According to the arboretum’s website, the arboretum was officially dedicated in 1929 as a living memorial to a college alumnus. It is supported by an endowment fund through Swarthmore College, with the stated mission of educating the public and demonstrating the plants of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Today it includes something for everyone, from hardcore horticulturists to outdoor enthusiasts to summer concert-goers.
For plant enthusiasts, the arboretum prides itself on its treasured collections. In accordance with its mission of educating the public, plants are clearly labeled and tagged, providing a living museum open to the public. The Arboretum’s collections of hollies, magnolias, and oaks in particular have gained recognition as registered collections in the North American Plant Collections Consortium. Other prized collections include conifers, crabapples, flowering cherries, hydrangeas, roses, and magnolias.
One of my favorite spots in the arboretum is the Scott Arboretum Amphitheater. Situated adjacent to one of the main trailheads just off the main campus road, this amazing spot was constructed in 1942 by noted Philadelphia landscape architect Thomas Sears. Its perfectly spaced semi-circular stone bench walls are terraced between strips of lush lawn, perfect for lounging back on a blanket and taking in the sites.
The amphitheater sits beneath a canopy of magnificent tulip trees and white oaks, with stunning views into the Crum Creek Valley behind the main stage amidst the dogwoods, magnolias and rhododendrons. In addition to a number of college events including its annual commencement ceremonies, the amphitheater is also home to a summer concert series, theater performances and is also available for private weddings and parties.
In the summer we’ll drop our canoe in just above the creek’s Yale Avenue dam (aka "The Falls"), originally constructed in 1776 in conjunction with a small milltown, and slowly paddle up stream through the woods. Its not uncommon on these excursions that we don’t see a soul until the creek meets up with the trail. Brook trout, perch, and bluegills provide fun recreational fishing opportunities, and there’s even some rumors about some bass residing in the waters just behind the dam. In the winter we’ll ice skate on the same portion of the creek where we canoe, and cross country ski on the trails and across the meadow.
While I’m sure nearly everybody has a local spot that they can tap into for quick, easy, and rewarding recreational opportunities, I’m sure glad that Scott Arboretum is nearby for me. If you’re in the area and would like to learn more about Scott Arboretum, visit their website at www.scottarboretum.org.