Philadelphia is America’s Garden Capital

As I’m now over a year into the 20 Minute Blog talking about synergies in the natural and built environment, I want to create an opportunity to write about something that is of great importance to me, and that topic is the richness of gardens to explore and enjoy in greater Philadelphia. There is truly no other place in the country  with such a meaningful concentration of public gardens, arboreta, and historic landscapes that represent a rich continuum of time from the “cradle of horticulture” with Bartram’s Garden to Grounds for Sculpture and everything inbetween. These properties not only represent the functional aspect of protecting flora, fauna, and local history, but they also collectively make up a strong network of resources and services that are not only vital to local communities, but are also major players in the regional economy. They are neighborhood hubs, community centers, and event venues. They are educational institutions, conference hosts, and learning centers. They are destinations, vacation itinerary stops, third places. They are libraries, museums, and archives. They are helping to adapt to and mitigate climate change and other threats to our area ecosystems. Collectively, they have an economic impact of over 256 million dollars, support more than 1,500 jobs, and attract over 2.5 millions guests annually [AGC report].

In an effort to collectively promote this collection of 30 gardens within 30 miles of Philadelphia, a consortium of area gardens formed in 1989 as the first of its kind in the country.  Recently rebranded as Greater Philadelphia Gardens, the organization represents, unites, and celebrates the forward thinking planning and work of its founding fathers and mothers by beginning with strong Quaker families and the subsequent de-privatization of family estates, to the du Pont influence in the Brandywine Valley, to emerging organizations focused on preserving land and learning opportunities. Beginning late last year, the organization launched a very successful social media campaign under the slogan #AmericasGardenCapital. A keystone to the campaign was the Dilworth Park installation and exhibit entitled “America’s Garden Capital Maze“, which was designed by Groundswell Design Group and represented the 30+ area gardens.

What an amazing cultural phenomenon to celebrate! I’ve had the pleasure of earning a college degree at one of these members institutions, while also working or interning at a few others over the course of my education and training. Whether a student, employee, guest or volunteer, the impact of these gardens has no limits. Just check out the collective social media impact.

So in order to help honor and share what i’ve learned about these 30+ regional gardens over the course of my nearly 10 years living in Greater Philadelphia, I’ll be devoting many of my subsequent posts toward highlighting all of these properties. As usual, I’ll: aim to to articulate why these spaces matter; seek to interpret any narratives generated by the organization; explain the highlights of the property; and opt to make connections between the natural and built environment– all in under 20 minutes of course! Be on the lookout for the “America’s Garden Capital” category tag for these such posts.


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