5 Vermont Public Gardens to Visit
May 20, 2021
After a long winter and dreary spring, it’s finally time to stop and smell the flowers and soak up splashes of color in Vermont public gardens.
Five Vermont public gardens worth visiting this spring and summer showcase peonies, roses, hydrangeas, sunflowers, lavender, fruit trees, and more. Some gardens require admission, while others are open for free.
Hildene in Manchester
-courtesy of Hildene
Hildene is a 412-acre estate that was home to three generations of President Lincoln’s descendants from 1905 to 1975. The Hildene estate, which opened to the public in 1978, includes a Georgian revival mansion, observatory, welcome center, and the Dene Farm.
The property is one of the most popular Vermont public gardens, and for good reason. Every June, about 100 fragrant peonies are in bloom in the Formal Garden at Hildene.
In 1908, President Lincoln’s granddaughter, Jessie Lincoln, designed the garden for her mother, Mary Harlan Lincoln.
The best time to see the peonies at Hildene is weather-dependent, but the peonies generally bloom at the beginning of June. The Formal Garden includes an assortment of peonies, including early and late blooming, so the peony bloom season typically lasts about three weeks.
The Formal Garden also includes a mix of perennial flowers that bloom throughout the season, as well as a few annuals. The garden beds are organized by color in yellow, pink, white, and blue.
Admission $6-$23; children under 5 admitted free. (1005 Hildene Road, Manchester; hildene.org)
Park-McCullough Historic Governor’s House in Bennington
-courtesy of the Park-McCullough House
The Park-McCullough House is one of the most thoughtfully preserved Victorian mansions in New England. The mansion was built in 1864-65 by Trenor Park, a self-educated lawyer who married the daughter of a former Vermont governor and made his fortune in the California Gold Rush.
A new Victorian-themed garden will grace the mansion’s grounds this summer, featuring peonies, roses, boxwood, hydrangeas, lavender, and ferns, among other Victorian flowers surrounded by burning bush and hostas.
The mansion’s garden is also the setting for concerts, yoga classes, outdoor movies, tea parties, paint-and-sip garden parties, bourbon and cigar nights, and more. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will perform on the property on July 4 as part of the VSO’s 2021 Homes & Gardens Tour.
Opening day at the Park-McCullough House is May 28, 2021, and the garden is open to the public for free. (1 Park Street, North Bennington; parkmccullough.org)
Justin Morrill Homestead in Strafford
-photo courtesy of The Justin Morrill Homestead
The Justin Morrill Homestead is a national landmark and state historic site in Strafford. Morrill was a U.S. Congressman and Senator recognized for sponsoring landmark legislation that helped establish public universities. He is also known for framing core language in the 14th Amendment, providing equal protection of life, liberty, and property for all persons in the United States, including civil rights for freed slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Morrill built a 17-room Gothic Revival mansion in 1851 and surrounded his home with gardens. Today, many of the original plantings made by Morrill remain. The gardens include circuitous serpentine walkways, arabesque beds planted with colorful annuals, anorchard of heritage apples, and historic specimen trees, including the Magnolia kobus and the oldest Norway spruce in Vermont.
Morrill laid out the gardens for his Victorian landscape to enjoy decorative flower beds in front of the house in an area referred to as “the pleasure ground.” He also planted a garden behind the house with herbs, semi-dwarf fruit trees, and vegetables to serve as a working laboratory to test plant cold hardiness.
The homestead will open July 3, 2021. The gardens are open to the public for free, even when the house is closed. (214 Justin Morrill Memorial Highway, Strafford; morrillhomestead.org)
The Sunflower House at Billings Farm in Woodstock
-photo by Abby Rowlee
The Sunflower House in Woodstock features thousands of sunflowers in more than 100 different varieties. The flowers range from 18 inches to 14 feet in height to form the rooms and hallways in this maze-like structure.
Benjamin Pauly, the master gardener at the nearby Woodstock Inn & Resort, first created the house of flowers two years ago. The house is part of Billings Farm & Museum, a historic dairy farm known for its award-winning herd of Jersey dairy cows. Founded in 1871, Billings Farm is committed to sustainable agricultural practices and educational programming.
The Sunflower House opens July 31, 2021, and visitors can enjoy sunflowers in bloom until mid-September.
Admission $8-$16; children under 3 admitted free. (69 Old River Road, Woodstock; billingsfarm.org)
The 45-acre Shelburne Museum includes 20 gardens with perennial and annual flowers, herb and heirloom vegetables, and flowering fruit trees.
The Bostwick Garden, for example, is designed to evoke an artists’ color pallet, while the J. Watson Webb Jr. Memorial Peony Garden features more than 700 peonies in 25 varieties.
Founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1947, Shelburne Museum’s collection includes impressionist paintings, folk art, the Steamboat Ticonderoga, and the historic Colchester Reef Lighthouse.
The museum opens for the season June 2, 2021. Admission $12-$25; children under 5 admitted free. (6000 Shelburne Road, Shelburne; shelburnemuseum.org)
-Main photo courtesy of Hildene