The incredible gardens of the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College are a must see if you get to the borough of Swarthmore, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The grounds encompass over 300 acres and more than 4000 different varieties of plants. The Arboretum was established through a bequest of the family of Arthur Hoyt Scott, class of 1895. It was to be a living memorial to Mr. Scott in 1929, a pretty remarkable gift at this particular time in history.
I will take you on a tour as seen by a designer. You should note the use and design of the spaces, much of which can be implemented on a smaller, intimate scale.
One thing to notice, is how plant maturity plays into each design. It was well planned for, and each built space marries to its surroundings in material use, and scale of elements. Spaces have an intimate feel with and within nature.
Every space that has a grass element was designed to enhance and become a needed element of the space. What I want you to notice above, is the scale of the garden in relationship to the structure. The gardens are generous and notice how the round garden form pays homage to the ‘silo’ element of the building. The garden softens the structure also.
Notice again above. Do you see the same gesturing of the retaining walls to the building? The form of the courtyard is a strong geometry, as it needs to be to work with the form of the structure. No fussy curves would do. Again deep beds to balance the weight of the structure.
See this courtyard? It is the same building as in the fourth image down, only far to the right. Notice the turret/bay geometry to the right, angular.
I have a suggestion in this garden. Prune the Weeping Japanese Maples to form. They are too heavy untrimmed and are encroaching on the stairs. Once thinned, they will be a beautiful symmetrical focal point to this space. Notice too that the garden itself is not symmetrically designed on the sides, because the bed on the left must work with the space to the far left also. It opens up the left side for the borrowed view, rather than psychologically closing in the space with tall hedges. The opposite side is a formal treatment, below.
See how the grass becomes a sculptural design element. I use this often in my design work on formal gardens. When grass is necessary for entertaining, why not make it interesting?
Clotier Hall, another example of making the grass a design element. The paving designates how the grass is executed in the design.
More strong architecture.
Views through spaces are important. In this garden, you go from a space with much to see and smell – sensual curiosity, to the stark relief of the large campus. See the difference looking through the arches in the two images above?
The greens in front of Parrish Hall. Notice the large deck chair, an art piece based on scale.
A word on the expanse and use of lawns. The Scott arboretum is transitioning the 5 acre lawn between Mertz Residence Hall and Magill Walk to an organic management program. If you want to listen to an Audio Tour about the Organic Lawn, you can call 610-717-5597 and press #101 from any cell phone. I did call even though I was there in person, and this number is listed in their brochure about The Organic Lawn Initiative. The phone tour was pretty interesting and was given by a graduate and researcher at Swarthmore College.
Another well designed small garden room.
A woodland walk through the Rhododendrons.
You do not get the feel of a college campus here.
Or here. The Dean Bond Rose Garden.
I know I am like a tour guide up in Niagara Falls with all my travel posts, but I have said many times how I think Philadelphia is a great garden tour destination. Here is a list that with a click, gets slightly easier to read.
But go to greaterphiladelphiagardens.com for more information on places to stay if you are in the area garden hopping. I am not endorsing the site, but it is listed in the colorful brochure handed out at the hotels, like where I stayed a night. I would happily endorse this fine establishment. The rooms were wonderful and the food was great.