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Everything about the Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens on the Main Line is unexpected. You don’t expect to encounter this beautiful garden space tucked into a valley off the Main Line. You don’t expect to lose your sense of time as you wander the hillside and look at the native plants and wildflowers. And you certainly don’t expect to ask yourself the question: how did I not know this place existed?
We discovered the Jenkins Arboretum a few years ago while looking for fall foliage in the area. We’d pulled up a map on the Internet and looked for green spaces, and found the Jenkins. Since that day, it’s been a favorite and we try to make it back at least once each season.
The arboretum and gardens were created in 1968 by H. Lawrence Jenkins as a memorial to his wife Elisabeth Jenkins. The grounds were left to be a public park, arboretum and wildlife sanctuary in perpetuity. And would always be free and open to the public. A second bequest in 1972 by a neighbor, Louisa P. Browning, doubled the arboretum’s size.
The grounds were officially opened to the public in 1976, coinciding with the America’s Bicentennial events. Given Philadelphia’s role as the Garden Capital of America, the Jenkins fills an important role as a flagship public garden in the western suburbs. In 2009, the Jenkins Arboretum opened the new John J. Williaman Educational Center, which features exhibits and a store.
The Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens is one of the premier gardens in America’s Garden Capital. It span a hillside and valley just off the Main Line. The 46 acres of woodlands containing about 1.5 miles of trails. The trails are designed to showcase the magnificent gardens within the arboretum, specifically short loops into the rhododendron garden and the azaleas garden. We particularly enjoy that they take great care to place signage in front of plants so you can learn their names and a little about them.
The paved paths take you downhill, past the native wildflowers and shrubs, before you encounter a grassy meadow with a big pond (encircled by a split rail fence to protect the plants around its edges). This makes a great spot to take in the view before heading back up the hill.
We love visiting in the late spring and early summer when the azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming, as well as in the autumn for the fall foliage. From the deck on the visitors center at the top of the hill, you can look out across Chester County and even see Valley Forge in the distance (1.5 miles due north).
Address: 631 Berwyn Baptist Road, Devon, PA
Hours: Open 9am-sunet daily; the education center is open from 9am-4pm (once the building closes you can still access the bathrooms from the exterior). The gardens are open 365 days a year.
Parking: There are about 20 spots in the parking lot at the education center (at the top of the hill). The Gardens are rarely packed (except during special events), so parking is no problem.
Accessibility: Most of the 1.5 miles of trails and pathways are paved, making it accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. However, the hill can be quite steep in places, so take care you are in complete control at all times. There are a number of benches throughout the gardens to rest.
More information: jenkinsarboretum.org; 610-647-8870
Specific rules: No pets (as they disturb the wildlife). Picnics are not allowed in the gardens, but are allowed on the patio terrace of the education center. Professional photo shoots (weddings, etc.) are allowed, but must be arranged in advance and require a fee.
And because you can never have enough pretty photos: