Wines and Vines

Raise Your Glass in a Toast to Freedom

Day One

Morning: Start your garden gazing at Valley Forge National Historical ParkIts 3,500 acres are a wonder to behold as they change from the monochrome of black and white in winter to an artist's palette of greens, purples, yellows and blues. As April gives way to early May, the dogwoods come into full bloom, dotting the hillsides with confetti blossoms of pink and white. Mountain laurels paint the wooded slopes of Valley Forge with clusters of flowers that dance in the springtime breezes.

Afternoon: Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is a legacy of the Victorian era. Brother and sister John and Lydia T. Morris purchased the estate in 1887 and organized the 92-acre expanse into intimate gardens and broad vistas. Visitors discover rose gardens; a swan pond; a rustic log cabin nestled in the woods; an outdoor sculpture garden; and an Italian grotto with a secret passageway. A Victorian fernery, the last of its kind in this country, is nestled peacefully in a curve of land below the Rose Garden, while its filigree roof sparkles in sunlight. Statues of John and Lydia overlook the azaleas as if pondering their next project.

Evening: Embark on the juicy journey of wine-making at Boyd's Cardinal Hollow Winery. The wine educational classes demonstrate the growing, harvesting and processing of grapes, showing the symbiotic relationship between vine and vintner. Then, it's on to the tasting, where you'll learn the finer art of detecting bouquets and flavor infusions... including jalapeño. 

Day Two

Morning: Jenkins Arboretum is a 46-acre remnant of the once-continuous Southeastern Pennsylvania hardwood forest. It includes a small stream and large pond. Paved walkways provide vistas of Valley Forge Park as they traverse a mature woodland planted with more than 4,000 azaleas and rhododendrons.

Early Afternoon: The garden at Peter Wentz Farmstead is both beautiful and utilitarian: Its close proximity to the kitchen is no accident. The plot overflows with a cornucopia of herbs and vegetables grown from heritage seeds: kohlrabi, oak leaf chard, Catawissa onions and Munchen bier radishes. The Wentz's taste buds would routinely be tantalized by fresh horehound and peppermint, providing a dash of zest to the daily menu. Gooseberries and currants were made into wine. Bright marigolds still keep a colorful watch over all.

Late Afternoon: Surrounded by castle-like crenellated walls, the impressive formal gardens at the elegant late-Georgian style Highlands Mansion and Gardens are a recent addition. The original home dates back to 1796, and the two acres of gardens highlight the magic that can happen when architecture and horticulture are cross-pollinated with an artistic flair. Visitors can learn about the various owners of yesteryear and their imprint on the mansion and its landscape. 

Day Three

Morning: The Middle English meaning of the word chanticleer is rooster, and the Chanticleer Estate and Gardens are clearly something to crow about. The original home was built in the early part of the 20th century as a country retreat, and much of that idyllic charm has been retained architecturally and botanically. The pathways of the estate offer unique experiences as they wind by Bell's Run Creek, the orchard and the bulb meadow. If you're daffy for daffodils, this is the place to be: 80,000 of the cheery flowers pop their yellow and white heads above the lawn each spring.

Afternoon: The granddaddy of all gardens, easily accessible from Montgomery County, is the world-renowned Longwood Gardens. This area's botanical crown jewel is a stunning place to witness the awakening of flora, as the outdoor bulbs bravely push their tentative heads skyward, defiantly ignoring the late-spring chill. Indoors, the petals of orchids and lilies splay outward in shades of orange and pink, like gentle fireworks. 

Day Four

All Day: If you are lucky enough to be visiting in early March, the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Philadelphia Flower Show provides a full day of gardening glory. The halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center are transformed into stunning displays that all surround a common theme, and when imagination mixes with a green thumb, there is no limit to the wonder that can result. The show includes hands-on demonstrations, cooking segments, shopping opportunities and decorating suggestions. Winter-weary locals will line up for tickets just for the chance to fill their lungs to capacity with the scent of fresh flowers and carpet-like green grass.