Find Your Inspiration: Visit a Native Garden

Ragwort, or Packera aurea in bloom this week.

Ragwort, or Packera aurea in bloom this week.

Now that Spring is in full swing, it is a great time of year to visit local native gardens to learn and see the wide variety of potential that exists in sustainable landscape design. In the Philadelphia area, there are plenty of spaces for inspiration. Here are a few spaces that we at Refugia recommend you take the time to visit:

At the Mt. Cuba Center there is an abundance of gardens to wander and garner new information and ideas to bring home. This garden center plants with native species for both decorative and scientific purposes and even offers a variety of courses in native gardening for individuals who really want to expand their plant knowledge. We highly recommend a day or an afternoon spent at Mt. Cuba to take advantage of a garden tour and learn from their expertise.

The Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden was inspired by the recommendation of Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Rush encouraged his medical students to plant a garden in the late 1700’s. 350 years later, visitors to the garden can still explore his vision of an outdoor source for medicinal plants. Walking through the garden, you will find a variety of medicinal herbs, some of which provide a living historical record of past uses, and others that are still utilized in the present. Medicinal plants can be a great addition to any garden, and help to create a space both functional and ornamental.

The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art is another great site to visit, where appreciation for art and the environment is encouraged simultaneously. The museum is surrounded by the Conservancy’s wildflower and native plant gardens right along the beautiful Brandywine River. A trip here is a real pleasure, and a great example of native landscaping.

The Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is home to a Native Plant Idea Garden, specifically planted to provide an example of the beauty in a cultivated population of local Pennsylvania plants. Bowman’s Hill also has a network of trails across its 134 acres of preserved space, allowing visitors to experience the wild inspiration for native designed landscapes. There are educational events available, which inform students in topics such as plant identification, and invasive species management.

On Temple University’s Ambler Campus, there is a large arboretum that provides tours, but is also open to wander independently. There are a multitude of gardens with various emphases including native plants, wetlands, ground cover, and woodland gardens. Roaming the campus and observing the variety of examples here could certainly provide some great ideas for one’s own landscapes.