Cape Cod Gardens
Cape Cod is best known for its breathtaking natural environment, but did you know it’s also home to several world-class cultivated flower gardens? These beautiful and expansive gardens, which are mostly located on the Upper Cape, draw inspiration from the manicured grounds of the summer cottages and mansions that dotted the Upper Cape at the turn of the twentieth century.
Let’s take a closer look at four of the most spectacular public gardens on Cape Cod today.
Heritage Museums & Gardens
Heritage Museums & 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.
From Memorial Day Weekend to mid-June, more than ten thousand rhododendron plants take bloom in Heritage Museums & Gardens. Many of these rhododendrons are hybrids, which the botanist Charles O. Dexter developed onsite between 1921 and 1943. Today, the museum continues to engage in the plant hybridization work that Dexter began a hundred years ago.
Heritage Museums & 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.
Highfield Hall & Gardens
Highfield Hall & Gardens was the summer home of the wealthy Beebe family of Boston from 1878, when it was built, to 1932. The house, which utilizes late-nineteenth century Stick style architecture, was one of the first summer mansions on Cape Cod as a whole. In 1994, a group of citizens saved this historic property from demolition and, in 2007, the Town of Falmouth opened it as a museum and public gardens.
In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, a huge expanse of park-like gardens, carriage trails, and woodlands surrounded Highfield Hall. When the town restored the property in the 1990s and 2000s, they reintroduced much of the landscaping from this period. From the mansion, you can also access almost 400 acres of pristine woodland in the Beebe Woods.
In Beebe Woods, a large network of walking trails lets you access miles of varied woodland, including thick groves of oak and pine, along with beech, tupelo, Atlantic white cedar, sassafras, and hickory trees. The Beebe Woods also includes the “Punch Bowl,” a small kettle pond that lies deep in the woods. This secluded kettle pond is a favorite swimming hole for Cape Cod locals.
Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen (Thomas W. Burgess Society)
The Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen pays homage to the works of children’s’ author Thornton Burgess, who grew up in the town of Sandwich. During his lifetime, Burgess penned more than a hundred books chronicling the tales of Peter Rabbit and his friends. The conservation area preserves the famous briar patch that appeared in many of Burgess’s most beloved stories.
Green Briar Conservation Area is a quiet corner of Cape Cod that encompasses nearly 60 acres of wildflower gardens, forests, and walking trails in East Sandwich. While you don’t need to be a fan of Burgess’s work to enjoy the conservation area, the gardens will delight children who are currently reading the tales of Peter Rabbit, as well as adults who remember the magic of reading the tales as children.
In his children’s’ books, Burgess hoped to spark a love of wildlife and the environment in young children. The Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen, which is located just next to the garden, carries on this mission by running natural history programs for all ages. These fascinating programs include guided walks of the gardens, field trips, and workshops on the natural sciences.
The Spohr Gardens is a six-acre woodland garden in the town of Falmouth. In the spring and summer, this lush retreat is dotted with thousands of colorful blooming flowers, including yellow daffodils, purple rhododendrons, pink azaleas, and orange daylilies. These cultivated flower beds blend seamlessly into the garden’s natural environment, which extends to Oyster Pond.
Spohr Gardens also encompasses large patches of native plants, like common milkweed and sneezeweed, that attract a wide variety of butterflies to the gardens. These butterflies include beautiful species like monarchs, spicebush swallowtails, giant swallowtails, and painted ladies.