Historic Bartram’s Garden
“Whatsoever whether great or small ugly or handsom sweet or stinking…every thing in the universe in their own nature appears beautifull to mee.”
John Bartram 1740
For Mother’s Day this May, I was surprised with a picnic and visit to Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, the oldest surviving botanic garden in North America. Prominent Philadelphia Quakers, John Bartram (1699-1777) and his son William (1739-1823) were the most important American plant explorers of the 18th century, traveling south to Florida, west to the Mississippi, and north to Lake Ontario. They introduced more than 200 native plants into cultivation. By mid-century, their 102 acre garden (now 45 acres) contained the most extensive collection of North American plants in the world.
“…the Botanick fire set me in such A flame as is not to be quenched until death or I explore most of the…vegitative treasures in No. America.”
John Bartram 1761
The intrepid Bartrams shared their discoveries with scientists throughout America and Europe, especially England. John Bartram’s discoveries were considered so important that he was appointed Royal Botanist by King George III. Bartram founded the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia with his friend and colleague Benjamin Franklin. In addition, he started a thriving seed and plant business with his lists appearing in London publications as early as the 1750s. In 1783, Bartram published the first American nursery catalogue. [Historical information and quotes courtesy of Bartram’s Garden.]
The house and gardens are a National Historic Landmark and have been well preserved despite their location in a very developed part of Philadelphia. Fortunately, they were acquired by the city in 1891 and became part of the public park system. The property is on the banks of the Schuylkill River and is a joy to visit both to see the historic buildings and to wander through the peaceful gardens. I would visit Bartram’s Garden just to see the specimen trees. I am going to take you on a short photographic tour below, but I highly recommend an actual visit.
If you love trees, and especially specimen trees as I do, you don’t want to miss seeing the huge mostly native trees at Bartram’s Garden. I include photos of some of them below, but they are so large that it is hard to get a good photograph. You have to see them in person to truly appreciate their magnificence.
Bartram’s Garden is a public park and is open all year for self-guided tours except city-observed holidays. I hope you have the chance to visit.
Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until the fall. Thanks for a great spring season!
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