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Your Botanic Summer Road Trip

The New England Edition


Published May 31, 2024

Summer has long been synonymous with road trips, and we can’t imagine that this coming summer will be any different. There are many reasons to pack up the car and get on the open road–family visits, beach destinations, the thrill of adventure, to name just a few. We’d like to offer one more: discovering new botanic gardens and all the plant wonders they have to offer.

One of your benefits as a Friend of the Botanic Garden of Smith College is free or reduced entry at over 300 gardens nationwide through the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. It’s like a passport to public gardens across North America. A passport we encourage you to fill with stamps.

Individual memberships get one entry to participating gardens, and family memberships will get at least two. Be sure to check with individual gardens for details. All members have access to this benefit, no matter where in the country you’re located, so be sure to check your state for participating gardens at the American Horticultural Society website. But if you’re located near us in Western Massachusetts, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite New England botanic gardens that are free to you and well worth taking a day or overnight trip to discover.

Almost all of these gardens would make for a lovely day-trip destination from Western Massachusetts. If you’re looking for a grander adventure, we’ve mapped out three road-trip journeys: the Northern New England Tour which hits the coast of Maine, the Lower New England Tour which dips into Connecticut, and the Eastern Mass Tour because there are so many public gardens worth visiting in this part of the state. Each of these road trips offers at least three gardens to explore, and guarantees loads of botanical beauty to fill your summer.

Northern New England Tour


Justin Morrill State Historic Site Gardens Strafford, Vermont
The grounds at the Justin Morrill Homestead are defined by circuitous serpentine walkways, arabesque beds planted with colorful annuals, and historic specimen trees including a Magnolia kobus and the oldest Norway spruce in Vermont. The homestead is open for guided tours Thursday-Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 26 through October 8. 

maine coastal

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Boothbay, Maine
Yes, it is a bit of a drive to make your way to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens from Western Massachusetts, but we can’t think of a better garden to plan an overnight trip around. Located on over 300 acres along the Midcoast, this garden is a true Maine experience. Some of the highlights you’ll see on your visit are the Vayo Meditation Garden, a dahlia garden, and the Native Butterfly House—a 2,160-square-foot Gothic-style hoop house featuring a planting scheme dedicated to supporting the life cycles of moths and butterflies native to New England.


Bedrock Gardens
Lee, New Hampshire
On a 30-acre former dairy farm, the creators Jill Nooney and Bob Munger designed and constructed a 20-acre garden notable for the variety of plants collected over the past 30 years. Original garden design features—including a fernery, the Dark Woods, the Wiggle Waggle water channel and the large Torii pergola in the middle of the 400-foot Allée—as well as many varied sculptures are found throughout the gardens. The main path, designed as a journey, winds its way through all these features.

Lower New England Tour


Berkshire Botanical Garden
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Berkshire Botanical Garden encompasses 24 acres of gardens. The vast display of plants is a testament to the garden’s long history, having been established in 1934. Some of the highlights you’ll see on your visit are the contemplative Pond Garden, the historic 1937 Herb Garden, the Foster Rock Garden, and native plant gardens. Overall, the garden features over 3,000 species and varieties of herbaceous and woody plants.

the mount

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home
Lenox, Massachusetts
Edith Wharton’s estate at The Mount showcases traditional French, Italian and English design—evident both in the architecture of the home and the gardens. Here you’ll find sunken Italian gardens, formal French flower gardens, and even a rock garden. If you’re in the area, you’ll definitely want to add this stop to your itinerary and take a guided tour and/or the self-guided audio tour for a richer experience.


Connecticut College Arboretum

New London, Connecticut

The Connecticut College campus is home to a stunning arboretum which consists of 750 acres of plant collections. Some of these collections include the Native Plant Collection, the Caroline Black Garden, and the Campus Landscape
and Greenhouse (all have interactive online maps to make exploring them even more engaging). There are also natural areas to explore like Mamacoke Island. 

Eastern Mass Tour

tower hill

New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill
Boylston, Massachusetts
New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill spans 171 acres. This expansive garden has something for everyone, such as its Garden of Inspiration, which is a formal garden with influences from historic French garden design, Pliny’s Allée, made up of
a regal row of oak trees underplanted with lovely fothergilla, sweetspire and witch hazel, and the Wildlife Refuge Pond, which has a lovely viewing pavilion.


Garden in the Woods
Framingham, Massachusetts
For an immersive native plant experience, nothing beats a visit to Garden in the Woods (headquarters of Native Plant Trust). On these 45 acres, you’ll come across hundreds of plant species native to New England (as well as historical species from across North America). Throughout the both highly cultivated and minimally managed environments you’ll also come across a brook, a pond and lovely wetlands.

cherry tree

Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
Boston, Massachusetts
The Arnold Arboretum is a full-day experience. This 281-acre preserve of trees and woody plants in the heart of Boston has been an aesthetic and educational resource since it was founded in 1872. Like our garden, the Arnold was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and is committed to the Olmstedian principle that everyone is entitled to open space. A research museum set in a public park, its gates are open to everyone, every day, free of charge


Mary May Binney Wakefield Arboretum
Milton, Massachusetts
The Mary May Binney Wakefield Arboretum spans over 22 acres in Eastern Massachusetts and features formal gardens, orchards, woodlands and wetlands. We recommend making the trip during the month of June, when over 300 kousa dogwood trees are in flower. They call this time of year the Dogwood Days. We call it the best reason to get on the road.