The Almanac Garden Tour: An Inside Look!

Botanical Gardens


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I had the great fortune to participate in The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Tour in June, 2015 and joined an enthusiastic group of folks from across the country for this fantastic 7-day 6-night tour. 


We started the tour in Philadelphia. Our first garden to explore was the 300-acre Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. Established in 1929 the arboretum includes over 4,000 different plants and a spectacular rose garden featuring more than 200 species of roses. A very special place was the beautiful outdoor amphitheater surrounded by mature tulip trees and white oaks.


Our visit to Brandywine Valley was breathtaking. We toured Winterthur in the morning and Longwood Gardens in the afternoon. Both gardens are extensive with 1,000 plus acres of farmland, meadows and woods surrounding beautifully designed formal gardens. My favorite spot at Winterthur was the Enchanted Woods, a magical fairy-tale garden created for children, hidden among the tall oaks.

One of the tour guests is shown here in the giant bird’s nest holding a wooden egg.


Another beautiful spot at Winterthur was the reflecting pool close to the main house. This pool was originally used as a family swimming pool.


Longwood Gardens has a fantastic 4-acre conservatory with many exotic plant and flower displays plus lily ponds.



I visited many of the water gardens. Some were formal and others, like this one, very relaxing and soothing on a hot summer’s day.


The newly created Meadow Lands area includes three miles of walking trails featuring colorful fields of wildflowers and wildlife. Here’s a birdhouse waiting for a visitor.


Our tour continued to the charming Chanticleer garden in Wayne, PA. The main house was built as a country retreat by Adolph and Christine Rosengarten in 1913 and converted into a year-round residence in 1924. The Chanticleer Foundation, formed in 1990, now operates the garden and has turned it into a romantic and imaginative public garden. I loved the creative Tennis Court and Ruin gardens as well as the very productive vegetable gardens.


The Asian Woods and Bell’s Woodland display many magnificent trees. All the outdoor furniture at Chanticleer is made on site from wood cut on the property and solar panels and cisterns capturing rainwater lessen the environmental impact.

Did you know that Chanticleer means rooster?


From Chanticleer we continued to the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.The arboretum’s collection of plants started in the late 1800’s and is now an example of an eclectic Victorian garden with more than 12,000 labeled plants. My favorite spots were the dawn redwoods and the sculpture garden with sculptures made out of willow saplings called “A Dance in the Woods”.


Our visit to Burpee’s Fordhook farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania was fun and informative. We were greeted by George Ball, the chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee, and enjoyed a tour of all the vegetable and flower test gardens. Before we left the farm we were served a delicious lunch including a salad made with greens and herbs from the Burpee gardens.


Our tour also took us into busy New York City where we explored the fabulous 250-acre New York Botanical Garden. Founded in 1891 it includes more than one million plants today. It is truly a living museum with many exhibitions and events. I especially enjoyed the conservatory, Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden and the Children’s Adventure Garden.




Our next stop, the Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York, was originally the home of Anne and Frank Cabot (founder of the Garden Conservancy). It became a public garden in 1992 and is now a collection of woodland and water gardens, cliff rock gardens, and an enclosed English-style flower garden.

As you enter Stonecrop you first pass a small pond garden and the beautiful conservatory.


My favorite garden at Stonecrop was this woodland garden with many interesting paths to explore.



Our drive up to Mohonk Mountain House, a national historic landmark in the Shawangunk mountains near New Paltz, New York, was amazing. Mohonk, a family-owned resort, sits up high on 1,200 acres of wilderness. The main buildings are surrounded by beautiful flower gardens and hiking trails. Our group was treated to a gourmet dinner in the main dining hall before we returned to our hotel in New Paltz.



Our tour included a visit to a private garden in Woodstock, New York. The gardens of Patty Livingston and artist Tom Gottsleben are filled with organic vegetables and beautiful flowers. Tom’s stone and colorful crystal sculptures are incorporated into the gardens around a fantastic spiral house, built by Tom.


The group also enjoyed a lively presentation by Ken Green, founder and creative director of the Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, New York. Ken talked about new heirloom seed varieties, most produced locally, that the library has to offer and showed us some of the unique artwork that is created to be put on the seed packs.


On the last day of the tour the group visited the state historic site Olana in Hudson, New York. This was the home of Hudson River School painter Frederick Church in the 1800’s. We toured the estate and the magnificent 250-acre property that overlooks the Hudson River. Church’s design for the property included a working farm, outbuildings, meadows, native woodlands, an artificial lake, and more than five miles of back roads.


I am so happy that I was able to see all these beautiful gardens. The variety, from big to small, elegant to quaint, blew me away. The tour was very well organized and all our tour guides at the different gardens were fantastic. I would recommend this tour to anyone who is a gardener, loves flowers and trees, or just enjoys the beauty of nature.

A big thank you to our tour leader, Anjali Bermain, for organizing this garden tour and keeping us all happy and entertained.

Join Us for the 2016 Garden Tour!

Wish you could come along? Then join the next Almanac garden tour: The Garden-to-Table Experience!

~ By  Mare-Anne Jarvela

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

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