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Bartram’s Garden

Bartram's Garden

On a blustery yet beautifully sunny day, I went searching for William Bartram. Being a nature photographer, I wanted to check out the home of a family full of nature lovers and discover this fantastic historical garden. William Bartram was born in 1739, and his family lived in Kingsessing, which was where Philadelphia was at the time. He wrote Travels in 1791 about his adventures through the American South, and he was the first modern writer to portray nature. A friend of Benjamin Franklin, Bartram specialized in trading plants and seeds all over the world. The garden would stay in the family until 1850 when financial difficulties forced them to sell the land. It was purchased by Andrew Eastwick, who maintained the land as a private garden for his nearby estate. American colonies in search of curious seeds and plants to bring back to his garden. His goal was to document all the native flora of the New World. All Franklinias today are descendants of those grown by the Bartram family. The Ann Bartram Carr Garden, which was named after the granddaughter of John Bartram. She knew other gardens were becoming popular, so she decided to make theirs unique. Making exotics her specialty, she grew her hybrid camellias and dahlias. At its peak, the garden featured ten greenhouses, over 1,400 native plants, and 1,000 exotics. Plant sales happen frequently, and I love that they have all kinds of varieties, not just fancy showy plants but a lot of preservation of original species small and large in the center of the square of that house. The vegetable gardens are on raised beds, and it looks like they were working in an irrigation system for runoff down the pathway to help water these plants. I think one of the best experiences is the free boating they offer for you to get a great peaceful view of Philly on the Schuylkill. The only hints that we were still in the city were the sounds of the occasional freight train and a spectacular view of Center City across the river. There are original buildings from the estate, a visitor center, and a very large and gorgeous permanent party tent. The trails were well maintained, though not particularly well lit after dark. Oh, and they always have a variety of native plants for sale by the visitor center. A guided tour of the museum is offered for a small fee. I enjoy going to the Garden when they have special events such as the Native Plant Sale. Some special events such as this have some really fun planned activities and vendors, for which there is a small charge. As previous reviewers have mentioned, the garden is a hidden gem. The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, as well as a visit to the Garden, of course, for the amazing true tales of John Bartram. An important strategy has been to include the expanding diversity of community members in planning efforts and to obtain their constant feedback. As a result, the Garden has become both a hub for locals and a destination for visitors from around the city, region and beyond. According to Ms. Roy, success is about experimentation, making mistakes, making discoveries, and building upon what works well for people, nature, and the community. A national campaign for funds was aided by Charles S. Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1891, control of the site was turned over to the City of Philadelphia. Since that time, the John Bartram Association, formally organized in 1893, has overseen preservation efforts and historical interpretation of the garden, the John Bartram House, and several surviving outbuildings. The first century of public ownership left the garden wanting in terms of care and interpretation.

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