day trip flower show outdoors summer events

Ambler Arboretum

ambler arboretumTemple University’s Ambler Arboretum offers free public access year-round to 20 historic gardens plus tree-lined walking paths to explore. Temple- Ambler’s 187-acre campus houses their award-winning Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. As regular visitors to the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, we’ve been impressed that Temple’s exhibits win major environmental design awards consistently from PHS Gold Medals to Best in Show.

History of Ambler Campus

We discovered that this institution began its ground-breaking history  as the PA School of Horticulture for Women. It was one of the first in the nation to educate women for agriculture and horticulture careers. It was also influential in creating the Gardening Club of America. In 1958, it merged and became part of Temple University. The 100- year old Woman’s National Farm and Garden Visitor Center is open by appointment.

Arboretum Highlights

Start your visit at the sculpture pool in the Louise Stein Fisher Garden. Next, stroll through the shady woodland and ground cover gardens.  Next, walk a few minutes north to the Healing Garden. It features medicinal herbs and a meditation spiral walk. At the Research Complex building were dozens of exotic-looking coleus varieties thriving outdoors. Our favorite spot was the Sustainable Wetlands garden. We appreciated the juxtaposition of  Philly Magic Gardens-style  mosaic pillars with the wood frame structure. Plus, tiny frogs greeted us as they sunbathed on the tiles. When we visited in late summer, the formal gardens were a lush field of purple, gold and white perennials. The Northeast corner of the Arboretum is dedicated to oak, maple and pine arboretums, plus the students’ Welcome Garden.

Directions and Tips

It’s a 30-minute drive from Center City Philadelphia to 580 Meetinghouse Road, Ambler, PA. You can park for free in Visitor’s Lot 2 but you’ll need to register your vehicle, especially if you visit on weekdays during the school year.  The lot is a 5-minute walk to the gardens. Dogs are permitted, if kept on leash and out of the garden beds. When we visited on a summer weekend, we found no open public restrooms or water fountains and the grounds are carry in/carry out. We recommend packing and bringing snacks or a picnic lunch: we didn’t find any eating spots open to the public. Click to download the gardens map to plan your visit.

flower show outdoors winter events

Flower Show Insiders Guide

There is no better cure for the winter blahs than the immersive sensory experience that is the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show. Where else can you be transported to Lanikai Beach or Buckingham Palace just by riding an escalator? 2017 will mark my seventh annual show visit. Here’s my Flower Show Insiders Guide, to help you navigate this huge Convention Center event.

Miniature Settings

Arrive as early as possible, wear comfortable shoes, bring a bag for giveaways and plan to spend at least four hours. Get a selfie at the sure-to-be-breathtaking entrance and then head to Miniature Settings before it gets too crowded. These are meticulously crafted landscapes that amateur gardeners spend ages creating for a shoebox-sized space. Your next stop is nearby, featuring exquisite jewelry and finely detailed “petal paintings”  crafted from organic materials.

Floral Competitions & Demos

Head back toward the entrance to enjoy the multimedia performance and then take a splendor break. Enjoy a snack and find a seat at one of the program talks to people watch. Budget at least an hour to shop and see floral demonstrations in the back half of the show. If you’re a PHS Member, there’s a free lounge plus free beverages and comfortable seating for the non-shoppers to relax.

Best of Show Aisles

The rest of your schedule depends on what you fancy: bonsai, floral arrangements, topiary, best in show specimens, international design, the landscape architect’s showcase and much more.

The 2017 theme is “Holland: Flowering the World” and the show runs from March 11 to 19. You can save on the show ticket price, get free plants, attend year-round events and more by joining the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.