12 Great Gardens to Take Mom to for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is next weekend, people. And while you may be thinking of sending flowers — or even showing up with flowers — this mom is here to tell you: What your mama really wants is to spend time with you. Here are 12 gardens and arboretums perfect for a day trip, from quiet retreats to historical estates to glam showcases. So — what kind of flower is your mom?
For the Hothouse Orchid
The big daddy of them all, this arboretum once owned by du Ponts is a heady extravaganza, from the over-the-top Conservatory (don’t try this at home!) to the lakes full of fountains to the fantastical Topiary Garden to the acres upon acres of tulips and other spring bulbs. There are special concerts planned for Mother’s Day, but the reservation-only brunches are (boo!) sold out, so start planning earlier next year. You can buy your timed tickets in advance online. Don’t miss: The grand Canopy Cathedral treehouse and the monumental Green Wall.
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; to 8 p.m. Mother’s Day weekend. Adults $20, seniors $17, kids $10, ages four and under free. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org.
Grounds for Sculpture
This New Jersey attraction is open on Mother’s Day only to those who buy $20 tickets online ahead of time; they’re being sold in morning and afternoon time blocks. Once inside, you’ll find nearly 300 works of contemporary art, including founder Seward Johnson’s (somewhat creepy) lifelike human statues, spread out among 42 acres of gardens, ponds, meadows and trees — lots and lots of trees. Also: Peacocks. (Don’t try to pet them, yo.) There are rotating exhibits, an indoor art center, and a variety of dining options, including, for Mother’s Day, $50-for-two picnic baskets to order in advance.
$20 on Mother’s Day; other days, $15 adults, $12 seniors, $10 kids, and five and under free. 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616, groundsforsculpture.org.
This week should be peak bloom time at this former du Pont estate in Delaware, with dogwoods, viburnums, rhododendrons and azaleas all showing off. Plantings are based on the early-20th-century concept of a “Wild Garden,” with everything sited to look like it sprang up spontaneously (as if). The Oak Hill features native azaleas, while the Azalea Woods have eight acres of the showy shrubs beneath a canopy of trees. Also blooming: the Peony Garden, the Sundial Garden, and the three-acre Enchanted Garden, a for-kids space with a troll bridge, a labyrinth and a “faerie cottage.” Don’t miss: Saturdays through May, classic cars are on display.
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults $20, seniors $18, kids two to 11 $5, under two free (entrance fee includes the museum and library). 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 302-888-4600, winterthur.org.
For the Shrinking Violet
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
Some people want gardens that scream. If your mom prefers one that whispers, head for this 134-acre preserve that houses 800 species native to Pennsylvania, including many rare and endangered types. These are the plants with charming old-timey common names like shooting star, toadshade, lady’s slipper and lizard’s tail. Family alert: There’s a special Mother’s Day “Birds and Bloom” program the morning of the 10th for $25 per household, with kids’ crafts and a native plant for Mom. Don’t miss: The annual native plant sale opens to the public May 9th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Open 8:30 a.m. to sunset daily April through June. Adults $6, seniors $4, kids three to 14 $3, under three free. 1635 River Road, New Hope, 215-862-2924; bhwp.org.
This newcomer — it was dedicated in 2010 — is more park than floral extravaganza, but it’s highly suitable for kids, what with the giant Adirondack chairs (a Boy Scout’s Eagle project), a labyrinth, and a slab cut from the trunk of a white pine estimated to have been 300 years old at the time of its demise. There’s also wildlife, a short wooded trail, and tables perfect for picnicking. Dogs allowed on-leash.
Open dawn to dusk. Free. Brinton Lake Road, Thornton, thornbury.org.
Ott’s Exotic Plants
The poor man’s Longwood (hey, it’s free!) may not be as expansive as its Chester County cousin, but the greenhouses are full of hoary plants that twine along the walls and crawl across the ceilings, and there are rows and rows of unusual citrus trees, succulents, tropical plants and other outside-the-box offerings for sale. Most famous for its autumn chrysanthemum display, Ott’s is also a hushed, cool delight in springtime, with cheerful, helpful staff. Don’t miss: The koi ponds, and the cats that stand guard.
