Jenkins Arboretum. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot.

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15 Brandywine Valley Gardens and Arboretums to Visit This Spring

From iconic gardens to hidden gems, the region is replete with natural oases.

By Lisa Dukart and Rachel Spurlock |

Barnes Arboretum

This hidden gem, located in Merion, sits on 12 acres and boasts over 2,500 varieties of plants, some of which date back to the 1880s. The property was home to the Barnes family, who cultivated the land, and curated and augmented the species previously assembled there by Captain Joseph Lapsley Wilson. The Barnes Arboretum is open from May through September and includes a peony and lilac collection, an herbarium, and a medical plant garden. Keep an eye out for the blooming magnolia collection in spring.

300 N. Latch’s Lane, Merion, Pa.

 

Barnes Arboretum. Photo by R. Kennedy/Visit Philadelphia.
Barnes Arboretum. Photo by R. Kennedy/Visit Philadelphia.

 

Chanticleer Garden

Once home to the Rosengarten family, this Wayne estate’s gardens are now open to the public during the warmer months of the year, and the house can be toured by appointment. Today, 14 gardeners and groundskeepers maintain the immaculate grounds. Spend a lazy day strolling through Bell’s Woodland, which showcases North American forest plants, the teacup garden, Asian Woods and more. In spring, be sure to explore the Bulb Meadow, which boasts Spanish bluebells and daffodils. The Cut-Flower Garden is also a treat in late spring, as foxgloves and hollyhocks add pops of color to the landscape and draw butterflies and birds.

786 Church Road, Wayne, Pa.

 

Delaware Center for Horticulture

The Delaware Center for Horticulture works to unite the community through a shared passion for plants and helps increase ecological sustainability. Whether you’re looking for a casual stroll or a place for a family picnic, the DCH is a beautiful backdrop, especially in the spring. 

1810 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, Del.

 

E.I. du Pont Garden at Hagley Museum and Library

This two-acre garden found on the sprawling grounds of Hagley is a must visit for anyone exploring the museum. The gardens were restored in the 1970s and boast a riot of color throughout the year. In spring, find flowers like crocuses, hyacinths, jonquils and tulips in neat rows.

200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, Del.

 

Hagley Museum. Photo by Flickr user TravelingOtter.
Hagley Museum. Photo by Flickr user TravelingOtter.

 

Gardens at Nemours Estate

One of the largest formal French gardens in North America, these historical grounds were designed after the ones surrounding the Palace of Versailles. You could spend hours exploring the different features like the Boxwood Garden, the Reflecting Pool, the Sunken Gardens and the Colonnade.

850 Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Del.

 

Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens

Explore a robust collection of trees, shrubs and wildflowers at Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens. The romantic grounds have an equally sweet beginning: The home and property, originally a wedding gift for H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, were later established as a foundation in Elisabeth’s name by her husband. Elisabeth was an avid gardener, and today the arboretum has more than doubled to 46 acres.  Explore the walking trails, botanical garden, and the rhododendrons and azaleas collection, which hail from around the globe. In spring, expect to see snowdrops, Virginia bluebells and wild tulips in bloom.

631 Berwyn Baptist Road, Devon, Pa.

 

Jenkins Arboretum. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot.
Jenkins Arboretum. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot.

 

Longwood Gardens

Perhaps the best known garden in the whole state, Longwood Gardens boasts over 1,000 acres of meadows, fountain gardens, a conservatory and more. Bequeathed for public use by Pierre du Pont, the gardens are spectacular in all seasons, but the grounds really come alive in spring. Plan a visit in April to experience the Spring Blooms display, when more than 240,000 tulips push their way through the ground to saturate the Idea Garden and Flower Garden Walk in color. Elsewhere, look for blooming wisteria and flowering cherries.

1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa.

 

Longwood Gardens. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sydchrismom.
Longwood Gardens. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sydchrismom.

 

Marian Coffin Gardens at Gibraltar

Located on the grounds of the Gibraltar estate, the Marian Coffin Gardens have rich historical roots. Coffin was the daughter of Isabella Mathieu du Pont Sharp and Hugh Rodney Sharp, who purchased the estate in 1909. Coffin cultivated her love for horticulture and meticulously kept the gardens over the course of her life. After her death, the grounds deteriorated but Preservation Delaware began restoration projects on the grounds in 1999. Today, the gardens feature an array of plant species including wisteria and water lilies in the spring.

1405 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, Del.

 

Mt. Cuba Center

Mt. Cuba Center dates back to the 1930s when the du Pont-Copeland family purchased the property. It became a public garden in 2002. Today, the grounds of Mt. Cuba and the Red Clay Reservation include over 1,000 acres of natural beauty. The plant collections spotlight species native to the Eastern Temperate Forests of the United States, an area that ranges from New York to Alabama. Wonder the grounds or take one of the classes covering topics from beginners gardening to the intricacies of native orchids.

3120 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, Del.

 

Rockwood Park and Museum

Built in 1851, Rockwood began as the retirement estate of Wilmington native Joseph Shipley. In the late 1800s, the Bringhurst family took ownership and today Rockwood serves as a museum showcasing life during the turn of the 20thcentury. Heritage plants abound on the grounds, ranging from clematis to weeping hemlock to magnolias to rhododendron and the Dr. W. van Fleet rose. The grounds are a great place for a stroll and a picnic, especially in spring.

4651 Washington Street Extension, Wilmington, Del.

 

Magnolia blossoms.
Magnolia blossoms.

 

Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College

Adjacent to Swarthmore College’s campus, Scott Arboretum has 425 acres of trees, hiking trails and hills. Best known for its hollies, magnolias and oaks, the arboretum also boasts collections of conifers, cherries, hollies and hydrangeas. Many of the species found on the grounds are representative of the Delaware Valley’s native flora.

500 College Ave., Swarthmore, Pa.

 

Stoneleigh

Created by Natural Lands, this garden made its public debut in May 2018. Like many area estates, Stoneleigh has a long history, dating back to 1877. The property was augmented and changed hands over the year, always with attention to the gardens and grounds. For 80 years, the home belonged to the Haas family, who left it to be conserved and enjoyed by the public. Visitors can explore the Tudor Revival mansion and the stunning grounds.

1829 E. County Line Road, Villanova, Pa.

 

Tyler Arboretum

This historic arboretum dates back to 1681. For nearly 300 years, the land was farmed by the same family, two members of which—Minshall and Jacob Painter—had a particular interest in studying nature, collecting everything from rocks to dried plants. In 1825, they began planting trees and shrubs, creating an early foundation for what would become the arboretum. Today, the arboretum is open year-round. In spring look for bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, hellebores, plus magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

515 Painter Road, Media, Pa.

 

Tyler Arboretum. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot.
Tyler Arboretum. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot.

 

University of Delaware Botanic Gardens

These research botanic gardens act as both public gardens and a hands on classroom for botany students at the university. The gardens house more than 3,000 species of perennials, shrubs and trees. In the spring, blossoms include flowering quince, redbuds, Japanese apricot and viburnum, among others.

502 Mopar Drive, Newark, Del.

 

Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library

When you’re done exploring the vast collection of American artifacts inside, take a stroll through the 1,000-acre property surrounding this magnificent 175-room home. The staff at Winterthur maintains the grounds not only for scientific purposes, but also as an artistic exhibition to highlight American horticulture. Spring blooms include a riot of colors in the Azalea Woods, a variety of roses and hellebores, plus daffodils, dogwoods and glory-of-the-snow.

5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Del.

 

Winterthur. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jllm06.
Winterthur. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jllm06.