America’s birthplace of gardening
Join a morning bird walk or just catch a breeze along the River Trail in the place where gardening first took root in America. Stroll through the upper kitchen garden and the fragrant flower gardens or visit the riverside meadow, brimming with grasses and wildflowers.
With its riverfront location and beautiful view of the Philadelphia skyline, Bartram’s Garden also appeals to more active visitors. The dock, with access to the lower Schuylkill River, is a popular put-in for boats.
This oasis of quiet fields and modest 18th-century farm buildings is where gardening first took root in America.
John Bartram purchased the 102-acre farm along the west bank of the lower Schuylkill River, three miles southwest of colonial Philadelphia, in 1728, and turned it into America’s first garden. For more than 50 years, John and his son William devoted themselves to the collection and study of North American plants, traveling far and wide to collect trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants for their own garden, as well as for other collectors at home and abroad.
The Bartrams are credited with identifying and introducing into cultivation more than 200 native plants. In 1765, King George III appointed John Bartram the “King’s Botanist” for North America, a position he held until his death in 1777. They supplied plants and seeds to horticultural enthusiasts in England and Europe throughout the 18th Century, and Washington ordered some for Mount Vernon.
Bartram’s heirs issued the first catalog of American plants and developed one of the first commercial plant nurseries in America. In 1850, industrialist Andrew Eastwick purchased the garden to protect it from encroaching industry.
Today, the garden includes a playground, ball fields and picnic areas as well as the boat dock.
The garden is open daily year-round. Guided tours of both the garden and the Bartram House, a National Historic Landmark, is open for tours April – October. The Bartram Museum Shop offers local products, including honey harvested on-site, beeswax candles, Bartram books & postcards, and Bartram seeds & bulbs. Special public programs are held throughout the year.
The annual native plant sale in the first week of May, and the annual holiday green sale and open house in December, which features a selection of unusual fresh cut greens, wreaths and pine roping.
Bartram’s is home to the country’s oldest ginkgo tree and the delicate Franklinia alatamaha tree, two of the Bartram’s most famous discoveries, which they saved from extinction and named for their friend, Ben.
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