Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Love in the Garden: Jennifer & Patrick

Carley K Photography
It was a chilly winter day and a light layer of snow covered the ground when Patrick Coyne visited the Morris Arboretum and carefully hid a bouquet of lisianthus flowers near the swan pond. His nerves had been building up over the past week and he wanted to make sure every detail felt perfect. A customized ring inspired by the very same flower was sitting in his pocket and in a few short hours he would propose to his girlfriend of a little more than a year, Jennifer Topper.

The couple had recently returned from vacation together in Key West, Florida, adopted a pitbull terrier mix puppy, and while things were feeling serious, joked about getting engaged. Little did Jennifer know, Patrick had already met with Christopher Dorman, Assistant Director of Visitor Services, and toured the arboretum looking for the perfect location to pop the big question.

"As soon as I saw the swan pond, it kind of stood out," says Patrick, "It ended up working out perfectly. The snow on the ground looked like a perfect winter landscape."

Patrick heard about the Morris Arboretum through word of mouth and knew that Jennifer was yearning to visit. Both of them are very attracted to nature, history, and art. A proposal surrounded by the well-maintained garden features of the Arboretum would make the moment more special to her because she grew up learning how to garden with family members.

"I loved helping my mom in her garden growing up. I mostly did the planting and she did the maintenance. My grandfather is a master gardener. Their house was always full of flowers," Jennifer remembers fondly.

The plan was elaborate but the Arboretum's staff was able to accommodate and a hidden photographer managed to capture the moment.

"I had to make up a lie that there was a special unveiling of a winter flower," says Patrick, "I told her it cost a lot per ticket…and we couldn't miss it."

Jennifer began to feel suspicious when she not only had to call off work but also wasn't rushed to make it to the fictitious event - even though they were running late. On the way, Patrick presented her with a book carefully wrapped in Christmas paper. Inside was the story of their relationship.

"That’s when I got a little suspicious," Says Jennifer. “We got there and we started rushing - he was being really cute and it was really sweet but I still didn’t know what was going on. I was very surprised and happy [when he proposed]...I thought all of it was really impressive.”

Patrick was happy his plan went off well and that she loved his surprise. “She’s the most thoughtful person I know.” He says, “Loving, caring, shy at certain time but speaks her mind when she has a strong opinion, hardworking and self motivating.”

Patrick and Jennifer will wed in September and plan to incorporate food from the farm that Jennifer works at and the beer that Patrick brews. The happy couple look forward to visiting the arboretum often and observing the way it grows and changes with the seasons.

Article contributed by Sarah Timmons.
Photo: Carley K Photography,

'Love in the Garden' is a special series featuring stories about proposals, weddings, and other memorable moments that have happened in our garden. To be featured, please contact

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Miniature World of Mosses and Lichens

With so much to take in visually at the Arboretum, the miniature plants right at our feet are often overlooked. One day, I ran into a couple with their grandchildren. They had magnifying glasses in their hands and they said they were on a “treasure hunt” to find moss. What a great idea!

At first glance, mosses and lichens look like just patches of gray or green that can be found on trees, rocks, or the ground. Upon closer inspection, however, you will discover these fascinating plants are Lilliputian, almost from alien-like worlds. Next time you visit the Arboretum, bring a magnifying glass, your macro camera lens or extension tubes, and hunker down to get a closer look.

Mosses, hornworts, and liverworts are bryophytes, which are non-vascular plants that produce spores, rather than flowers and seeds. They are often seen in damp, shady areas. Lichens are not related to mosses, although they are sometimes found together. Lichens are usually gray or green-gray, and have a drier look, whereas moist mosses are varying shades of green, gold, or reddish-brown and have a softer, appearance.

Here are some of areas of the Arboretum where you can find mosses and lichens:
  • The Fernery is one of the best places to view mosses. Crouch down to get close and really appreciate these tiny plants.
  • The Japanese Overlook Garden has mosses and lichens on several rocks, as well as on some trees, and the Japanese Hill Garden has a lovely moss carpet.
  • Look for mosses and lichens on the walls of the grotto (below the Mercury Loggia), on the stone seat bridge by the Sculpture Garden, in the shady areas of the Rose Garden rock wall, and on Lydia’s Seat (the hidden stone seating area above the Rose Garden).
  • Take a look up instead of down this time and you’ll find moss on the roof of the Log Cabin.
  • If you have children with you, have them look for mosses and lichens at the Garden Railway. They may find lichens on some stones, or moss is used to look like grass in front of some of the little houses. Mosses are great for miniature displays like fairy gardens and railways.

