It is a pretty coincidence that those who enjoy gardens and gardening also enjoy travel. Richardson Wright, The Gardener’s Bed-Book

Perhaps it’s my Celtic spirit of adventure and botanic name Iris that call me to rove garden paths.

Back in 1958, a child new to a muddy subdivision, I turned my bike onto the driveway of the only lawn on our block.

Lo and behold! I found shrubbery and blooming gardens in the backyard. June, the lady of the house, knelt before a flowerbed.

There, she introduced me to her Jack in the Pulpit and commenced my fascination with plants.

“Would you like to help weed?” June asked.
I went to my knees for my first lesson in discerning the differences between weeds and flowers, a never-ending quest.

A few summers after, with Mom’s permission to expand my boundaries beyond Aunt June’s white brick ranch, I guided my blue bike into the woods at the end of our block.

Oh my goodness! A mossy pond and red patch of rhubarb! I can still taste that strawberry rhubarb pie Mom made with my rhubarb rescued from an abandoned farmstead.

I’ve since sauntered the breathtaking parks leading to Leeds Castle in England. Thrice, my California daughter and I have sipped tea together within the vast Japanese Garden of the Golden Gate Park. Twice, we’ve hiked Muir Woods together.

Last February, after three tours of the Emerald Isle within twenty years, my husband and I booked the “Country Roads of Scotland” excursion for this past April to celebrate our Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary.

When that didn’t happen, I dove into reading Richardson Wright’s The Story of Gardening and Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners. Both authors spoke of Philadelphia’s historic Bartram’s Gardens.

My feet itched to stroll the grounds of the oldest nursery in our United States – the sod where our Founding Fathers met with botanist John Bartram the sweltering summer of 1776 during a recess of the Continental Congress.

I planned an October visit for the benefit of Pennsylvania’s autumnal, rolling landscape. Meanwhile, I returned to West Virginia in June for my annual pilgrimage and toured the little hospital of my birth, a building in great disrepair. I recorded more family and local history.

I bided my time gardening, playing croquet with friends, and putting up our vegetable garden.

The first and second week of October, I combed Bartram’s Gardens website for information regarding Pennsylvania’s restrictions related to America’s long-term malaise.

Alas, I found conflicting information. However, one thing was clear—the bathrooms are closed to the public.

Well, that alone disqualifies the destination. We can’t traverse the 300-year-old gardens within the thirty-mile Garden Capitol District without available toilets.

The voicemail box for the Welcome Center was full. One website page said the Welcome Center was open; another page indicated the center was open limited hours.

And yes, “please wear a mask while walking the gardens.”

Dear Reader, who needs Pennsylvania’s colors or Bartram’s Gardens in October when you live in Michigan?

There’s no prettier state to peregrinate with a bare face.

Contact Iris at