PHILADELPHIA is a popular tourist destination for good reason: world-class museums, rich history, lively performing arts, parks, architecture, and an increasingly legendary restaurant scene. With all of these assets, it is no surprise that our city consistently ranks high on consumer lists of best places to visit.

Adding to the draw for both visitors and residents are the more than 30 public gardens and arboreta located within 30 miles of the city center, earning the region a reputation as "America's Garden Capital."

Some 2.5 million people, ranging from international tourists to school groups to local residents, come to Philadelphia to experience spectacular estate gardens like Chanticleer in Wayne, Mount Cuba Garden Center in Hockessin, Del., Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, and Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. These same people visit and appreciate the pure beauty found in our arboreta such as Morris in Chestnut Hill, Tyler in Media and Awbury in Germantown. While all of our gardens are places of beauty and respite, their economic impact on the surrounding region is equally profound and, to date, little understood. Until now.

A new study, compiled by Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, details the extent to which the gardens benefit the whole community. According to the study, the economic impact of the 30-plus member institutions of Greater Philadelphia Gardens located within the 11-county Philadelphia region (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) is calculated at about $256 million a year. It includes more than 1,500 jobs with workers (both garden employees and those who provide services) earning $79 million.

These gardens also attract visitors from highly desirable "out-of-market" areas. Those visitors tend to be more affluent and highly educated than the general population. Two-thirds of the out-of-town visitors spend more than a day, and an average of $145 per day on food, accommodations and other expenses, in addition to what they spend at the gardens.

The region's public gardens also provide unique educational opportunities for children and adults. Many of the gardens within the Greater Philadelphia Gardens consortium have added features and programming designed for school-age children, connecting them with the natural world. Growing plants, connecting people to nature, understanding climate change, vast educational programs beyond just planting flowers, providing places for reflection and inspiration - all are byproducts of public gardens, important and relevant attributes of healthy communities.

Join me in applauding our public gardens for their growing and lasting impact on our region.

Matt Rader is president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

To view the complete study, visit: click here.