For more information, look for books such as Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians and Common Lichens of Northeastern North America: A Field Guide, or websites such as Oregon State University’s web page on basic moss biology. The Arboretum sometimes has classes on moss. On October 16, a field trip, the Mosses of Fulshaw Craeg Preserve offers an excellent opportunity to identify and learn more about mosses and liverworts. Register today.

Article and photos contributed by Kristen Bower, Guest Garden Blogger for Morris Arboretum

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Unsuspecting Reasons to Take a Guided Tour of the Morris Arboretum

1. Free Vitamin D
Unlike many of the plants you will see while strolling through the beautiful Morris Arboretum, we as humans do not photosynthesize. However, we do still need a healthy dose of sunlight! Vitamin D is vital for a healthy immune system, strong bones and teeth. So come grab some vitamin D while on one of our regularly scheduled guided tours. They are every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm, and no reservations are necessary.

2.  Keep Your Mind Sharp
Learning new things is a great way to keep your mind sharp and the creative juices flowing. Engaging your brain will help to improve your memory and attitude.
This fall at the Arboretum join the Small Trees for Small Spaces tour. This one-hour guided tour will keep you engrossed by highlighting small trees that make a big impact. Check out the website for specific dates and details. Come learn something new and exercise your brain as you learn from the Arboretum’s knowledgeable guides.  

3.  Escape
Do you ever feel like you want to go on an adventure, but you just don’t have the time? No matter what the reason, we have the perfect remedy for you! Come find solace at the Morris Arboretum. As soon as you pass through the beautiful iron entrance gates, you get the sense that you are no longer in Philadelphia. Take a mini adventure on one of our guided tours through the striking gardens here at the Arboretum. You will learn fascinating history, and get lost in the compelling environment of the Arboretum. Escape your hectic lifestyle for an hour or so and come visit.  

4. Give a Unique Gift
Sometimes giving the gift of an experience is better than any material good. Generally, people are more likely to hold on to a memory of an experience, rather than a peculiar re-gifted garden gnome. Whether you are attending a birthday party, a retirement party, or a holiday event, we have the perfect gift idea for you.

The Arboretum offers group tours of many varieties. Regardless of interest, there is a tour for everyone. The Morris Arboretum offers tour topics such as: Art in the Garden; Japanese Elements; LEED Horticulture Center and Green Roofs Tour; Victorian Garden and many more. Check out our website to see the full list, or contact Lisa Bailey ( or 215.247.5777 x157) for more information and scheduling.

5. Nature Rx
If you are interested in slowing down, being unreasonably happy or de-stressing, come check out the Morris Arboretum! Nature has been proven to help do all of these things and more. The Morris Arboretum is a great place to come enjoy nature and a guided tour can help you facilitate your visit.

Article contributed by guest Garden Blogger Betsy Thompson.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Visiting the Arboretum on a Drizzly Day

When the forecast calls for clouds and a chance of precipitation, we tend to look for indoor things to occupy our time. As children, we used to love to play in the rain and pounce in puddles. Why not enjoy a rainy day again?

I recently visited the Arboretum when the skies looked like they would open up at any minute. As I walked around with my umbrella in hand, I breathed in the wonderful scent of fresh rain. I could hear the pitter patter of raindrops as they hit the canopy of leaves above. When the wind kicked up, acorns made a light thumping sound as they dropped to the ground. Raindrops created radiating concentric circles as they hit the water of the Swan Pond. I felt as if I had the Arboretum almost all to myself on this day of less than perfect weather.

If you’re there on a day when the rain kicks in, you can take cover with Mercury at the Mercury Loggia and grotto while enjoying the bubbling fountains, or find shelter in the Log Cabin and listen to the rain as it hits the moss-covered roof. Out on a Limb offers protection from the rain, and a chance to learn more about trees at the same time. While the leaves are still on the trees, there are many shady areas that will help keep you dry, such as the canopy of the Oak AllĂ©e.

When the rain lessens, enjoy the many vistas the Arboretum has to offer, such as the view of the English Park from the Seven Arches, or the view across the Azalea Meadow. Storm clouds make for a breathtaking backdrop.

