Pennsylvania’s tourism board has planted the seeds for a new road trip highlighting the commonwealth’s finest flora.
Unveiled at the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show in early June at FDR Park, the “Best Buds: A Garden Trail” is designed to be a self-guided road trip on The Keystone State’s gardens and arboretums.
“Pennsylvania’s gardens and arboretums are steeped in as much history as they are in beauty,” said Michael Chapaloney, executive director of tourism for PA Department of Community & Economic Development, about the trail. “Our locations include the oldest botanical gardens in North America, arboretums built by America’s first U.S. Forester, and others tied to titans of industry and cultural importance.”
Having 21 stops, the “Best Buds: A Garden Trail” will take visitors along an itinerary of four major areas in Pennsylvania. They are Philadelphia, and its surrounding countryside, Pittsburgh and Central Pennsylvania.
Chapaloney noted that this budding trail coincides with renewed public interest in nature amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic originating in 2020.
“The timing was perfect, with interest in outdoor experiences at an all-time high aligned with the fact that Pennsylvania has some of the grandest and most unique gardens in the country,” added Chapaloney.
The “Best Buds: A Garden Trail” incorporates well-known spots and lesser-known gems whose locations also lead visitors to must-take detours such as to the Penn State Berkey Creamery in University Park and Tröegs Independent Brewing in Hershey.
Stops include Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square; Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh; Hershey Gardens, Chanticleer in Wayne; Ashcombe in Mechanicsburg; Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia; Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, also in Philadelphia, Mount Assisi Gardens, on the outskirts of Saint Francis University, in Loretto and the Allegheny Arboretum, at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana.
While all of these gardens are known for their visual plantings, their backstories have strong roots.
Located in Pittsburgh, the From Slavery to Freedom Garden acknowledges the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that forcibly brought thousands of Africans to North America on slave ships by highlighting how they turned to horticulture as resources in this new land. This garden is adorned with plants found in woodlands and fields that were used for food and medicinal purposes. Vegetables used in home gardens have also been planted here.
Gardens, too, can have offerings that appeal to visitors of all ages. At The Arboretum at Penn State in University Park, little ones can partake in activities at the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden, with a hidden passage that’s big enough for even grown-ups to pass through.
Being a self-guided itinerary, Chapaloney noted that the “Best Buds: A Garden Trail” encourages visitors to stroll through these garden stops at their own pace.
“Our road trips and trails are simply a suggestion especially with the case of gardens which offer a three if not four season opportunity,” said Chapaloney. “Some locations are so grand it would be unfair to have anyone feel rushed.
As for when to go on the trail, Chapaloney advised starting with non-four-season locations and also to check out those holding special events or exhibits. “If your passion is for the bloom – tulips, roses, or chrysanthemums – travel when in bloom or scout out your travels based on festivals or other not-to-miss events.”