Chestnut Hill’s designation in 1996 as Philadelphia’s Garden District is well deserved. Large trees, gardens, and plantings are everywhere, from the large mansions to the neat and tidy row houses that make up the neighborhood. Germantown Avenue, the heart of the neighborhood, comes alive each spring as hanging baskets, barrels and window boxes are planted with lush, colorful flowers. Small pocket parks along the Avenue act as peaceful green oases in the retail corridor and every bit of open space is planted with bushes, trees or flowers.
The crown jewel of the Garden District is the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is recognized as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Just a few of its renowned garden features include the Azalea Meadow, the Japanese Hill and Water Garden, the Rose Garden, Step Fountain, Madeleine K. Butcher Sculpture Garden, and the Swan Pond.
In recent years, visitors have eagerly anticipated the annual opening of the Arboretum’s Garden Railway. These Garden Railway buildings feature a different theme each year and are the creation of famed garden railroad architect, Paul Busse, who designs elaborate, three-dimensional structures made out of natural materials such as bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, acorns, dried flowers, seeds and stones. The new highlight of the Arboretum is its Tree Adventure, Out On a Limb. With this exhibit, you can get a bird’s eye view of the forest, climb into a giant suspended Bird’s Nest and scamper down onto a Squirrel Scramble of netting between towering trees.
Another favorite event at the Arboretum is its Groovin’ in the Garden Summer Concert Series. Nothing says summer like an evening of live music with a picnic dinner in a beautiful twilight garden.