June 24, 2024
9 beautiful gardens to see in the Lancaster County region in 2023 (and some are free) | Home & Garden

A Himalayan pine towering over Wheatland stretches 107 feet tall. It’s so big, the tree was recently crowned the state champion.

Not too far away is the biggest collection of tiny conifers.

Add a rose garden that blooms around Memorial Day and an idea garden with interest through the end of summer.

These Lancaster County gardens are places to explore, admire, copy or maybe to picnic. And they’re free. Here’s a guide to even more in the region to see this spring and summer.

Rose garden at Buchanan Park.

Buchanan Park Rose Garden

Address: 901 Buchanan Ave., Lancaster

Tickets: Admission is free and no tickets are required.

Not to miss: The rose garden in the Red Rose City usually is in its glory in late May or early June. Plenty of the garden’s 250 roses continue blooming through the summer.

More information: A group of volunteers with Lancaster County Garden Club tends to the garden, not its online presence.

Conestoga House and Gardens is open to the public after a sale and a global pandemic.

Conestoga House and Gardens

Conestoga House traces its history to the early 1800s, when it served as a tavern. Today, the property has about eight acres of gardens filled with tropical plants and annuals plus roses and creative animal topiaries. The site reopened in 2020 after it was sold to a company affiliated to Ecklin Development Group from the James Hale Steinman Conestoga House Foundation.

Hours: The site is open to the public May 2 to Oct. 12. Its hours are noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Extended hours will be available closer to the fall.

Address: 1608 Marietta Ave., Lancaster

Tickets: $10 for visitors ages 10 and older. The site has free admission the last Wednesday of the month but online tickets are still required (and disappear quickly).

What’s new: Opening day (May 2) will include a plant sale with spring flowers, hanging baskets and potted plants. Learn how Conestoga House’s team cares for the site’s plants at garden education classes the second Tuesday of the month. Date Nights with live music are scheduled for the second Thursday of the month. There’s also a Bubbles and Blooms event on Mother’s Day ($20).

More information: conestogahouse.com

Southeast Agricultural Research & Extension Center

Penn State operates this 155-acre research farm. While much of the site is off-limits to the public, visitors can see flower trials, Master Gardener idea gardens and an area for pollinator research.

Hours: Dawn to dusk daily, June 1 to Aug. 31.

Address: 1446 Auction Road, Manheim

Tickets: Admission is free and no tickets are required.

Not to miss: The flower trials are one of the oldest and largest in the world. Hundreds of plants are evaluated to see which ones are top performers in our climate. Look for plants that catch your eye or search rating information online. Later in the season, plants with high scores are marked with flags.

What’s new: After a pandemic break, public events are returning this summer but are still being planned.

More information: lanc.news/SEAg

The dwarf conifer garden at Tanger Arboretum is the biggest collection of tiny trees in the area.

Tanger Arboretum

Tanger Arboretum, next to LancasterHistory and Wheatland, has more than 100 varieties of mature trees over 5 acres, plus a dwarf conifer garden. There’s also a pollinator garden that usually reaches peak bloom in August.

Hours: The arboretum is open from dawn to dusk. Garden maps are in boxes at the arboretum, at LancasterHistory’s visitor desk and online. There’s also a free audio tour.

Address: 230 N. President Ave., Lancaster

Tickets: Admission is free and no tickets are required.

Not to miss: Two trees were recently recognized as Pennsylvania champion trees. A champion Himalayan pine is at the northeast corner of Wheatland. A champion black maple is east of the pollinator garden (and is labeled as a sugar maple on maps).

What’s new: The Friends of the Tanger Arboretum will have monthly nature talks (next is Saturday, May 20, $5, is about container gardening) and walking tours (next is Saturday, May 6 tour, $5, focuses on seasonal plants).

More information: lancasterhistory.org

Roses at Hershey Gardens are in their peak.

