Because my daughter is a brilliant pianist (unbiased mother speaking!), I recently had the opportunity to visit the H.O. Smith Botanical Gardens at the Arboretum at Penn State University, in State College, Pennsylvania. I first visited there and became enamored four years ago, so I was delighted when my daughter was accepted into the Penn State Honors Music Institute this year. The conversation went something like this: “Mom! I got into the piano camp!” “Oh, that’s great! Now I’ll get to visit the gardens again!” A bed of New Guinea Impatiens (‘Kioma’ Painted Paradise Lilac), yellow Lantana (‘Luscious Lemonade’), and hydrangeas greets visitors as they enter the garden.
Wide sidewalks lined with shrubbery and trees encircle a large event lawn and lead to several garden areas, such as the Oasis Garden, featuring a lotus pond:The orange metal sculptures, “Seed Pods”, are part of a seasonal art installation featuring the work of Robert Anderson.
I found the Water Hyacinths prettier than the orange sculptures!
The walkways around the Oasis Garden are bordered by many tropical plants, such as this Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus tortunei):
. . . an Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa):
. . . and these Japanese Banana Trees (Musa basjoo) surrounded by white petunias (‘Tidal Wave Silver Spreading’) and Honey Bush (Melianthus major):
Someone else liked the petunias, too!
There were Cannas (‘Australia’):
. . . more Palms, enormous mounds of Artemisia (‘Silver Mound’), and Dahlias (‘Fascination):
One of my favorite plants in the Oasis Garden was this Sweetshrub (Calycanthus ‘Aphordite’):Several on-line sites list this as hardy in my zone; hmm. . .!
After making my way around the Oasis Garden, I crossed the Bamboo Allee and entered the Conservatory Terrace. Talk about a tropical paradise! There are more Banana Trees, Sunpatiens (‘Spreading Clear Orange), Cannas (Striata), Black Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigra’), and Brugnansia x cubensis (Angel’s Trumpet). Here’s one of those trumpets now:
A huge mound of Amsonia is working its way toward autumnal glory: (I’m sorry to say I neglected to photograph the tag identifying the yellow flowers next to it!)
There were more pretty Dahlias (‘Bishop of York’):
. . . and mass plantings of Croton (Codiaeum variegarum ‘Petra’):
The center of the Conservatory Terrace is a large concrete area that can easily be fitted for a tent to host events. It is adorned by donated benches commemorating alumni and large urns filled with more tropical plants. There are two passages in and out; one at the Bamboo Allee, seen here in a picture from 2012:
. . . and the other, directly across from it, leading to a grassy area surrounded by towering Upright Black Poplar trees (Populus nigra var. thevestina):It was a windy evening! You can see more of the art installation on the bottom right, a blue metal chair that is part of set of four. Also notice the student lying on her back, reading in the shade–I know I would have spent a lot of time doing just that if such a grove had been available to me back in the day!
Just one more luscious scene before we exited–Banana Trees, Canna ‘Striata’, Croton ‘Petra’, Lantana , and Bulbine ‘Yellow Rocket’:
From this tropical delight, we went on to visit the Pollinators’ Garden, the Display Garden, and the Children’s Garden, all gorgeous in their own right. However, this post has been long enough, and I will leave you with just a teaser for Part 2 of the HO Smith Botanical Gardens post, coming soon to a screen near you!