Most people don’t think of February as a month for garden tours, but I encourage you to change your mindset. Winter is a perfect time to experience gardens when you can see their bones, notice what creates interest and enjoy smaller crowds. Peace comes with touring gardens in the quiet of the off-season.
In the Philadelphia area we are lucky to live in America’s Garden Capital. With over 30 public gardens within 3o miles of the city, we have many gardens to choose from. A number of these gardens are open in the winter and waiting for your visit. I recently visited two area arboretums and was enthralled with their meandering paths, extensive plantings and winter wonder.
The Morris Arboretum was first on the list. Located in Chestnut Hill, the site includes tens of thousands of plants including many collected by plantsman John Morris and his sister Lydia who lived on the property when it was a private home. Some of Delaware Valley’s oldest specimen trees grow at the Morris. During our visit we took note of these features as well as the use of evergreens to frame views, spent seed heads, plants in flower and texture created by plant material.
In addition to the outdoor spaces, a number of Philadelphia’s public gardens have greenhouses or conservatories that provide a break from the cold and access to flowering non-hardy plants. Who doesn’t love being immersed in a sea of lush foliage or fragrant blooms in the middle of winter?
The second garden I had the opportunity to see this winter was the Tyler arboretum located in Media. Tyler spans over five hundred acres and includes seventeen miles of hiking trails and extensive plant collections. Tyler is one of the oldest arboretums in the region dating back to 1681. The property that makes up the arboretum today was purchased by Thomas Minshall from William Penn. Like the Morris, Tyler is home to some magnificent trees including those deemed ‘champions’ because they are the largest individual specimens of a particular species. We particularly enjoyed the Witch Hazel collection during our visit.
Clearly I was inspired by my tours to two Philadelphia’s area gardens this winter. I encourage you to seek out some you would like to see and make a plan to visit. I’m confident that in addition to many ideas for your own landscape, you will leave with a calm mind and warm heart.