Yard crashing: 13 must-see gardens in Pennsylvania

Peter Watson

From carefully sculpted botanical gardens to untamed meadows of wildflowers and thick forest, here are 13 stunning Pennsylvania gardens to enjoy this summer.

A striking water display at Longwood Gardens, PAPhoto Spirit/Shutterstock

Pennsylvania is not only home to America’s first botanical garden, but it’s also home to a plethora of lush, spectacular arboretums, and other wonderful oases.

All across the state, happy travelers can revel in the breathtaking floral beauty of Pennsylvania.

1. Bartram’s Garden

Where: Philadelphia

Surrounded by the urban bustle of Philadelphia, Bartram’s Garden is America's oldest living botanical garden.

Bartram’s Garden in Pennsylvania (Video: Bartram's Garden)

Bartram’s Garden was founded in 1728 when America’s first botanist, John Bartram, purchased the land and began a collection of North American plants, which he gathered by traveling across the nation.

You’ll forget you’re in the city when you see the wildflower meadow, majestic trees, river trail, wetland, stone house, farm buildings, and the historic botanic garden of American-native plants overlooking the Schuylkill River.

2. Longwood Gardens

Where: Kennett Square

This jewel situated near the Philadelphia and Lancaster regions is a place of unparalleled beauty.

Longwood Gardens (Image: @longwoodgardens)

Often referred to as the world's premier horticultural showplace, Longwood Gardens' 1,050 acres of natural woodlands, majestic gardens, opulent conservatories, and dancing fountains are open every day of the year for guests to enjoy with their loved ones.

Longwood is also home to the most significant fountain collection in the United States. The crown jewel of that collection, the Main Fountain Garden featured above, reopened in 2017 after an extensive two-year, $90-million revitalization.

3. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Where: Pittsburgh

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh is full of lush floral displays and exhibits designed to educate and enthral those who enjoy them.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Video: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens)

Phipps is set in an elaborate 3,600-square-foot glass Victorian greenhouse, which in 2012 became the first building in the world to earn the status of LEED Platinum for Buildings: Operations and Maintenance.

Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PAismailbayram/Shutterstock

4. Hershey Gardens

Where: Hershey

Located on 23 acres of horticultural excellence, visitors can appreciate spectacular seasonal displays, themed gardens, a collection of rare trees and more than 7,000 breathtaking roses at Hershey Gardens.

The Butterfly Atrium at Hershey GardensHershey Gardens

Take the family and admire the fluttering beauties in the popular Butterfly Atrium, enjoy the tranquility of the Japanese Garden or explore the Children's Garden that's filled with surprises at every turn.

With school programs, Girl Scout Saturdays and various programs for adults, there is something for everyone to learn and appreciate.

Visitors of the Hershey Gardens can also explore the Milton and Catherine Hershey Conservatory, which honors the dynamic couple’s penchant for horticulture with butterfly, educational and horticultural wings.

5. The Arboretum at Penn State

Where: State College

In 1914, 25 acres of Penn State land were set aside to transform into an arboretum, but it wasn’t until 2009 that construction was finally completed.

The gardens on the Penn State UniversityPenn State University

Now the grounds are a popular destination for not only Penn State students, but the surrounding community, as well.

Visitors can enjoy the luscious gardens on the Penn State University campus including the Grove of the Ancients, Oasis Garden, and Lotus Pool, as well as the various living plant collections.

6. Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park

Where: Erie

Established in 1998, Lake Erie Arboretum was opened in order to generate greater awareness of the beautiful trees we see each day.

Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (Image: @lakeeriearboretum)

Visitors can admire the arboretum’s more than 225 varieties of trees while meditating in the labyrinth or while hiking and biking along its various trails.

With an education center for children and an annual festival, Lake Erie Arboretum offers an educational and recreational oasis for visitors.

7. Tyler Arboretum

Where: Media

One of the oldest and largest arboreta in the northeastern USA, Tyler Arboretum began as a private horticultural collection in the mid-19th century, before officially opening to the public in 1944.

Rhododendrons at Tyler ArboretumTyler Arboretum

Since then, the arboretum has delighted adults and children alike with their 650 acres of plant collections, 17 miles of hiking trails, 10 tree houses, and the 1,400-square-foot butterfly house.

8. Hope Hill Lavender Farm

Where: Pottsville

In 2011, owners Wendy and Troy Jochems began planting the luscious lavender seen at the Hope Hill Lavender Farm.

Hope Hill Lavender Farm in Pennsylvania (Video: DiscoverNEPA)

This farm’s four species of lavender are all hand-harvested and used for culinary purposes, oil, and dried lavender bouquets.

Visitors can enjoy the farm’s more than 1,600 plants in four different varieties: Provence, Grosso, Hidcote, and Munstead.

Explore Hope Hill’s gift shop and treat yourself to lavender body lotion, shampoo, and soy candles.

9. Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Where: Oakdale

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is an immense project transforming 460 acres in abandoned coal mining land into a gorgeous, thriving botanic garden.

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Pennsylvania (Image: @pghbotanicgarden)

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is believed to be the largest botanic gardens in the US, as well as the only botanic garden in the US to be built on reclaimed land.

The Garden will be comprised of 20 gardens and four woodlands, as well as a visitor’s center, an amphitheater and more.

In 2014, the first 60 acres of the Garden were opened, allowing the public to experience the wonder of the Woodlands.

10. Laurel Hill State Park

Where: Somerset

Laurel Hill State Park consists of 4,062 acres of mountainous terrain in Somerset County. The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake is a focal point of the park.

Walking around Laurel Hill State Park in Pennsylvania (Video: Pennsylvania DCNR)

Laurel Hill is surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine stake park and forestlands.

A trail system invites visitors to hike and explore the park and observe the wide diversity of plants and wildlife. While there, visitors should also be sure to view the incredible 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake.

11. Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Where: New Hope

At Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, visitors will find nearly 800 species of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, all of which are native to Pennsylvania.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Pennsylvania (Image: @bowmanshillwildflowerpreserve)

Take a relaxing stroll through the Preserve’s meadow and while walking through the native grasses and wildflowers, admire the native Pennsylvania trees including red cedar, black walnut, and sycamore.

Keep your eyes open for the more than 110 species of birds in the Preserve, like 31 different species of warblers.

Visitors can truly appreciate the native beauty of Pennsylvania at the Preserve, which is dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of Pennsylvania native plants.

12. Quiet Creek Herb Farm

Where: Brookville

Through the beauty of the farm, as well as classes and seminars, Quiet Creek Herb Farm does an excellent job of educating its visitors about conservation, ecological thinking, and sustainable living.

A day at Quiet Creek Herb Farm (Video: Walker T. Orner)

In addition to its lush gardens of organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers, Quiet Creek has 30 acres of nature trails, straw bale houses and a wind/solar energy system, which offers a unique experience for visitors.

13. Chanticleer Garden

Where: Wayne

Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America.

The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural.

Chanticleer video tour (Video Chanticleer Garden)

It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home.

Dating back to the early 20th century, the land surrounding the Chanticleer estate was originally developed as a way for summer homes to escape the heat of Philadelphia.

Today, the estate boasts what has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America.

With more than 5,000 plants on 35 acres ranging from lush green lawns to hardy perennials, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at this breathtaking city escape.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ

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