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The Flower Show

5 Reasons to Visit the PHS McLean Library

December 28, 2023

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By Amanda Baez 

Have you ever wished for a dedicated space where you could immerse yourself in the world of plant-related literature?  Whether you're seeking insights on oak trees, eager to understand the best time to plant hydrangeas, or simply want to explore the wonders of nature, the PHS McLean Library awaits a wealth of knowledge.

Founded one year after PHS in 1828, the McLean Library was named in honor of William L. McLean Jr and has served as a reliable gardening resource for many, including PHS members. With the unique benefit of accessing over 15,000 gardening-based books and DVDs, PHS members can browse through aisles and check out books catering to their needs. However, non-members can also enjoy the McLean Library and are encouraged to visit no matter the reason.

Regardless of your gardening expertise, here are five things you can anticipate when you embark on your first visit. 

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The PHS McLean Library is a haven for plant enthusiasts and gardeners.

1.  A Tranquil Treasure Trove of Information 

Upon entering the McLean Library, you are greeted by a serene environment adorned with indoor plants and inviting furniture. Hundreds of books and magazines are lined up on shelves and organized in different sections to help you easily navigate the rows. You will also notice paintings and pictures on the walls, including works by Mark Catesby, an English naturalist who studied the flora and fauna of the New World and whose books are on display. These elements collectively create a haven for plant enthusiasts and curious minds alike.    

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This library's unique collection includes insights into Philadelphia's urban greening initiatives.

2. A Collection Unlike Any Other    

Distinguishing itself, the McLean Library proudly holds an obscure publication from the early 20th century – the Annual Report of the Philadelphia Branch of the National Plant, Flower, and Fruit Guild. Additionally, the library collection also includes books once owned and annotated by famous Philadelphia plant explorer William Bartram (1739-1823), son of John Bartram, who established the first botanical garden in America. This unique collection extends to past Flower Show themes and local projects, providing not only knowledge but also visually appealing insights into Philadelphia's urban greening initiatives. 

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The library offers books that celebrate the beauty of trees in our local area.

3. A Philadelphia-Centric Library Experience 

Situated in Philadelphia, the McLean Library takes pride in offering books that represent the city and its surroundings. Paul Meyer’s book “Philadelphia Trees: A Field Guide to the City and the Surrounding Delaware Valley” (now in a new 2023 edition), delves into the taxonomic arrangement of tree species, accompanied by stunning photographs. It also includes valuable insights into the best places to witness the beauty of trees in our local area, including tree maps of Rittenhouse and Washington Square. 

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Family-friendly books teach young ones about the importance of nature.

4. A Family-Friendly Haven 

Catering to everyone, the McLean Library ensures there is something for everyone, including children! Little ones can join the main character Pearl as she takes a stand when her city tries to chop down the last ginko tree on her street in the book “Pearl Moscowitz’s Last Stand.” Or they can follow Ruby, a young girl living in New York City who finds herself developing a love for bird watching in the book, "Ruby’s Birdsby Mya Thompson. Not only are these books filled with fun adventures and colorful pages, but they also teach young ones about the importance of the natural world around them.    

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The library's extensive collection features titles authored by experts like Andrew Bunting, PHS VP of Horticulture.

5. Resources for Every Gardener’s Journey  

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced gardener, the McLean Library caters to all levels of expertise. Beginners can explore the curated list of books and websites in the "Horticulture Basics" section, while seasoned gardeners can delve into the "Plant Lover’s Guide" series by Timber Press. The library's extensive collection ensures there's something for every gardening enthusiast, with titles authored by experts like PHS's own VP of Horticulture Andrew Bunting.   

Intrigued? Unlock the doors to this botanical treasure trove by becoming a PHS Member. While members are allowed to borrow books and DVDs on various gardening topics, non-members are welcome to visit by appointment to witness firsthand the multitude of information stored throughout the shelves. Whether you prefer traditional books or digital resources, the McLean Library offers a gateway to a world of horticultural wisdom. Embark on your journey, explore vintage Flower Show images, and connect with fellow plant enthusiasts through the Library Book Group. Your botanical adventure awaits!  

Interested in utilizing the PHS McLean library to your benefit? Become a Member today!