Early Spring at the Barnes Arboretum


Just outside Philadelphia, a compact yet wonderful garden is beginning to bloom. Our web team recently took a trip to the Barnes Arboretum to learn more about this remarkable garden and gather some spring inspiration. Though we stopped by on an unseasonably chilly day, spring's flowering trees were starting to blossom; we especially loved the pops of vivid pink just emerging from a stately magnolia.  

Nicole Juday, head of educational programming at the arboretum, kindly braved the cold with us to share its history, as well as her extensive knowledge of the plant collection. Home to over 3,000 varieties of woody plants, the garden surrounds the original home of the acclaimed Barnes Foundation art collection. Though the collection now resides in Philadelphia, the 12-acre garden remains a beautiful and astonishingly diverse landscape to explore. Laura Barnes, wife of art collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes, designed the arboretum with an eye for multi-season interest; since the garden is small in scale, each plant must be especially impactful. Mrs. Barnes especially loved plants with exfoliating or unusual barks, like Stewartia trees, that can take center stage during the winter months. 

In spite of its small size, the Barnes is home to 40 champion trees, more than 200 varieties of hardy ferns, and a remarkable collection of hostas. Inside the Paul Cret-designed mansion, an herbarium contains more than 10,000 preserved specimens that are accessible to students and scholars. Originally a teaching garden, the arboretum is laid out as a synoptic collection, meaning that similar plants are grouped together so students of horticulture can learn by comparison. Today, the Barnes is focused on becoming a community space, with open hours for tours as well as workshops and events throughout the seasons. Visitors are also welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy as they explore the arboretum. We can't wait to go back (picnic in hand!) and watch the garden come to life. Stayed tuned for more posts as spring continues.

Beginning May 1, the Barnes Arboretum is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10-4. Admission is $5. For more information, visit their website or call (215) 278-7373.  

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