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Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA

Heritage Museums and Gardens is a sprawling estate that encompasses one hundred acres of manicured gardens, expansive lawns, and wooded pathways in the town of Sandwich. The public garden, famous for its extensive collection of hybrid rhododendrons, is a fantastic place to learn about the trees, bushes, flowers, and herbs that grow on the Cape Cod peninsula.

Heritage Museums and Gardens is the former estate of the botanist Charles O. Dexter. In the early twentieth century, Dexter developed dozens of rhododendron hybridizations in a massive breeding program at the Sandwich estate. Every year, he sold thousands of rhododendron seedling to private gardens, nurseries, and public collections in New England.          

heritage museum and gardens_ museums in cape codFrom Memorial Day Weekend to mid-June, more than ten thousand rhododendrons take bloom in Heritage Museums and Gardens. Many of these rhododendrons are hybrids, which Dexter developed onsite between 1921 and 1943. After Dexter passed away, the estate’s gardeners spent many years tracking down Dexter cultivars all over New England and bringing them back to the estate.

Today, Heritage Museums and Gardens continues to engage in the plant hybridization work that Charles O. Dexter began a hundred years ago. The estate encompasses the North American Hydrangea Test Garden, where botanists develop new hybrid varieties of hydrangeas. This test garden, which blooms from mid-July to September, contains the most comprehensive collection of hydrangea hybridizations in the United States.

Heritage Museums and Gardens also includes more than a thousand varieties of daylilies, herbs, hostas, holly bushes, and heathers, as well as many types of trees and shrubs. In the garden, every season has its beauty. The daylilies bloom from mid-June through August. In the fall, the leaves change and the Franklinia trees begin to blossom. In the winter, a festive blanket of heathers, holly berries, and evergreen trees envelopes the garden.

Visitors can take in the manicured beds of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and daylilies on the main loop around the garden, or they can explore the estate’s woodlands by taking several miles of nature trails that diverge from the main loop. On these nature trails, visitors can identify tree species, birdwatch, or scan the trees for the area’s distinctive red squirrels.

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