New England Botanical Gardens to Visit This Year

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New England has a range of habitats, making it a prime place for nature enthusiasts to spend their time. Unfortunately, it can also be a little difficult to find information about New England botanical gardens. In this list from HerbSpeak, explore several botanical gardens in the 6 northeastern state. This list is not complete, so if you have one that you’d like to add to – leave a comment!
“Public gardens of all types are found from one end of New England to another. They range from formal and traditional […] to the wide and whimsical”
Visit New England

Mid to late spring will showcase plenty of wildflowers and new, green growth, which is always a welcome sight after a cold winter.

Summer will have the most crowds and the hottest weather, but it’s the perfect time to see butterflies and other insects frolicking around in the established plantings.

Because New England has beautiful fall colors, you can also take advantage of the cooler weather and gorgeous leaf-peeping colors through the autumn.

If you are visiting an indoor garden, winter is a suitable time to explore habitat designs. These gardens tend to be smaller, and are more likely to charge admission, but they are just as fun and take away the winter blues.

Do New England Botanical Gardens Cost Admission?

Yes, a lot of New England botanical gardens cost admission. You will find that this is the case in many gardens across the country, but the admission price goes to a good cause.

Botanical garden staff often use the admission funds to maintain the grounds, keep guest amenities running, and install new exhibits. Some botanical gardens even use these funds to contribute to local conservation or seed banking efforts.

Often, botanical gardens that don’t charge admission will be more akin to a reserve, sanctuary, or hiking trail. These sites are more often self-guided than not, as it can be difficult to maintain guest amenities without a guaranteed source of revenue. These areas may also be less accessible, so if you have accessibility concerns, be sure to look into whether the paths are paved, and how safe it is for differently-abled guests.

Indoor VS. Outdoor Botanical Gardens

Indoor botanical gardens are typically climate controlled within a building or greenhouse, allowing you to visit any time of year. Because of climate control, these gardens typically have the ability to host exotic plant habitats that require conditions outside of the typical New England climate.

Outdoor botanical gardens are typically larger, supporting real habitats of plant, wildlife, and insect populations, so be sure to prepare for an extended time outdoors. Some of these habitats may be dedicated to native plants, but not often. Typically, it will have a range of species that are able to grow in New England’s climate regardless of origin.

The type of botanical garden you choose to visit is entirely up to you. If you choose an outdoor garden without placards or audio tours available and want to learn more while you walk, you can download trail maps and plant ID apps ahead of time to learn more about each species. This is a great way to enjoy nature and start learning about your environment.

Does Massachusetts Have a Botanical Garden?

Yes, Massachusetts has several botanical gardens, both indoor and outdoor. This might not come as a surprise when you consider that Massachusetts is one of the most populated states in the Northeast. There are also several native plant nurseries that are growing out of a demand for these plants as more people begin to plant native plants in their own gardens.

Garden in the Woods

Located in Framingham, MA not far from Boston or Worcester, Garden in the Woods is one of the most conservation-focused native plant gardens in New England. The location is the headquarters of Native Plant Trust which is a nonprofit organization with multiple native plant sanctuaries throughout the Northeast. This organization also manages the country’s first native plant conservation volunteer program.

Garden in the Woods has several amenities for guests such as native plant sales, a garden shop, and an educational center where they host public programs teaching the public about native plants, conservation, and the ecosystem.

The 45-acre garden is seasonal, with admissions to the garden open from April through October. There are gravel pathways and hiking trails throughout the garden where visitors will enjoy a range of habitats from brooks to steep valleys. Guided educational tours are available, as well as a self-guided audio tour, and families can enjoy the educational child garden where children are encouraged to interact with natural toys and learn about ecosystems.

Tower Hill Botanical Gardens

Called New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill, this garden is located in Boylston, MA, just a few miles of Worcester.  The botanical garden hosts many public events throughout the year where admissions are required, including the after-hours Night Lights, as well as themed displays throughout the year.

There are several indoor exhibits with guest amenities such as a garden shop and restrooms. Outdoor exhibits and educational gardens mix with an outdoor event space you can rent for weddings and special events. Dogs are allowed to join guests on their walk through the garden with an additional admission.

Acton Arboretum

The Acton Arboretum, located in Acton, MA, is a curated collection of unique habitats in an outdoor space. Many areas are loosely paved with dirt pathing and gravel, and there are several boardwalks where you can spectate bogs and meadows.

With 19 different garden collections, the Acton Arboretum is a diverse garden with plenty of interesting plant specimens. Because it is outdoors and features many pollinator-friendly gardens, you will also enjoy plenty of wildlife and pollinators on the grounds, giving you a glimpse into individual habitats.

Does Connecticut Have a Botanical Garden?

