The Arboretum at Penn State

Future Gardens

Concept Plan for Expanded and Redesigned Pollinators' Garden

Bird’s Eye View of Redesigned and Expanded Pollinators’ Garden

Pollinators’ Garden Design Plan

In partnership with the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State, we worked with the nationally renowned firm MTR Associates to create the conceptual plan that will remake and expand our Pollinators’ Garden. Most pollinator or “butterfly” gardens – and to a lesser extent our existing garden – employ a limited selection of native and non-native plants that appeal to people but attract only a small number of pollinators. The ruby-throated hummingbird is a well-known pollinator in our region, but vastly more important are well over a hundred insect species that perform this essential function. The goal for our new garden is to attract all the pollinators native to our locale. Our plan for the new Pollinators’ Garden will take advantage of a particular strength in University faculty expertise to create a unique and innovative approach to a common theme in contemporary gardens.

Garden highlights will include a native biodiversity collection, a home garden demonstration area, displays that illustrate how pollinators selectively respond to various plant “signals,” a garden that highlights the economic value of insect pollinators, and plots that offer both undergraduate students and garden enthusiasts the chance to participate in essential research. If funding permits, the expanded plan will also include a “bird” garden to illustrate thematic and ecological relationships between plants that support and require insect pollinators and plants that encourage avian diversity through the insects they host.

Bird Garden Plan

Bird Garden Plan

Professionally designed with advice from Penn State faculty and other ornithological experts, this new addition to the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens will feature habitat and food plantings, bird-friendly water features, nesting and roosting boxes, and—for humans—a viewing pavilion. Birds, birders, casual visitors, and students will all find peaceful solitude here in a beautiful half-acre garden.


Fall mums with morning frost

Designed to be attractive year-round, the Fountain Garden will highlight plants with several seasons of interest such as conifers and grasses, shrubs and trees with spring bloom and fall color, and plants that produce appealing fruits. It will feature plants that bloom particularly early in the spring and those that put on a very late display in the fall. At its center, terraced panels will offer expansive views of the Marsh Meadow. Because it is prominently situated between the boardwalk and the Bamboo Gate into the gardens, we expect that the Fountain Garden will be especially popular with visitors.


Tanacetum vulgare (tansy)

As planned, the Medieval Garden will display the plants and the gardening style of this historical period, featuring raised beds of potherbs and medicinal plants and a flower lawn with a raised turf seat and central fountain. This will also be a major display area for herbs, as medieval gardeners grew many plants used for flavoring, medicine, and fragrance. Covered walks, arbors, and edges will frame the space. This will be a walled garden, like the adjacent Rose and Fragrance Garden, and the style will be formal.

Fruit of <i>Viburnum nudum</i> 'Winterthur'

Fruit of Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’

The East Terrace will be accessible from both the Education Center and Conservatory and provide a vantage point above a terraced stairway from which visitors can view the Tropical Grove on the slope leading to the Marsh Meadow. It will be supported by a wall composed of local limestone, reminiscent of a mountain cutaway and evoking a sense of the geologic history of the region.

<i>Nymphaea</i> 'Emily Grant Hutchings'

Nymphaea ‘Emily Grant Hutchings’

From the café in the Education Center, visitors will be drawn outside onto the West Terrace to enjoy refreshments, catch up on the daily news, or enjoy lunch while viewing the nearby Strolling Garden. A water feature is planned, and a dense overhead canopy will shade the patio and provide respite from the summer sun.

Colorful annuals

Early autumn display of colorful annuals

Located at the Arboretum’s main entrance, this garden will welcome visitors and ornament the approach to the Education Center. The entire space between Bigler Road and the Education Center doorway will feature rich plantings and a specialty hardscape. Pathways of both lawn and traditional paving materials will wind through the gardens, bringing visitors from the parking lot or from Park Avenue to the center’s entrance.


Rosa cv.

This expanded garden will complement the existing Rose & Fragrance courtyard, showcasing a variety of roses as well as aromatic perennials and herbs. As a counterpoint to the cottage-style design of the existing garden, the second portion of the Rose & Fragrance Garden will have a more formal plan. A large gazebo will provide a dramatic focal point in the heart of the garden, serving as an elegant venue for gatherings and a sheltered place for reflection or quiet conversation.

Rhus glabra ‘Laciniata’ (smooth sumac) and Geranium ‘Gerwat’ (Rozanne™ cranesbill geranium)

Rhus glabra ‘Laciniata’ (smooth sumac) and Geranium ‘Gerwat’ (Rozanne™ cranesbill geranium)

As the Arboretum grows over the course of the coming years, we will continue to implement our master plan, creating new gardens in the remainder of the 56-acre Mitchell Tract. Near the Overlook Pavilion, the traditional-style Orchard will display both heirloom and modern varieties of fruit trees. The River of Grasses and Dry Stream will create a visual connection between the Overlook Pavilion and the Hartley Wood, and will lead visitors from the more formal Smith Botanic Gardens to the naturalistic woodland groves beyond. On either side of the River of Grasses, the extensive Perennial Gardens will feature a diverse plant palette of bulbs, perennials, trees and shrubs in a variety of sunny and shady environments. Beyond, a Meadow Garden flanked by specimen shade trees will display native grasses grown in combination with bulbs and perennials, creating a visual tapestry that changes with the seasons. Adjacent to the Meadow, the Shade and Woodland Gardens will be laid out in three parts, progressing from the Asian Woods near the Schreyer House, through the Transition Woods, and into Penn’s Woods next to Big Hollow. These gardens will explore and compare the flora of temperate east Asia and the northeastern United States, inviting inquiry about plant evolution and geological change over the course of Earth’s history.