Philadelphia’s Best Community Gardens and Arboretums

Okay, so spring was late. But there’s no better way to welcome it—and relish it—than a spin through Philly’s most spectacular public gardens.

longwood-gardens-conservatory

Chanticleer

Wayne | 786 Church Road
The garden path may only be a mile long, but it’s a looping tour around the world. The Teacup G­arden is a verdant mess of tropical vines; the neatly planted cut flower and vegetable garden evokes Colonial days; and the clever Ruin Garden boasts partial stone walls, reflecting pools, sculptures and trees that, combined, nod to the 1925 home that once stood there. Flora is unlabeled on purpose; Chanticleer’s seven full-time gardeners are eager to engage.
Go to this Philadelphia public garden for: Whimsical metal gates, carved benches, tree ornaments and stone sofas, all crafted by the gardeners in the off-season.

Morris Arboretum

Chestnut Hill | 100 East Northwestern Avenue
This Penn-owned sanctuary is as historic as it is lush. The glassed-in fernery was built in 1899; the immaculate Rose Garden was created in 1888; and the serene Japanese Hill, rich with Far East specimens, dates back to 1905.
Go to this Philadelphia public garden for: Unplugging with the kids. There’s a soaring treehouse playground, and the Garden Railway, a not-so-small train that whizzes around a quarter-mile track, past mini versions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China and Independence Hall.

Longwood Gardens

Kennett Square | 1001 Longwood Road
It’s one of the most lauded gardens in the country. (Yeah, we said country.) A du Pont envisioned this space, which gets more theatrical with every turn. There are water-fountain displays fit for Versailles, a ringing Chimes Tower, forests, meadows, and a mindboggling array of flowers. (Bring a real, non-phone camera.) Leave
time for the Gatsby-esque Conservatory, where rooms of gargantuan hanging planters, orchids, fruit trees and more will make you rethink your lame houseplants.
Go to this Philadelphia public garden for: Bragging rights. This is truly one of Philly’s greatest treasures.

Magic Gardens

Center City | 1020 South Street
There’s no grass, no fl­owers, no tweeting birds, but this garden is as mood-lifting as greener pastures. Artist Isaiah Zagar began excavating this South Street property in 1994; 14 years later, he finally finished. The result is a subterranean funhouse enveloped in mosaics crafted from tiles, mirrors, mini figurines and wheels. Plan your visit around one of the tours, artist talks (Zagar spins tales in his upstairs studio), classes or concerts.
Go to this Philadelphia public garden for: It’s a garden. It’s art. It’s pop culture. It’s activism. It’s downright fascinating.

Winterthur

Delaware | 5105 Kennett Pike
Less showy than Longwood (but equally spectacular), this garden, museum and library is another gift from the du Pont dynasty. Hard- and soft-scaped areas are expertly planned yet still natural-looking, and blooms arrive in waves of color. A tram provides an orienting tour; paths are meandering; the Enchanted Woods children’s garden even delights adults; the Americana objects housed in the museum are fabulously quirky. (The Campbell’s Soup tureens will inspire you to dust off your good china.)
Go to this Philadelphia public garden for: Well-run events, like this month’s Point-to-Point horse race, mommy stroller walks, and flower-arranging workshops.


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