Crescent Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Ill.
[/media-credit] Crescent Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Ill.

In the United States, Central Park in New York City, Boston Common in Boston and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco come to mind as trendsetters in public parks and gardens.

In and near Philadelphia, which is lauded as America’s Garden Capital, groups can find 30 gardens, arboreta and historic landscapes within 30 miles of the city. Many have celebrated gardening for more than 300 years.  Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, or Winterthur Museum and Country Estate in Winterthur, Delaware, are privately owned, but graciously open for tours. 

Here are five group-friendly public gardens to help green an itinerary. 

Chicago Botanic Garden
Glencoe, Illinois

Celebrating 40+ years as a spot of beauty in the northern suburbs, the Chicago Botanic Garden hosts more than 1 million visitors annually. With a predecessor society tracing to 1890, the 150-year-old public garden is now 385 acres with 26 natural areas and 81 acres of water. Owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the garden is operated by its founding organization, the Chicago Horticultural Society.

The Chicago Botanic Garden uses landscapes to display more than 2.4 million plants.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Aerial view of Japanese Gardens and pond at Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids
Japanese Garden, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park invites groups to explore its collections, in and out of doors — be it plant life, art or music. Permanent sculpture collections, including works from Joan Miro to Anish Kapoor, are placed throughout the park, among the blooms in the woodland, English perennial and bulb gardens.

A visit to Meijer gardens is highly considered one of the country’s most significant sculpture and botanic experiences. Other outdoor features include the shade gardens, the New American Garden and the newly opened Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden.

Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis, Missouri

Jenkins Daylily Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Mo.
[/media-credit] Jenkins Daylily Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Mo.

Founded in 1859 and encompassing 75 acres within the city limits of St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden is an oasis in the city, and a National Historic Landmark.

Highlights include the Spink Pavilion, situated on the grand plaza overlooking large reflecting lily pools; the Milles Sculpture Garden; and the Climatron, the first geodesic dome used as a conservatory. The 14-acre Japanese Garden or Seiwa-en is one of the largest on the continent.

Seattle Japanese Garden
Seattle, Washington

Completed in 1959, the Seattle Japanese Garden is located at the south end of the Washington Park Arboretum. It is one of the oldest Japanese gardens on the continent and is highly considered the most authentic in the United States.

Open March through November, escorted and self-guided tours are available daily. Groups also may be interested in hiking the Arboretum Trail. The garden contains native Japanese flowers, shrubs and trees and a traditional teahouse. Arrangements can be made for a demonstration and presentation at the Seattle Japanese Garden Shoseian Teahouse.

Theme gardens, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas
[/media-credit] Theme gardens, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Austin, Texas

The paved entryway to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is lined with an aqueduct system disguised as an arcade. The Theme Gardens are among the 12 acres of plants and meadows that benefit from the center’s water conservation efforts.

In all, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center showcases 600+ Texas-native plants. Rotating art exhibits and special events enhance the visitor experience. The center designs events to be interactive, like searching for frogs in the wetland pond during a Nature Nights evening. The “frog hunt” helps inform the public about wildlife tracking.