The Morris Arboretum is a relatively little-known gem among Pennsylvania’s many gardens. It’s a beautiful, verdant oasis boasting a swan pond, fountains, gardens, and the only surviving free-standing Victorian fernery in North America.
The fernery, constructed in 1899, houses several hundred ferns and club mosses in a peaceful setting. A Buddha sculpture, reflecting pools full of koi, and waterfalls add an extra sense of serenity. The Fernery attests to the Victorian love of exotic and tropical plants.
The whole arboretum is also one of the best surviving examples of Victorian Eclecticism, a style that basically mashed diverse types of gardening styles all together. Trees selected from the Far East such as maples and cherries cover the English Park, while dawn redwoods cover an area by the rustic log cabin. There’s also a classical Roman-style temple and grotto. Several rose varieties fill up the Rose Garden and two resident swans live in the Swan Pond.
The gardens also have 17 state champion trees of Pennsylvania, several of which are many centuries old. The model railway that includes immaculate models of Philadelphia landmarks made out of natural materials like bark, pinecones, and resin is another highlight, as is the sculpture garden.
John and Lydia Morris, a brother-sister duo, created the Morris Arboretum. Now the gardens, in addition to being the state arboretum of Pennsylvania, belong to the University of Pennsylvania and have been open to the public since 1931.