Yes, Connecticut has several botanical gardens. As the most southwestern state in New England, there are plenty of warmer-climate plants in the area that you may not see further north. The lush vegetation here is diverse. Many botanical gardens and garden clubs or reserves will sport colonial-era plantings, though some are beginning to move towards true New England native plants.

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Located in Stamford, CT, the Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens is one of the gardens in Connecticut that offers programs and events, featuring their own educational center on site. Special events require ticket purchases, but the gardens are free to the public.

The garden’s outdoor trails take you through native Connecticut habitats and historical colonial-era walls showcasing the land’s past. You’ll explore beautiful wildflower patches with plenty of sitting areas and enjoy the diversity of pristine wetlands through the 93-acres of parkland and hiking trails.

Marsh Botanical Garden

As a part of the Yale University campus in New Haven, CT, the Mash Botanical Garden is comprised of six greenhouses on eight acres of land. This amounts to nearly a third of an acre of glasshouse botanical garden with the remaining land for outdoor habitat.

The garden is used as a research aid for students and faculty, but it is also open to the public. The garden features a collection of carnivorous plants, a tropical exhibit, a magnolia collection, and a house for desert habitat.

Richard D. Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens

With an endearing history, the Richard D. Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens were created in loving memory of a naturalist and field researcher – you guessed it – named Richard Haley.

The native plantings are curated for habitat diversity, but also as a way to educate the public about the importance of native plants in the ecosystem.

Groups are encouraged to make appointments for tours, and the garden accepts volunteers to help maintain the grounds and provide guest amenities.

Does Rhode Island Have a Botanical Garden?

Yes, Rhode Island has several botanical gardens. Because of the state’s small size, you could easily pack all three gardens suggested here into a long weekend trip. There is currently a trend towards native plants happening in Rhode Island.

Despite most public botanical gardens focused on 18th century gardening practices, more people are beginning to plant native plants in their gardens. This is in part due to the University of Rhode Island’s extensive research on native plants, but also due to a sort of paradigm shift of how we should coexist with our natural environment.

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

A large outdoor garden and four indoor year-round greenhouses make up just park of Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI. The indoor greenhouses are an absolute treat to explore in the wintertime as New England’s largest glasshouse display garden. There are several habitat exhibits, showcasing everything from 40 foot-tall palms to 10 foot-tall cacti, and plenty of carnivorous plants.

The indoor greenhouse is located within the sprawling Roger Williams Park, where signage can be confusing to visitors. GPS navigation can help if you search for the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, and there is plenty of road signage as you enter.

URI Botanical Gardens & Horridge Conservatory

A part of the University of Rhode Island (URI) campus, this botanical garden is located in Kingston, RI, which is closer to the water’s edge than Providence or other Rhode Island big cities. The garden is tied to the university’s agricultural research past, but in modern times, students use it as a research space for sustainable landscape practices and plant science. The Horridge Conservatory is open to the public Monday through Friday.

Kinney Azalea Gardens

Free to the public, Kinney Azalea Gardens offers a magical green space for visitors to explore. The garden recently formed a nonprofit organization known as the Friends of the Kinney Faella Gardens. The goal of this organization is to help educate the public about the gardens, honoring nature and the beauty it presents through the azalea gardens.

Located in Kingstown, RI, this 16-acre garden been cultivated by the efforts of four generations of naturalists since its purchase in 1920. The original plantings began as the first botany professor of the University of Rhode Island began cultivating his son’s land, beginning what is now over 1,000 cultivars of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.

How Many Botanical Gardens Are There in Maine?

Yes, Maine has several botanical gardens, with many accessible within an hour or two’s drive no matter where you are located. This state is home to some of the most interesting habitats thanks to its proximity to the coast and relatively low population, especially as you get closer to more remote areas north of Acadia national park. For the casual plant explorer, however, there’s a wide range of botanical gardens that treat you to a variety of experiences.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

This seasonal garden is open rain or shine from May ‘til October. While it features guest amenities such as restrooms, a garden shop, and informational placards, there’s no shortage of nature. The garden features both cultivated ornamental displays, as well as wild habitat suitable for hiking. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens does their best to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, though some areas further back in the 323-acre preserve may be difficult for some guests to maneuver.

Considered one of the most fun gardens for family-friendly adventures, this garden is interactive and educational all in one. (2)

“The campus includes innovative landscape designs, impressive stonework, unique sculpture, and scenic views inviting visitors of all ages and abilities to explore nature’s connections at their leisure.”
TripAdvisor

While you should expect to do plenty of walking, bringing water and snacks for the day, it’s an adventurous hike that features nature-inspired troll sculptures and shares a message of conservation with guests.

Overall, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are a great way to get anyone interested in conservation, no matter their age.

