Contributed by guest blogger, Maria Cannon

Gardening is a true utility hobby. It provides stimulation for the mind, body, and soul. It allows you to be both creative and scientific. It gives you physical exercise, but it’s not prohibitive. Here’s why gardening is a great way to boost overall wellness and why that’s important to those coping with mental issues.

Gardening helps you de-stress

Studies have shown that gardening is a great way to reduce stress in your life. For one, flowers are beautiful and fragrant. They have a calming effect on most people. But it’s not just about the pretty flowers. Even vegetable gardens can have a stress-busting effect. The main reason gardening is so good at relieving stress is that it is an escape—an escape from your troubles and responsibilities; an escape from other people; an escape from a rigid world bereft of natural beauty. Not only that, but the simple act of working with your hands is peaceful.

Physical activity that leads to a mental boost

Gardening is a hobby that anyone can enjoy—from kids to seniors, and the super fit to the couch potato. It gives a decent workout to almost everyone, but is pretty low impact. Working in a garden for an hour raking, digging, mowing, and moving stones burns almost as many calories as light jogging. This activity not only helps to tone your physique, but it also gives a boost to your mind. As Harvard Health puts it, “the benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors.” These growth factors affect brain cell health. Feeling happier when you get enough physical activity isn’t just a placebo effect or a feeling of satisfaction, it’s actually a chemical reaction.

Gardening as a way to fight depression and anxiety 

Many adhere to a certain approach to battling depression and anxiety—mindfulness. It involves focusing on the moment, taking in what’s good about the present and letting cares about past problems and future worries fall away. As points out, gardening gives us tons of opportunities to be mindful. Rich colors, enchanting smells, and the texture of soil all stimulate our senses and help us stay in the present. Settling tasks and achieving goals also helps us build self-esteem and self-worth. Growing and caring for plants definitely provides opportunities for achievements.

In the end, feeling like we are a part of something bigger (in gardening’s case this means nature and the life cycle) always helps to stave off the feelings of hopelessness that come with depression. 

How gardening can help prevent unhealthy coping mechanisms 

Without healthy outlets to help us cope with stress, anxiety, and depression, humans may turn to quick, easy fixes that are unhealthy and wind up not fixing anything at all. Activities that boost overall mental health, such as gardening, deter us from behaviors that will only make the problem worse.

Is gardening a perfect hobby? If you’re not really into getting your hands dirty then maybe not. But it’s about as close as you’re going to come. Very few activities provide this level of stress relief, esteem and worth boost, and brain stimulation. These benefits are vital—especially for those suffering from mental issues that could alternatively lead them down a dark path.

Photo Credit:

Fritillary butterfly feeding on Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Contributed by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Morris Arboretum Volunteer and Penn State Master Gardener

The meadows in the open fields of the Arboretum are at their best right now. Meadows are a medley of herbaceous plants, such as perennial native plants, wildflowers, and grasses. They become a haven for butterflies and their larvae (caterpillars), songbirds, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects, providing shelter, safety, and food.

From a distance, meadows can look unremarkable and disheveled. But up close, they are full of natural interest and teem with activity. Pops of color abound from summer flowers. There is an endless busyness—pollinators, like butterflies, bees, and beetles jockey for food and pollen. Birds search spent flowers for seeds.

Monarch butterfly feeding on Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Meadows must be carefully crafted and continually watched over. At the Arboretum, this effort is led by Jess Slade, the Arboretum's Natural Lands Horticulturist, and her dedicated colleagues, who thoughtfully compose and nurture the meadows. They take into account the right location, soil health, proper plant selection, and ways to manage invasive plants.  

Recently, I walked with Jess around a meadow area (staying on the mowed paths) near the Pump House. Jess mentioned that this was a young meadows pointing out some of the beneficial plants taking hold and a few threats from unwanted weeds. Still, there was already so much to enjoy!  Native plants proudly displayed their blooms, including milkweed (Asclepias) Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium), ironweed (Vernonia) and mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum).  

Butterflies and more butterflies fluttered about, including monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). Jess noted monarch caterpillar eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.  Other sightings included a “hummingbird” moth (Hemaris) and milkweed beetles.

Enjoy the natural magic of meadows at the Arboretum! You will find them among the open field just inside the Arboretum's main entrance, near to the Pump House and below the Magnolia Slope. Park in the lot across from the entrance kiosk.

By Joyce H. Munro, Morris Arboretum Archives Volunteer

Someone taught Maurice Bower Saul tenacity—the stick-to-itiveness to remind the Morris Foundation Board, time and again, that Lydia T. Morris never wanted the Compton mansion saved; she wanted it torn down and a memorial erected in its place. Someone taught Saul the importance of goodwill—the generous spirit (and whimsy) to request a single red rose in lieu of rent for one of his properties. Someone taught him fair work ethics—the evenhandedness to defend clients whether rich or poor, famous or unheard-of.