Hershey Gardens

This 23-acre botanical garden includes 3,500 roses plus a conservatory with tropical plants and a butterfly atrium.

Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Address: 170 Hotel Road, Hershey

Tickets: $16.50 for visitors ages 13 to 61. $15.50 for ages 62 and older. $12.50 for ages 3 to 12.

Not to miss: The site’s rose garden, the original Hershey Garden, is usually in full bloom in early June. Many roses continue to flourish through the summer and there’s also a second flush of flowers in early September. Inside the conservatory, look for rare tropical plants such as a cacao tree.

What’s new: Renovations are almost finished at the Children’s Garden. A grand re-opening celebration is Saturday, June 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with activities and music from Steven Courtney. Also, the redesigned perennial garden’s newest plants should reach maturity later this summer.

More information: hersheygardens.org

Longwood Gardens

Created by Pierre du Pont, Longwood has 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows and fountains.

Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (through May 10). Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (May 11 to Aug. 30).

Address: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square.

Tickets: $25 for ages 19 to 61; $22 for ages 62 and older and college students; $13 for ages 5 to 18. Check online to see if timed reservations are required.

Not to miss: Nearly 300,000 bulbs will bloom outdoors through early May. In the seasonal displays that follow, look for plants like nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and four o’clock flowers. Designers include these “old-fashioned” flowers as a nod to the garden’s history.

What’s new: The garden’s undergoing a huge construction project, expected to open fall 2024. In the conservatory, Longwood’s orchid house was recently restored. Several of this year’s fountain shows have a new element: drones. The “Put Me In, Coach” show choreographed to sports movie themes will have three performances in September. The “To Infinity and Beyond” show with an animated movie soundtrack is already sold-out.

More information: longwoodgardens.org

Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Del. was named the best botanical garden in North America.

Mt. Cuba Center

Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware has more than 1,000 acres of gardens filled with native plants.

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Nov. 19.

Address: 3120 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, Delaware.

Tickets: $15 for ages 18 and older; $8 for ages 6 to 17.

Not to miss: Check out the plant trials, where dozens of plants are evaluated for vigor, quality and pollinator preference. The latest trial studied sedges to find the best ones for Mid-Atlantic gardens. Past reports on plants such as wild hydrangea, echinacea, phlox and more are available online.

What’s new: Add a class to your garden visit. This spring there are outdoor classes in t’ai chi, yoga and sound bath meditation, guided hikes plus sessions to make things like window box planters, eco-printed silk scarves and felted insects.

More information: mtcubacenter.org

Rodale Institute

Rodale Institute has a working farm on 386 acres for research on organic and now regenerative agriculture.

Hours: There aren’t set hours for self-guided tours. The visitor’s center is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Address: 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown

Tickets: Take a free self-guided walking tours of the outdoor farm. There’s also an audio tour online. Maps are online and at the garden store or main office.

From May to October, golf cart tours are offered Thursdays, rain or shine, in the morning (11 a.m. to noon) and afternoon (2 to 3 p.m.) Pre-registration ($12.50) is required.

Not to miss: The farming systems trial area is the country’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. It was started in 1981. See if you can spot the differences.

What’s new: Join an outdoor yoga and meditation class ($12) on the farm (rain or shine) May 20, June 17, Aug. 4 and Sept. 2.

More information: rodaleinstitute.org


Welkinweir is a 197-acre property with a 55-acre arboretum and historic estate house, as well as wetland, meadow and woodland habitats.

Hours: Year-round, open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Address: 1368 Prizer Road, Pottstown.

Tickets: Admission is free. Donations are appreciated.

Not to miss: Usually, the flowers along Azalea Lane peak around Mother’s Day. This year, the rhododendron, azaleas and mountain laurel are expected to reach peak bloom around late April.

What’s new: Emerald ash borer killed a lot of the site’s ash trees. They’ve been replaced with tulip poplar, hickory, maple, oak and more in an effort to include more native plants.

More information: welkinweir.org

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