Philly’s own secret garden

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It’s springtime in the city, but you don’t have to head too far out of the city limits to explore some unique greenery. This Saturday, April 3, Andalusia Historic House, Gardens and Arboretum will open for the season, and Philadelphians will have free range of the scenic property overlooking the Delaware River—all 65 acres of it.

Andalusia is located just 13 miles from the City of Brotherly Love, and the land and the estate once belonged to the Biddle family. Their 19th-century Greek Revival home is currently surrounded by stunning, native woodlands and spectacular formal gardens, but the land and what it holds dates back to the 18th Century.

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According to a release, Andalusia’s gardens date back to the 18th century, first created by John Craig, a Philadelphia merchant who purchased the 65-acre property as a summer home in 1795. In 1814, the property passed to Craig’s son-in-law, Nicholas Biddle, a prominent financier and cultural leader of the early American Republic. Biddle came from a long line of high-ranking government and military dignitaries and was a Renaissance man who possessed a wide range of interests – namely classical architecture and agriculture. Under his care, Biddle oversaw an expansion of Andalusia’s gardens and commissioned famous Philadelphia architect Thomas Ustick Walter to design a Greek temple façade to wrap around what we now refer to as the “Big House.” The Andalusia Foundation was established in 1980 to preserve and maintain the grounds that are home to more than 800 trees, including nearly 250 unique specimens and cultivars from around the world. The estate’s natural beauty has been carefully curated over the generations to include an expansive collection of floral and plant life.

To check out what the lands hold for yourself, green-thumbed and curious minded patrons can embark on a self-guided garden tour, aided by a map of the grounds, to explore the seasonal highlights. The daffodil-clad Woodland Walk is the most popular during the spring season, but Philadelphians can also venture down to Easter Garden’s array of blossoming magnolias, redbuds, and spring flowers designed to be at their peak this time of year.

However there a few ways to customize your visit to the grounds and you and your group can plan your visit around these highlights, including herbaceous perennials and bulbs: daffodils, tulips, Virginia Bluebell, Lily of the Valley, peonies, and more; shrubs: a variety of rhododendron, lilac, roses, wisteria, hydrangea, and more; trees: pink flowering dogwoods, Japanese Cherry, Southern Magnolia, fringe tree, and more.

While on the grounds, visitors can enjoy a picnic, or explore the exterior architecture and design of the “Big House,” but the house’s interior will be closed for tours this spring.

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According to the release, from April 5 through Oct. 27, public tours of the gardens are offered Monday through Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 3 p.m. Andalusia will host six Open Saturdays as well, offering the public opportunities to enjoy the gardens and grounds during the weekends, beginning April 3 with additional dates on May 8, June 5, Sept. 18, Oct. 23, and Nov. 6. Open Saturday self-guided tours are available at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $15 a person and free admission for children under 12. Visitors must purchase tickets for public tours and Open Saturdays in advance from the Andalusia Historic House, Gardens and Arboretum website.

For more information, visit andalusiapa.org

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