Each spring, gardens come to life with more than just blossoms. For botanic gardens across the country, spring is also the season to celebrate top-of-the-line events, exhibits and cultural programming.
Breathtaking blooms are a thing of wonder, and they’re even better when paired with the world-class programming offered at these eight popular gardens.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Winterthur, Delaware, was the childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont until he opened it to the public in 1951. Winterthur’s main house contains 90,000 pieces of American decorative arts, and the property boasts 1,000 acres, as well as a 60-acre garden.
“Winterthur really is a spring garden,” said Reggie Lynch, director of interpretation and engagement at Winterthur. “You see all the different color palettes from the early spring low growth plants all the way through to the really dramatic magnolias and azaleas and peonies.”
Winterthur will kick spring off with its House of Style event in March, which will offer lectures, workshops and demonstrations on design. Winterthur will also hold its annual Daffodil Day, named after one of its biggest blooms, with tours and family-friendly activities. In April, Winterthur will host a wine-tasting event called Sip Among the Blooms, which invites guests to explore the garden with a glass in hand. In May, Winterthur will hold a Mother’s Day concert featuring chamber music played by members of the Kennett Symphony.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens
San Marino, California
“The Huntington Library is an amazing three-in-one cultural institution,” said Kristin Voss, director of membership and visitor services at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. “We have a research library, an art museum and our botanic gardens.” The Huntington’s book collection spans from the 11th century to the present. The property is also home to a collection of fine art, and of course, its 130-acre expanse of 16 themed gardens.
“We’ve been having really lovely rains in winters, which have been giving us some super blooms in the spring,” Voss said. “So our rose garden is really thriving. It is an absolute must-see.”
The Huntington will hold several unique art exhibitions this spring, including screen prints by R.B. Kitaj, WPA-era paintings, and 17th- and 18th-century approaches to Chinese paintings.
Philbrook Museum of Art
Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art, once the home of an Oklahoma entrepreneur, is now a massive museum with over 16,000 pieces of art, as well as formal gardens that come alive each spring. “A lot of our native plants and trees bloom in the spring,” said Sheila Kanotz, director of horticulture at the Philbrook.
The Philbrook’s spring events begin with Art In Bloom, a display of creations by local floral designers. Then comes the Philbrook Wine Experience, a benefit weekend featuring wine walks, tastings and dinner. In late May, Lager Land arrives with a tasting of local Oklahoma lagers, live music and local art. The Philbrook also offers a series of family-friendly spring events including nature walks, horticulturist Q&As, meditation, glimpses of the garden’s friendly cat and an annual native plant sale.
House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, is known for inspiring the 1851 novel of the same name — and for being a beautifully preserved slice of history. The 1668 mansion is full of fascinating architectural quirks and design secrets for visitors to uncover.
“The compliment we hear the most is about the secret staircase in the mansion,” said Julia Wacker, marketing and communications manager at the house. “The entrance is hidden on the first floor, and it winds all the way up to the attic. Many of our guests don’t know about it beforehand, and the reveal always gets a big gasp.”
The house is also lauded for its charming Colonial revival garden, which features roses, boxwoods, lilacs, geraniums, a stunning wisteria arbor and many other blooms.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was purchased over a century ago by entrepreneur Pierre S. du Pont, just before a lumber company planned to cut down its trees. “He decided to purchase what is now Longwood Gardens out of what he called a moment of insanity to save the trees,” said Jourdan Cole, Longwood’s public relations manager. “And that has clearly bloomed and grown into so much more. We still have some of those historic trees on the property that our guests can see today.”
Today, Longwood is a much-loved fixture of the Philadelphia area, and spring is its finest season. “We have more than 200,000 tulips and other seasonal blooms that come up in this patchwork of color,” Cole said. Longwood will celebrate the season with performances by organist Steven Patchel and musicians the Manchester Collective, as well as gardening and composting workshops.
Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis, Missouri
The Missouri Botanical Garden dates back to 1859 and is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the U.S. “It’s located right in the heart of St. Louis,” said Catherine Martin, senior public information officer at the garden. “It’s a beloved institution in the community.”
In April, the garden will host Sake and Sakura, a sake sampling event timed to the blooming of the property’s collection of cherry trees. May brings Grapes in the Garden, a wine tasting with live music and over 250 types of wine, and Chinese Culture Days, which feature authentic Chinese cuisine, dancing, art, music and martial arts.
Portland Japanese Garden
Like many other gardens of its kind, the Portland Japanese Garden was proposed in the late 1950s to rebuild cultural connection in a shaky post-war era. “Portland civic leaders rallied together with the idea,” said Will Lerner, communications specialist at the garden. “It would not only help reestablish economic ties but cultural ones as well and provide a place of peace and serenity for the Oregon community. The garden was designed with the intention to explain Japanese culture to an audience that was unfamiliar with it.” The garden first opened in 1967 and has been a Portland treasure ever since.
Unlike many Western-style gardens that opt for a variety of floral colors, about 75% of this garden is a rich green. “Spring at the Japanese Garden represents many different hues and shades of green,” Lerner said. Of course, spring still brings bright pops of color from blooms like azaleas and rhododendrons.
Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden is often praised as one of the best in the world. “Every year, more than 1 million people visit the garden’s 28 gardens and four natural areas, situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands,” said Julie McCaffrey, manager of public relations at the garden.
Each April, the garden opens its Grand Tram Tour, a 35-minute narrated experience. In May, the Model Railroad Garden opens for the season, featuring 19 model trains surrounded by more than 300 varieties of plants. May also marks the annual reopening of Butterflies and Blooms, a beautifully immersive butterfly habitat.