Bartram’s Garden
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 2011

This is the home of John and William Bartram, 18th Century American plant explorers. They collected plants throughout the eastern United States, introducing into cultivation more than 200 species of North American plants.This 45 acre garden is a historic site dedicated to the lives and travels of these two early American botanists.
Welcome Sign

The garden entrance is through an 18th Century barn, modified and added onto to create a visitor center.

Garden Entrance

This rustic arbor, covered by American Wisteria, is where the Bartram family entertained guests. It was originally much larger. The building behind the arbor served as a greenhouse and garden shed, built with stone walls and large windows.


There are a number of interesting historic structures on the site, the most interesting and important of which is the Bartram House, begun by John Bartram in 1728 and added to several times in the next 40 years. In front of the house are two garden beds - the Kitchen Garden of herbs and vegetables and the Flower Garden.

Bartram House

Most of Bartram’s Garden is a park-like woodland, highlighting plants that the Bartram’s introduced. Walking through the site is a beautiful experience but there are very few interpretive signs or plant labels. I was fortunate to be on a guided tour and gained tremendous insight into the importance and brilliance of the Bartram’s. Those visitors not on a guided tour have little opportunity to learn about the importance of this garden and its creators. The few interpretive signs there are badly need cleaning and/or repair but are very informative.

Franklinia sign

And as a woodland park it is a very beautiful place.

garden pathway

The moss-covered pathways. majestic trees and beautiful flowers make it a glorious place to stroll the grounds.

Garden Path

Our tour guide was an amazing font of knowledge about the Bartram’s and the Gardens but without him the visit would have been disappointing for me. Everyone would enjoy the beauty of the place, but John and William Bartram are such important figures in American history that I wish their garden had better signage to introduce them to the public. Only a handful of the 200 plants they introduced are labeled or interpreted in any way. I hope the garden is working on better interpretation. To me, this is a story that begs to be told.

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