Hamilton House Gardens

Located on the grounds of the Hamilton House in South Berwick, ME, there’s plenty of cultivated botanical goodness to see here for an afternoon walk through greenery. The site is primarily marketed for its historical value, which can make it an interesting trip for history lovers who want to take a nature stroll.

It’s important to note that part of the gardens may be off limits as the Hamilton House Gardens are most popular as a wedding venue. If you call ahead of time, its likely that you can work out a time with staff where the gardens are empty (depending on the time of year.)

A colonial revival-era garden still maintained today, it offers a scenic view of Salmon Falls River which used to be a busy commercial waterway. There is plenty to see and do at this estate whether you like greenery or history.

Perkins Arboretum

Harboring rich woodland habitat on its 128 acres, the Perkins Arboretum is a safe haven for areas that would typically be fragmented by land development. The site is often used for educational purposes and site research.

The Colby Board of Trustees have declared that the Arboretum should be “preserved and protected in its natural state without cutting or changes in the growth and natural habitat as time proceeds” making it one of many unmanaged landmasses where habitat can proceed without interference.

A part of the Colby campus, the arboretum is typically used for research, though it is also open to passive recreation by the public. The public portions of the arboretum consist of just under 4 miles of walkable trails, primarily in birch woodland.

Are There Any New Hampshire Botanical Gardens?

Yes, New Hampshire has botanical gardens. While the state is primarily a destination for seasonal tourists looking to do some leaf peeping, hiking, skiing, or beachgoing, it’s also home to a diverse range of habitats and gardens. Whether you live in NH or are there for the weekend, there’s plenty to explore.

Rhododendron State Park

Technically, this ‘botanical garden’ is a state park more than it is a garden, but there is still plenty of reason to visit. The center point of this park, as well as its namesake, comes from the 16-acre grove of rhododendron bushes that vibrantly burst into bloom in mid-July.

While the park itself consists of a stunning 2,723 acres of preserved natural habitat, guests don’t have to walk far to enjoy the fragrances and sights of these flowers. A 0.6 mile long trail allows visitors to get up close and personal with the blooming rhododendrons from mid Spring to late Autumn. The park is open year-round, however, and visitors may see hikers on their way to summit Little Monadnock Mountain.

Bedrock Gardens

On a historical farm site, Fuller Gardens considers themselves a ‘public oasis of art, horticulture and inspiration’. The 37-acre site offers a range of paved walkways and guest amenities such as restrooms, a garden store, and a tea house. The garden pathways and exhibits are curated for a combination of manmade artistic appeal and natural greenery that will help melt any stress away.

If you’re planning on visiting, be mindful that the gardens are only open on scheduled days, so you should book ahead of time. Formerly, the site was only available privately, but they are making the shift to becoming a public garden. The garden also advertises accessibility tours where patrons can view the gardens and enjoy the views from a golf cart.

Fuller Gardens

Along the New Hampshire coast, this garden is perfect for a quick visit if you’re already strolling Portsmouth or any of the local ocean beaches, though it’s worth a visit by itself if you need to walk around in some greenery.

Fuller Gardens is a wonderful public garden that was once situated on the estate of Alvan Fuller, a businessman and politician who made a name for himself in the early 1900s. This garden focuses strongly on neat horticultural beds, so don’t come expecting to study wild habitats.

The primary attraction for this garden is its thousands of rose bushes, bundled tightly into traditional English borders. As if that weren’t enough, there is also a tropical conservatory on-site, as well as a small Japanese Garden.

Does Vermont Have a Botanical Garden?

Yes, Vermont does have botanical gardens on-site, as well as a plant sanctuary. Many of the botanical gardens you will see also have a retail store attached to them, however, and feature colonial-era gardening. Many gardens that were open just a few years ago were impacted greatly by the pandemic, and are no longer in operation, so it’s always best to call the garden before you make a trip.

Norman and Selma Greenberg Conservation Reserve

This conservation reserve is considered one of Vermont’s most popular nature preserves and botanical gardens. Located in Bennington, VT, there is trailhead parking available with easy highway access. This reserve is a part of the One World Conservation Center, which used to be called the New England Tropical Conservatory.

This reserve is home to 96 acres of continuous habitat, primarily consisting of open meadow and wetlands. There is some wooded hillside that offers adjacent wooded habitat, making it a diverse area with beautiful mountain views in some areas. The Trolley Line trail is the most popular trail that opens up to wetland vistas.

Along the walk, you may find landscape artifacts of the conservation area’s past. Previously, the woodland area was farmed intensively during the last few centuries. Previously a dairy farm, the land has begun to recover over the decades since it was gifted to the One World Conservation Center in 1998.

References
References
  1. Visit New England, New England Gardens, https://www.visitnewengland.com/all/new-england-gardens/
  2. TripAdvisor, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g40524-d582558-Reviews-Coastal_Maine_Botanical_Gardens-Boothbay_Maine.html

 

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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.

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