An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 25, 2014

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College

     Last week I was fortunate to attend the Perennial Plant Conference at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. This multi-sponsor event brings in a some of the brightest lights from the world of horticulture to speak, and it was well worth the registration fee and the drive. One of the best things about the conference is its setting. Swarthmore is a private college founded by Quakers, and an alumni's family set up an endowment to fund the Scott Arboretum. The entire campus sits within the arboretum, and there is some spectacular horticulture taking place there. I didn't know what was more enjoyable, the learning taking place indoors, or the inspiration taking place outside.

Limb Work

McGill Walk (2)

McGill Walk (3)

Metasequoia Allée

White Adirondacks (1)

Ginkgo biloba 'Saratoga' Espalier (2)

Oxydendrum arboreum

Shadow and Light

John W. Nason Garden (1)

John W. Nason Garden (4)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (1)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (6)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (7)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (9)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (13)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (23)

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (25)

John W. Nason Garden (3)

Justicia betonica with Coleus

Leymus arenarius and Strobilanthes

Scott Arboretum Entrance Garden (10)


     I found it somewhat ironic that while students at Swarthmore might be able to enjoy remarkable gardens just by opening a door, they cannot study horticulture, it is not part of the curriculum. The gardens are there only to enhance the educational experience. 

(If interested, the entire set of my photos from the Scott Arboretum can be found here.)


  1. I don't think Swarthmore is unique among liberal arts colleges in not having a hort program, but I know what you mean. The rest of us who do pursue horticulture certainly benefit from what goes on at Scott Arboretum. It is beautiful and inspiring. I hear there was an especially big turn out this year?
    And by the way, my friend and I really enjoyed our first visit to NBG. You do nice work there! Cypress Bridge Swamp and Zuni Pine Barren field trips were wonderful; Great Dismal Swamp was surprisingly disappointing.

  2. Wow, I want to go there! The Hakone grass, the Amsonia, and the Justicia/Coleus combo really caught my eye. Too bad the students can't study horticulture in the perfect setting for it!

  3. Beautiful plant combos. Leymus arenarius and Strobilanthes are very appealing together; if only Strobilanthes could grow in zone 7. Love that Acorn shape roof. What an amazing learning environment.

  4. What a beautiful slanting light, with the leaves still on the trees -- the perfect autumn day. Amazing to think such high standards of horticulture are maintained by the arboretum, with no accompanying practical courses on offer.

  5. I visited Swarthmore with my son and loved the campus/arboretum, especially the outdoor meeting hall. They said on our tour that the trees were integrated into biology and art curriculum. It's a shame they don't have hortocology classes. I like the campus even better with the fall foliage - thanks for sharing!

  6. What a great campus! Lots of inspiration here! Your images are equally stunning and I'm glad you had a good time at the conference!

  7. I've only ever seen a few of the same images again and again, so this was wonderful. I'm off to see the rest of your pix!

  8. Beautiful pictures, Les. Love the way the old stone is used.

  9. Fabulous photography! Thank you for capturing some of the results of the talented staff and volunteers I work with here at the Scott Arboretum!