Twenty-Three Acres of Botanical Bliss
Step inside The Milton & Catherine Hershey Conservatory – the gateway to the fabulous Hershey Gardens opened by Chocolatier, Milton S. Hershey in 1937as Hershey Rose Garden. Highlighting one particular garden would be difficult because they’re all quite spectacular and open to the public 363 days a year.
So, why did Mr. Hershey want to create a garden? He was approached to sponsor a national rosarium in Washington, D.C., but Mr. Hershey decided he’d prefer to have his garden closeby to his home and heart in Hershey, PA, where he and the community could enjoy a simple rose garden. His request was simple – he wanted a “nice garden of roses,” hence giving birth to three-and-a-half acres of meticulously groomed roses. By 1944, the garden expanded to 23 acres and by 1979, the simple rose garden had morphed into six themed gardens and a name change to Hershey Gardens.
Visitors to the gardens can navigate with a map provided at the ticket office adjacent to the entrance. You can begin your garden tour at the Historic Hershey Rose Garden located behind the fountain once you pass through the lobby.
The Bill Bowman Garden, Children’s Garden, Herb Garden, High Point Garden, Historic Hershey Rose Garden, and the Japanese Gardens will appeal to Everyone, particularly those who have picked up a trowel and attempted to grow and maintain even the smallest garden. Hershey Gardens is a thoughtful and eloquent presentation of Milton Hershey’s passion for plants and a reflection of our fascination with gardening and the joy it brings to our lives.
You should allow AT LEAST two hours to meander through the gardens. Unfortunately, the forecast called for rain the day we visited and we were not able to spend as much time as we needed to appreciate every detail in each of the gardens during our self-guided tour. We spent the most time in the historic rose, Japanese, and M.S. Hershey Tribute Garden, but as you scroll down, you’ll find images I took throughout Hershey Gardens before we left.
Historic Hershey Rose Garden
If you choose to follow the guide map, your first stop along the garden path will be the Historic Hershey Rose Garden, a sight to behold, even in the waning days of September. We discovered three-and-a-half acres of prolific blooming roses in a variety of colors and buds that were eager to open. Rows and rows of roses and greenery are an unforgettable treat for the eyes. Hybrid Tea, floribunda, shrub, and miniature roses are among the varieties you’ll find.
The Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden is playful and educational with an element of surprise at every turn, from the Misting (Hershey) kisses to the caterpillar-shaped living “tunnel,” each sculpture and learning station within the garden encourage children and their families to PLAY AND LEARN together. Within the one-and-a-half acres dedicated to the children’s garden are 25 themed gardens guaranteed to entertain your child and expose them to the wonders of nature.
Simplicity and tranquility are two hallmarks of a Japanese garden and Hershey Gardens offer many of the same elements you’d see at any one of the famous temples throughout Japan. Ornamental koi darting about, Japanese Maple trees, Dawn Redwood, and giant Sequoia are modeled after a traditional Japanese garden “(Nihon teien).
M.S. Hershey Tribute Garden
M.S. Hershey’s affinity for horticulture and beauty is reflected in the M.S. Hershey Tribute Garden located above the Gazebo. You won’t mind the pleasant stroll up a gentle hill to this garden. It’s well worth the brief trek to see the newly revitalized M.S. Hershey Rose, colorful shrubs and plants, and a special seating area for visitors to relax and examine their surroundings.
Recommendation: Take as long as you need to absorb the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Listen for the nearby stream and tune into the sounds of children’s voices. If you visit during the spring, summer, or fall, look for butterflies and birds that flourish in each of the gardens. You’ll find a changing landscape altered by weather conditions from season to season but the beauty of Hershey Gardens is a year-round pleasure.
Wind your way along the path to the Bill Bowman Garden, named in honor of the former Hershey Gardens’ director; the Herb Garden with its array of medicinal, household, dye-making plants, and culinary herbs; the High Point Garden, a tribute to Catherine (Kitty) Hershey, M.S. Hershey’s wife; the Ornamental Grass Garden with fescue grasses to 20-foot high giant reed grasses; Perennial Garden, where you’ll find dazzling Daffodils, Rhododendrons, Black-eyed Susans, or hardy Chrysanthemums, depending on the season; Rock Garden, a display garden for a variety of plants; and the ever-evolving Season Display Gardens that features many favorites from 20,000 tulips to annuals.
For more information about Hershey and Harrisburg lodging and attractions, visit www.VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org.
My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences.