drive from Morris Arboretum. Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in Chestnut Hill, Woodmere Art Museum is dedicated to the art and artists of Philadelphia.