Next time the weather looks indecisive (but doesn’t call for heavy storms with lightning!), pack your hat, umbrella and/or raincoat, and head to the Arboretum. You might even want to put on your rain boots so you can splash in some puddles!

Article and photos contributed by Kristen Bower, Guest Garden Blogger for Morris Arboretum

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rest and Be Thankful

Fall is the season that invites us to slow down and find a quiet spot to be reflective. It’s a great time to visit places that renew our souls and give us energy, and what better place than the Arboretum for such retreats?

All along the paths here, and more importantly off the paths, are countless places to sit and be awed by nature. To me, forests are sacred places, so to revel among trees always brings me great joy. That’s why I always visit Out on a Limb first, just being in the treetops gives me such a sense of wonder!

At the Arboretum, I can sit among a grove of trees, next to a rhythmic fountain, overlooking a sweeping meadow, or near a flower garden or art installation. All of these sites offer their own special joy. Among my favorite places, here are some of the best:

The Orange Balustrade, which features a cathedral inspired arbor, giant sequoias, a hillside covered with cypress trees, and a rustic waterfall trickling down the hillside. I sit here in the quiet and take in a peaceful view of meadows, hills, trees and shrubs of every size and dimension. Whether I spend ten minutes or a day here, I always leave renewed. It’s magnificent.  

The Katsura Tree. Down the hillside from the Orange Balustrade is a tree so spectacular that the Arboretum staff selected it as the most noteworthy tree in their collection. I sit on the shaded bench here and just marvel at what nature designed.

Mercury Loggia. Across the trail from the statue and fountain in this more secluded spot, is a bench that wraps clear around a tree. With beautiful views from each seat, I can meditate and find solace in any direction!

Along the Wissahickon, near the Inside Out rock sculpture, is a bench engraved Rest and Be Thankful. I invite you to do just that. Find a spot that speaks to your soul, then just sit and be still. Let all your senses take in everything around you, and find peace. Come visit, and find your own special place of renewal.  

Article contributed by Barry Becker, Guest Garden Blogger for Morris Arboretum.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How and Why to Compost Your Leaves This Fall

Chickens are excellent helpers for shredding leaves for compost and they add an extra source of nitrogen.

As we wave farewell to summer and enter the beautiful season of autumn. Leaves are starting to change colors, and soon enough they will drop, rendering the trees bare. Now is the time to start exploring the idea of composting!

Composting your leaves is a worthwhile endeavor for many reasons. It is nature’s best mulch. By composting now, you will be able to reap the benefits of your hard labor either this spring or next! It will also save you money on commercial fertilizers and protect the environment as well.

Compost is made up of organic matter. It serves as food for microorganisms, and keeps the soil in healthy, balanced condition. Do your part, and keep leaves out of landfills. Use them to improve your own garden instead! 

STEP 1: Choosing the spot – Regardless of experience, choosing the right spot to set up your compost pile might be the most crucial part. You will need to find a spot with a few key elements. It should be shady and moist, in order to allow for decomposition to take place, which is ultimately the breakdown of the leaves. It would also a good idea to set up a wire gate surrounding the compost area of choice, so that your leaves do not blow around.

STEP 2: Collect and shred your leaves – Leaves can be easily shredded with a lawn mower, but there are other options too - chickens! If you happen to have chickens, pile up your leaves in a contained area, and let the chickens roam on top. They will have the leaves shredded in a few days and will add an extra source of nitrogen.

This step is not to be overlooked. Shredding your leaves will help them to break down faster and prevent them from matting together. Matted leaves decrease the amount of water and air penetration, which in turn, slows the decomposition process.

STEP 3: Be Patient – Composting leaves is not a quick process, but your efforts will not go to waste! Hopefully by the time spring rolls around you will be able to spread your transformed compost around your garden as mulch.

TIPS: If you don’t want to do a leaf-only compost which is referred to as leaf mold, here are a few things you can try. Add lawn clippings and/or nitrogen rich sources (i.e manure, which works great). There are also many resources that can help guide you into becoming a compost expert.  So if you are interested in learning more about how to compost, I highly suggest that you set aside some time for more in depth research.

Article contributed by guest Garden Blogger Betsy Thompson.


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