Region: North America

An Introduction to the Garden History of Philadelphia

By: Chantel White

ONE OF THE GREATEST GIFTS offered by gardens is the enduring way they connect the living world to the past. Gardens reflect a complex interwoven history between people and plants that stretches back for millennia. It might surprise a modern-day gardener to learn how many years of botanical knowledge are contained within a single potato […]

A Lucky Find

Seed Packets Shed Light on Philadelphia's Horticultural History

By: Robert McCracken Peck

BECAUSE OF the ephemeral nature of gardens and the plants they contain, the history of horticulture is generally studied through the lens of botanical treatises, commercial catalogs, personal diaries, paintings, photographs, and surviving correspondence. Libraries are the places garden historians most often turn to for the information they seek. Archaeological research is less frequently attempted […]

Reconstructing a Historic Landscape

Geophysical Prospection at the Woodlands

By: Jason Herrmann and Kacie Alaga and Katie Breyer

THE COUNTRY ESTATE of native Philadelphian William Hamilton (1745–1813), known as The Woodlands, included much of the land now occupied by Penn’s campus. This estate was notable in the Early Republic United States not only for the mansion at the symbolic center of the estate, but also for the cultivated landscape and botanical gardens designed […]

Late 18th- to Early 19th- Century Flowerpots at The Woodlands

By: Marie-Claude Boileau and Justin Lynch and Yuyang Wang

FLOWERPOTS—earthenware pots that are built to contain plants, not to be confused with ornamental urns—have a long history that dates to the Romans, if not earlier. However, they were not produced in great quantities until the early 18th century and only mass-produced from the second half of 19th century onwards. As utilitarian objects made specifically […]

Unearthing the Roots of the Past

Archaeology at Historic Bartram's Garden

By: Alexandria Mitchem

ESTABLISHED around 1728, Bartram’s Garden is the oldest surviving botanical garden in the United States. John Bartram (1699–1777) was a Quaker farmer who became a self-trained botanist and naturalist. He and his son William (1739–1823) undertook numerous natural collection journeys along the east coast of the American colonies and later the United States of America. […]

A Botanical Discovery at Bartram’s Garden

Evidence for Preserved Plant Material

By: Chantel White and Elizabeth Coulter and Bevan Pearson and Juliet Stein

TODAY, visitors to Bartram’s Garden, located along the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia, are greeted by a green terraced landscape that has been shaped by centuries of gardening activities. It is the oldest surviving botanical garden in the United States and contains several gardens for people to enjoy. A reconstructed kitchen garden showcases historical vegetables […]

The Art of Gardening in a Pennsylvania Woods

The Garden of Francis D. Pastorius

By: Miranda E. Mote

SEVERAL CITY BLOCKS separate what is today 6019 Germantown Avenue and the green space of the Awbury Arboretum. At one point, however, these nearly 40 acres in Germantown were home to the late 17th- and early 18th- century estate of scholar and lawyer Francis D. Pastorius, whose elaborate and carefully tended garden included more than […]

Public Gardens and Climate Change

A View From The Morris Arboretum

By: Anthony S. Aiello and Timothy A. Block and C. Skema

People must be convinced that if we want to continue to exist as a species, it is imperative that we learn how to live in harmony with our environment. Currently, the industrialized world is out of cycle with the natural cycles of our planet and climate change is the gravest consequence of the way we […]

Changes in a Penn Campus Oasis

A View From Kaskey Park

By: Kathryn Butler Reber

James G. Kaskey Memorial Park is a small garden on the southwest end of Penn’s campus that was set aside in 1894 as a botanic garden for the Department of Biology. It was originally developed with trial beds where students and faculty could readily cultivate plants required for their studies. The original BioPond (long the […]

Seeds of Change

A View From Philly's Rivers

By: Karen M’Closkey

Plants are on the move. Of course, they always have been—whether dispersed as seeds in the droppings of birds or lodged in the fur of earth- bound animals; or as tiny grains of pollen blown by the wind or transported on the bodies of insects; or as specimens packed in crates and shipped to distant […]