Child’s Play at the Morris Arboretum

Last weekend, I took a whirlwind trip up to the Philadelphia area, camera in hand. Although my primary destination was Chanticleer Garden, I decided to stop in at The Morris Arboretum, the University of Pennsylvania’s 92-acre playground. Unfortunately for me, Friday afternoon traffic being what it was, I arrived at the Arboretum with less than 90 minutes to spare before closing time (4 pm during the week, for those of you who might be thinking of going for a visit). Plopping down my $14 admission fee (yikes!), I decided to limit myself to the Rose Garden, hoping for photo ops despite the heat and lateness of the season.

On either side of the Rose Garden,  however, I stumbled across two delightful locations/installations that were attracting children even this late in the day. (OK, adults too, just not those hell-bent on photographic pursuits). The first was called “Out on a Limb.” The exhibit consists of a 450-foot long walkway suspended 50 feet above the Arboretum floor.  This permanent installation is part of the Arboretum’s Tree Adventure exhibit and was recently voted “Best Stroll Through A Forest” in Philadelphia Magazine’s 2010 contest. For a more detailed description of the exhibit and its design, click here.

Morris Arboretum, Out on a Limb

The entry to the "Out on a Limb" installation at the Morris Arboretum

I was tempted to explore, but mindful of the ticking clock, I pressed on (this is a permanent exhibit, thankfully). The Rose Garden awaited. And it was beautiful – but I will save those photos for another post, lest I squander all my images here. Beyond the Rose Garden, one enters the Wisteria Walk, where a memorial bench is inscribed with the words “Honoring John J. Gatti, a man who was beauty and perfection as is this garden.” What an epitaph (note to sons: remember this)!

As I left the Wisteria Walk, my eyes were greeted by this sight:

Summer Palace, Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty

A glimpse of the Summer Palace from the end of the Wisteria Walk

Holy brownies, I thought (not to profane one of my most sacred words, but I was astonished). What the frak is THAT?? (Yes, I am a closet Battlestar Galactica fan.) A closer view followed:

Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty, Summer Palace

The "Summer Palace" by Patrick Dougherty

It was the “Summer Palace,” a structure of branches and twigs created by Patrick Dougherty. At least some of the branches must be willow, because as I rounded the corner to look at the palace from the rear, I saw a wonderful set of leaves sprouting from the top.

summer palace, Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty

A willow branch, leafed out, rises above a small visitor to the Summer Palace.

A group of children was darting in and out of the place, hiding from each other and their mothers in its maze-like interior. One of the moms, responding to my questions, said that the Summer Palace is a permanent part of the Arboretum; Dougherty keeps tabs on it and repairs bits of it as needed. It must look awesome in snow.

So if you have children and are within driving distance of Philadelphia, or are visiting the area, don’t miss the Morris Arboretum. I’m sure there are many more areas to explore for the younger set – this visit was a revelation to me and I encourage you to put it on your list!

For more information on the Morris Arboretum, including its hours, visitor programs and volunteer opportunities, visit its website. Next week: a peek at the Rose Garden.

Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, Travel

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2 Comments on “Child’s Play at the Morris Arboretum”

  1. Alex Says:

    Those look really cool! Glad you had a chance to see something neat with your limited time.

  2. Wow, I love it, hmmm, could I build one of these at Kilbourne Grove, lol.

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