Over 200 years old, the garden at Wyck in Germantown is the oldest rose garden in the US still in its original layout, and still contains many of its original roses. Laid out in the 1820s by Jane Haines, the gardens today contain over 50 cultivars of historic roses (which are conveniently marked). Several varieties growing in the garden today were thought lost until they were rediscovered at Wyck, including the Elegant Gallica, a pale pink rose, that was believed to be extinct until being rediscovered here in the early 1970s.
Another variety found in the garden today, ‘Celsiana’ was growing in Germantown by about 1750. It went by the local name Germantown Damask, and was also known as the Tobacco Rose because its fragrant petals were added medicinally to tobacco.
Other roses represent early 19th century attempts to develop re-blooming roses. The first American rose hybrid,‘Champney’s Pink Cluster,’ was a cross between the two favorite roses of a South Carolina rice planter, the Musk rose and the China rose, exhibiting the best qualities of both parents- reblooming reliably with a fragrance.
There are plenty of old rose gardens, but what makes Wyck so special (in addition to the age of its layout) is the profusion of these old garden roses. Their presence at Wyck is due to family tragedy. Orphaned in 1842 at 10 years old, Jane Reuben Haines’s sentimentality led her to preserve her mother’s gardens as they were when her parents were alive, thus keeping the old fashioned roses in the garden at a time everyone else was switching to the latest, fashionable, re-blooming tea rose varieties. However, because the roses in the garden bloom only once a year, the only time to appreciate them is late May-early June. Note: these varieties are the ones that have that true, classic rose smell, so this is definitely the place to stop and smell the roses!
In addition to the garden, there is also a colonial-era home, which from 1690-1973, was home to 9 generations of a Quaker family. Although the original 1690 log cabin is gone, the existing house is an accumulation of 18th-century parts: the hall (c. 1700–20), the front parlor (1736) and the library and dining room from (1771–73, which replaced the original log cabin). The house was used as a field hospital for British soldiers during the 1777 Battle of Germantown. The last major renovations took place in 1824 when the interior was redesigned by Philadelphia architect William Strickland. In 1973 the family moved out, preserving the house and its contents as a historic home. Today it is furnished with pieces original to the house, and contains over 100,000 family documents, with everything from historic cookbooks to details about the rose garden plantings throughout its history and original plant catalogs.
Food options: A few minutes walk up Germantown Avenue is the hard cider brewery, Young American. Also within walking distance is ice cream from Zsa’s and the black-owned bookstore/coffee shop, Uncle Bobbie’s.
There are loads of other historic homes/sites in Germantown, including Clivedon, Stenton, Grumblethorp, the Deshler-Morris House, the Lest We Forget Museum (Philadelphia’s Most Thought Provoking Museum: The Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery), and the Johnson House.
Beautiful roses! I love all the old heritage varieties. I have some climbing roses up the front of my house, and they were probably one of the things that sold me on the place when we bought it.
The pocket parks in Philadelphia are little secrets to many folks. John Collins Park on Chestnut Street and Matthias Baldwin Park on N 19th Street are my favorites. The latter has tree identification tags for my botany bug and on their website there are lots of history articles about buildings within two blocks of the park, for my history appetite.
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I totally agree. I LOVE Collins park! Perfect place to eat take out from one of the great restaurants around there. I love the little sculptures, especially the turkey head. I’ve never checked out the other – I usually end up in the garden at the Barnes when over that direction. I’ll definitely put it on my to do list. Thanks!