Open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; till 6 p.m. Sunday. Free (but you’re sure to buy something … ). 861 Gravel Drive, Schwenksville, 610-287-7878, no website.
For the Antique Rose
Billed as “America’s oldest living botanical garden,” this oasis on the Schuylkill was started in the 18th century by Quaker farmer and self-taught botanist John Bartram, who was determined to collect as many different North American plants as he could. He traded cuttings, seeds and info with fellow farmers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and eventually was named Royal Botanist to King George III. Today his former estate is a 45-acre National Historic Landmark featuring native and medicinal plants, meadows, ancient trees, and breathtaking views of the city skyline. You can cruise here and back from Center City on the Patriot Harbor Lines. Don’t miss: The annual spring plant sale on Mother’s Day weekend, featuring native and heirloom varieties.
Open dawn to dusk. Free. 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, 215-729-5281, bartramsgarden.org.
This National Historic Landmark in Germantown specializes in roses, which should just be starting to come into their own in May. The Rose Garden dates to 1820 and contains a number of specimens that would be lost to cultivation if not for their preservation here; among them are ‘Elegant Gallica’ and the gallica-damask hybrid ‘Lafayette,’ supposedly planted to mark a visit by the French general in 1825. Other standouts include cultivars later used in breeding programs, including early China roses and Rosa gallica officinalis, which has been cultivated at least as far back as the Crusades. The on-site farm grows produce for a farmers’ market that opens in late May. Don’t miss: Rosa alba semi-plena, thought to have been the White Rose of York.
Open noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Walk-in tours are free; “Celebration of the Roses” tours in May and June, led by a horticulturalist, are $10 per person. 6026 Germantown Avenue, 215-848-1612, wyck.org.
The first time we saw Erdenheim, we literally pulled off the road in amazement. Was this gorgeous 18th-century vista some sort of Brigadoon? Well, kind of; the 450 acres of protected open space house antique outbuildings, a greenhouse, an orchard, fields of heritage cattle and free-range chickens, gardens, an apiary and a farm stand. You can’t actually tour Erdenheim; it’s a private, working farm. But that farm stand is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from there you can gawk at the sheep barn and everything else that surrounds you, not to mention pick up some arugula, honey and Black Angus hot dogs.
Free. 5051 Flourtown Road, Lafayette Hill, 215-948-3244, erdenheimfarm.com.
For the Stout Oak
To appreciate Welkinweir, you really need to be into trees and shrubs as well as flowers. But trees and shrubs bloom, as the stewartia, franklinia, clethra, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons and azaleas here (which should be in fine form this weekend) prove. The (hilly) grounds include a children’s garden, water gardens, a ruined barn and an elegant estate — and there are plenty of perennials, too. Cautionary note: They’re only open Monday through Friday; weekends are reserved for members (and, often, weddings). Don’t miss: the spectacular weeping copper beech.
Open from 9 a.m.; closing time varies, so call. Dogs allowed on-leash. Free; donations encouraged. 1368 Prizer Road, Pottstown, 610-469-7543; welkinweir.org.
Adjacent to Erdenheim, the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum is 92 acres of greenery full of sights especially geared to families, like the children’s sculpture garden and the “Out on a Limb” tree canopy walk. The famed miniature Garden Railway won’t open till Memorial Day weekend, but there’s plenty more to see, including a number of state champion trees, a springhouse, a swan pond, a fernery, and the Azalea Meadow, which should just be coming into its own. Don’t miss: The annual spring plant sale is May 9th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; till 5 p.m. weekends. Adults $16; seniors $14; kids $8; under three free. 100 East Northwestern Avenue, 215-247-5777, morrisarboretum.com.
The former Rosengarten estate, now husbanded by a nonprofit foundation, is open Wednesday through Sunday and offers 35 acres of woodlands, a terraced gravel garden, a cutting garden, a bulb meadow, and a garden that’s overtaken a former tennis court, among other attractions. An elevated walkway to improve accessibility is due to open in June. Don’t miss: The picturesque wisteria-draped folly built on the ruins of what was once the Rosengarten home.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; till 8 p.m. Fridays from May through Labor Day. Adults $10, kids 12 and under free. 786 Church Road, Wayne, 610-687-4163, chanticleergarden.org.
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