H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens dedicated at The Arboretum at Penn State

University Park, Pa. -- A chilly and overcast April 25 did not discourage a crowd of more than 600 attendees from celebrating the long-anticipated formal opening of the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens in The Arboretum at Penn State.

Bounded by Park Avenue and Bigler Road on the University Park campus, the Smith Botanic Gardens serve as the front door to the remainder of the Arboretum's 370 acres.

The botanic gardens are named in honor of the late H.O. Smith, a State College contractor and real estate developer, and 1920 Penn State alumnus. His son, 1948 University alumnus and local resident Charles H. "Skip" Smith, made a lead gift of $10 million to launch construction of The Arboretum at Penn State in November 2007. Several components of the gardens have been named to honor other members of Smith's family.

"From the very beginning Skip envisioned the Arboretum as a place for teaching, research and enjoyment," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier at the dedication of the gardens. "It is clear that his hope for the gardens has come to pass.

"On behalf of Penn State I want to thank Skip and the many other donors who have contributed their time, talents and financial support," he added. "This is an outstanding example of the difference philanthropy makes to Penn State and the larger community."

Kim C. Steiner, Arboretum director and professor of forest biology in the School of Forest Resources, said that the gardens have "already become part of Penn State life, and part of the treasured memories that students will have of their time at the University."

The gardens and surrounding arboretum now encompass more than 33 acres and contain 17,000 plants representing 700 species and cultivars. Features include an esplanade flanked by annuals and perennials, a rose and fragrance garden, a lotus pool, a fountain, an overlook pavilion, and an event lawn and terrace. Restrooms and parking for visitors are available on site.

Penn State selected the Pittsburgh architectural firm MTR Landscape Architects to design the H. O. Smith Botanic Gardens. The University also previously worked with MTR in developing the overall master plan for the property, which includes plantings of species from around the world and state-of-the-art educational and research facilities.

Steiner said that he was especially pleased by the quality of the gardens as construction progressed last summer, calling it a "tribute to the vision of our architects."

"This dedication represents the culmination of a great deal of work by many people," he said. "We will now turn our attention to planning and fundraising for the next stage."

According to Steiner, beginning this summer, the Arboretum will next see the installation of the class of 2010's gift to the University, a boardwalk and overlook across the Ramage Marsh Meadow; and a landscape-scale, granite sundial in the esplanade lawn, a gift from AccuWeather founder and Penn State alumnus Joel Myers.

After the ceremony, attendees were invited to explore the gardens at their leisure and enjoy scoops of "Arboretum Breeze," a new ice cream flavor created by the Berkey Creamery in honor of the occasion. Arboretum volunteers explained the various features, trees and plants, and members of the 2010 senior class gift committee talked with visitors about the importance of student philanthropy and involvement in the Arboretum.

Steiner noted that the development of the Arboretum continues to rely almost entirely on private support.

"Our greatest ambitions are to add an education and visitors center, a conservatory, a children's garden and many other gardens," he noted. "These features will require significant gifts, so we are actively seeking additional philanthropy."

The Arboretum is expected to be a major cultural and tourist destination in central Pennsylvania, attracting nearly 200,000 visitors annually. Visit http://www.arboretum.psu.edu to learn more about the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and the Arboretum at Penn State.

For photos from yesterday's dedication, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2256 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010