Gardens & Groves
The Display Garden is arrayed on both sides of the Joan Milius Smith Esplanade where a tall hedge behind the beds helps to showcase the quilt of color. The ongoing appeal of this garden is the changing palette and arrangement of the beds in the landscape. Not only is the planting plan changed annually to demonstrate various display themes for home gardeners, but plantings are rotated three times (spring, summer, and fall) to showcase plants of seasonal interest.
On July 7, 2014, The Arboretum at Penn State began welcoming children and adults of all ages to the newly completed Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden, a unique space for exploring nature, fostering wonder, and celebrating the plants, animals, and geography of central Pennsylvania. A team that included Penn State childhood development experts worked with the design firm EDAW/AECOM and the Arboretum leadership and staff to create a garden that is truly a microcosm of our regional landscape. Designed for visitors between the ages of 3 and 12, this garden serves as a place for families in the State College community and surrounding region, as well as alumni and other campus visitors, to enjoy the outdoors, learn together, and discover the natural world. Throughout the garden, plantings featuring native Pennsylvania species create a natural setting and illustrate the biodiversity of plant life in our region. Prominently placed and used throughout are natural limestone and sandstone boulders and walls evoking the local landscape and telling the story of our geologic history.
Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden Activities
Educational activities for children are provided on weekday mornings from mid-June through the end of October. Each season’s schedule is posted on this website and in the gardens in late spring.
Some of the most popular hands-on activities are planting, nurturing, and harvesting vegetables in the Harvest Gardens. Produce that is not used in demonstrations in the children’s garden is donated to the State College food bank. For example, during the 2016 growing season, the Arboretum’s children’s garden donated 2,989 pounds of herbs and vegetables, including kale, Swiss chard, squash, peppers, tomatoes, and beets.
This terrace, enclosed by stucco walls, ornamental panels, and climbing vines, presents plants that are the northernmost relatives of what are mostly tropical families, complementing the theme of the conservatory to be built someday in the adjacent space. Annual plants add fragrance and bold color to enhance the rich tropical theme. Benches, small tables, and chairs welcome visitors to sit and enjoy viewing the exotic colors and leaves of the plantings in this “garden room.”
The Dr. James J. and Lynn D. Ramage Marsh Meadow, filled with tall switchgrass, graces the front section of the Arboretum along Park Avenue. Baldcypress, weeping willows, and red- and yellow-stemmed dogwoods are planted around the perimeter to evoke the banks of a marsh or pond. The Marsh Meadow serves the functional purpose of infiltrating storm water into underground aquifers, though it is typically dry for all but a few hours of the year.
Encircling the Event Lawn, the Kathryn Bower Smith Strolling Garden comprises a wide, paved path and border plantings of flowering shrubs and perennial herbaceous plants. A tall hedge encloses the beds at the outer border so that garden specimens are silhouetted against the greenery. This garden prominently features members of the rose family, particularly ornamental members such as crabapple, serviceberry, chokeberry, and hawthorn, which display attractive blooms, ornamental fruit, and fall leaf color. Commemorative benches have been placed at intervals along this path.
This romantic cottage-style garden boasts the color and fragrance of hundreds of roses, under-planted with herbs and other aromatic plants. Winter-blooming specimens such as daphne and witchhazel ensure fragrance for much of the year. Enhancing the garden’s appeal are the Iris Walk and the Rose Garden Bower, a pergola adorned with wisteria. Initially built in 2009, this portion of the Rose and Fragrance Garden (more is planned) was renovated in 2012 to diversify the plant collection and improve soil drainage and irrigation. Most notable among the additions is a collection of 35 exceptional cultivars of tree peony. Rose Garden Part II
Enclosed by tall walls and airy trellises, the Oasis Garden features a stylized oasis—the Lotus Pool. Surrounded by plants with dark or golden colors, the Lotus Pool is a circular basin filled with lotus plants, prized for their uplifted, cuplike foliage and exotic blooms, water lilies of various species, and other aquatic plants. To one side, the Oasis Garden Terrace offers a quiet area to retreat from the flow of traffic and enjoy views back toward the Lotus Pool. It is shaded by native, fragrant sweetbay magnolias.
These plantings, which recall the richness of Appalachian forests, border the Overlook Pavilion terrace and the Ridge and Valley sculpture. The flower beds, containing both annuals and perennials, are accented by apple serviceberry and smooth hydrangea.
The Pollinators’ Garden brings together a combination of plants, nest sites, and other resources essential for a productive pollinator community, thereby promoting a better understanding of pollinators and their vital contribution to the health and welfare of society. Many outstanding Pennsylvania native plants are featured in the garden, including blue mistflower, New England aster, and clustered mountain-mint. Over the past two years, we have partnered with the Center for Pollinator Research on campus, and finalized a conceptual design that will improve and expand the Pollinators’ Garden to nearly triple its present size. The new design includes space for research plots as well as displays that will provide examples of strategies that homeowners and others can implement to protect threatened pollinators. Philanthropy will allow us to develop this garden.
Millions of years ago, tropical, and later subtropical, forests covered what is now central Pennsylvania. The Tropical Grove is intended to evoke the character of these forests by grouping native remnants of that ancient flora, plants whose relatives are mostly restricted to the tropical and subtropical latitudes. Although they are familiar components of our contemporary eastern deciduous forest, the vaguely “exotic” appearance of these trees – for example, sassafras, pawpaw, and persimmon – is intended to be enhanced by grouping them into a collection. The grove is adjacent to the location of the future Conservatory, which will feature tropical plants that cannot be grown out-of-doors in our location.