AHS News & Blog

Six Ways to Virtually Connect With AHS’s RAP Gardens

Visiting public gardens is enjoyable at any time of the year but can be an especially magical event in the spring when blooms are bursting, and gardens are awash with color. While the coronavirus has shuttered the gates of most public gardens and arboreta, that doesn’t mean you can’t engage with them. In fact, many of the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) 330+ Reciprocal Admissions Program gardens offer a variety of opportunities for remote experiences. Here are some ideas for experiencing RAP gardens while sheltering in place — or taking a break from work from home (WFH) — depending on your visitor personality.


1. For Casual Tourists: Do you enjoy visiting gardens to see what’s new or newly in bloom? Selby Gardens Dali exhibitThe Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens offers a virtual tour. The United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. and Dayton, Ohio’s Cox Arboretum offer Google tours that allow you to take a virtual stroll, or scroll, through the gardens. Watch short clips from Marie Selby Gardens (Sarasota, Fla.) about their new Salvador Dali exhibit, “Gardens of the Mind,” which highlights the artist’s use of botanical imagery alongside a surreal display of tropical plants.

2. For In-Depth Scholars: For those who prefer a guided garden tour or enjoy reading interpretive signage, Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago offers a digital tour on Art and Architecture and one entitled Golden Hour, which celebrates its 2020 Spring Flower Show. Denver Botanic Gardens has several digital tours of their gardens and collections (from dye plants to palms), or you can create your own tour by selecting plants and garden features.

3. For Contemplative Types: Some gardens serve as a respite from the daily grind — a place for wandering, meditating, and contemplating. Enjoy a moment of Zen with the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va. via drone footage of its cherry blossoms (see embedded YouTube clip below). Combine your contemplative practice with creativity via a downloadable coloring page (it’s not just for kids!) from the plant collections of The New York Botanical Garden or Denver Botanic Gardens. Post a pic of your masterpiece to Twitter using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

4. For Newbies to WFH: River Farm spring 2020Do you need a diversion from your new WFH situation? Check in on Mr. President and The First Lady – the bald eagles at the U.S. National Arboretum — via webcam feed or check out the arboretum’s blooms on Flickr. Phoenix, Arizona’s Desert Botanical Garden, Washington State’s Bellevue Botanical Garden, and many other gardens – including the American Horticultural Society’s River Farm — post beautiful botanical images to the Flickr community.

5. For Hands-On Learners: Were you registered for a workshop at your local garden, but it got cancelled? Online help is here! The Missouri Botanical Garden has a wealth of visual guides, including ones like “Propagating Plants by Cuttings,” “Renovating an Indoor Houseplant,” and “Starting Plants From Seed Indoors.” Craving a more creative outlet? Construct a green-roofed birdhouse with instructions from Smithsonian Gardens.

6. For Volunteers: Is volunteering for your local garden part of your routine (or do you suddenly have additional time in your daily schedule)? For those of you who want to engage in a productive way, consider a virtual volunteering gig. The New York Botanical Garden is crowdsourcing a volunteer effort to transcribe the papers of Dr. John Torrey, a preeminent 19th century American botanist. Or join the cadres of citizen scientists — individuals that participate in scientific data-collection projects. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Budburst is one such project that calls on citizen scientists to make careful observations of the timing of plant life cycle events.