Stories From the Garden

A playful, sensory garden grows at Meadowbrook Farm

Posted on September 5, 2018

A new garden is in full bloom at PHS Meadowbrook Farm to the delight of children and adults alike.

Alice’s Garden honors the late Alice Herkness Pennock, whose husband, J. Liddon Pennock Jr., designed Meadowbrook’s acres of distinctive “garden rooms”, and bequeathed the home and grounds to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2004. PHS opened Meadowbrook Farm this year as a free public garden, gardening education hub, specialty plant shop, and growing center.

Alice, who was active in the Huntingdon Valley Garden Club, liked to fill the rooms of her Cotswold-style stone house with arrangements of cuttings from Meadowbrook’s gardens.  She also loved hosting her two young nieces for visits.  “Alice was a wonderful flower arranger in her own right,” explains Jenny Rose Carey, Meadowbrook’s Senior Director, “I felt we needed an opportunity to tell more of the story of Alice’s contribution to Meadowbrook Farm.”

Bright orange Mexican sunflowers and migrating monarch butterflies delight visitors to the new garden. Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to the surrounding pollinator and flower gardens. “One of the things we want to show is how the garden comes alive,” Carey says. “We want kids to observe and get to know the life in the garden, and not be afraid of it.”

For its first season, Alice’s Garden was planted with featured plants from the rainforest exhibit at the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show, including lush banana trees, as well as large-leafed Canna musifolia and tall, red Pennisetum grasses.

Children can run around the circular garden path or hide in the shelter of the towering tropicals. The layout encourages exploration. Kids can smell the herbs and ripening vegetables, hear the rustle of leaves, and feel the tickle of wispy grasses. “Our guiding principle is that it be a sensory garden,” Carey says. Filled with plants that are easy for children to grow, “it’s also an idea garden for adults,” she adds. “We’re trying to inspire families to garden together.”   

The garden will continue to evolve with the seasons. During the fall, the Meadowbrook staff will add trees, shrubs, and a living structure of woody plants in the garden and then, planning begins for Spring, 2019.  

Volunteers are invited to help plant Alice’s Garden next spring by contacting Karen Tyler at PHS Meadowbrook Farm, 215.887.5900, or visit

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m. through September. On September 6, everyone is invited to Leaves Day, part of the First Thursday family program series featuring stories, crafts and scavenger hunts.  Learn more and plan your visit here.