The someone who instilled these qualities in Maurice Saul was John Graver Johnson, Esq. There was no Philadelphia attorney more knowledgeable, more successful (colleagues quipped he won cases just by showing up in court), or more unassuming (he declined two nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court) than Johnson. In fact, Johnson’s record for number of cases argued in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court still stands. By the time Saul became Lydia Morris’s personal attorney, Johnson had schooled him well, starting back in 1905 when Saul graduated from UPenn Law School and Johnson invited him to become an associate.

The thread of legacy between mentor and protégé was strong and enduring. Like Johnson, Saul represented an astonishing number of corporations and individuals. And like Johnson, he kept an eagle eye on all of the firm’s cases, earning him the title “The Boss.” The legacy was tangible as well. Saul inherited his mentor’s desk and inkwell and paper weight—emblems of the law office where Johnson had worked twelve-hour days for individuals like J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, P. A. B. Widener, John Wanamaker, and firms like Baldwin Locomotive and Standard Oil.

When Johnson died, his associates—including Saul—took over the law practice. But Saul quickly earned the reputation and the clientele necessary to establish a new law firm in Philadelphia: Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul. That same year, Saul and his wife Adele bought Rose Valley Farm, fifteen miles west of his offices in the Land Title Building. From then on, Saul invested much time and effort in improving the farm and the valley along Ridley Creek. He extended his services to his neighbors by filing incorporation papers for the Borough of Rose Valley and served as its President for many years.

Midway through his career, Saul was elected a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and within one month of his election, he had arranged nothing short of a coup for his alma mater. It was July of 1931. As usual, Saul had gone to his lodge on Long Lake in the Adirondacks. And as usual, Lydia Morris was at her favorite summer resort in Lake Placid. Saul interrupted his vacation to motor over to Lake Placid and meet with Miss Morris to find out whether she had decided, once and for all, to bequeath her property to his alma mater. There had been rumors she was leaning toward giving everything to Penn State and UPenn’s senior administrators were concerned that the Morris estate might slip through their fingers. But Saul argued the case successfully and assisted Miss Morris in revising the terms of her will, thus ensuring that Compton and Bloomfield would come under the custodianship of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lydia Morris died the following year and Saul continued on as Counsel to the Advisory Board of the Morris Foundation. Four years later, he won the appeal for exemption from inheritance taxes on Compton and Bloomfield, arguing that Miss Morris intended for the properties to be used as a public arboretum. But there was one argument he never won on her behalf: the Board declined to tear down the Compton mansion and it stood, the sad victim of misuse and neglect, until 1968.

Maurice Bower Saul, 1923, courtesy of Saul Ewing LLP



Contributed by Marie Ingegneri, Marketing Coordinator

With the approach of National Honey Bee Day on August 19, Morris Arboretum reflects on the importance of bees to the garden. 

More than 12,000 labeled plants in the Arboretum’s living collection are pollinated by bees.  Not only do bees pollinate the majority of plants world-wide, but about one-third of an individual’s daily diet as well. In fact, a sizable percentage of edible harvests require a visit from bees to form fruits, nuts, seeds for vegetables, and other crops.  And this yield often nourishes the next level in the food chain such as livestock, which produces or becomes another staple for human consumption.

Since bees are so vital to the return and quality of crops, farmers often set up hives close to their fields to ensure pollination. At the Arboretum, 26 hives are stationed at Bloomfield Farm for just this reason.  Jim Bobb, the Arboretum’s beekeeper, owns and manages these hives for plant pollination and honey production.

The garden’s honey, Morris Gold, is harvested and bottled in the spring by Bobb and a community of beekeepers, and sold in The Shop. The average honey surplus in Pennsylvania, is 30-45 pounds per hive, but the Arboretum’s final product is less due to the many challenges in maintaining bee health.

The Arboretum’s type of honey is known as wild-flower.  It has a light and floriferous taste, since bees collect nectar and pollen from a variety of plants in a one to two mile radius.  In other states, for example, Florida and California, where there are huge farms of one crop and bees visit only one type of flower, the honey has the flavor of that plant, such as orange blossom or clover. 

Education is large part of the Arboretum mission, and Jim Bobb and his bees are involved in many hands-on outreach programs to local schools. Summer Adventure campers (pictured above) also engage with Jim to learn more about the roles of flowers, nectar and worker bees in the honey-making process.

Interested in setting-up a hive on your rooftop or in your backyard? Morris Arboretum is offering a Bee Keeping 101 class on September 23.  Learn all the how-to’s about this fascinating hobby and enjoy the many sweet rewards of your efforts.