The grounds at Friends Hospital are a neighborhood treasure that not many people get to see anymore. There are no public tours of those 100 acres, but, in June, the public will have a chance to see the well-maintained gardens of native plants and stately trees that grow behind the fences along the 4600 block of the Roosevelt Boulevard.
As part of the 200th anniversary celebration of the Quaker psychiatric hospital’s founding, the non-profit Thomas Scattergood Foundation will be conducting a series of events that will be educational, fun and, members hope, fund-raising.
From June 1 through June 29, a show of contemporary botanical art, “Friends Hospital Grounds: A Living Legacy” will be presented during normal business hours.
More than 30 pieces of art will be on display in the hospital’s historic building. Admission is free, said Scattergood Foundation director Carol Delgado.
Prints and other items will be on sale. The foundation is hoping to raise money to restore the azaleas growing on the hospital grounds. New azaleas recently have been planted, she said.
“The whole purpose is to put money in the gardens,” Delgado said.
For more than 60 years, the hospital had yearly “Garden Days,” when the public could tour the grounds, said Carol Ashton-Hergenhan, chair of Friends Hospital’s board and a member of the foundation. Those events stopped in 2000, she said. The property has to be restored to a more presentable condition, she said.
The garden’s stats, especially concerning azaleas, are impressive.
The grounds contain 115 azalea varieties represented in 20,000 plants, Ashton-Hergenhan said in a phone interview Friday.
During brunches and teas in the hospital’s Scattergood Building on June 2 and June 9, Orefield, Pa., resident Kirk Brown will portray 18th century Quaker botanist John Bartram.
Bartram, sometimes known as the “Father of American Botany,” was a farmer who started a small experimental garden on his property. Bartram’s gardens still exist in the city’s Kingsessing section and are part of the Fairmount Park System.
From growing plants that simply interested him, Bartram moved on to serious study, trips, books, correspondence with European botanists and exchanges of seeds and specimens.
During the June 2 brunch from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Brown’s Bartram will explain how he introduced and defined the practices of botany, discovered plants, developed a system of plant nomenclature, explored America and developed correspondence with European aristocracy.
At a tea from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. the same day, he will talk about the more than 200 plants he discovered and how his plant shipments reforested the whole of southern England, adding color to the island’s autumns with American oaks, willows and maples.
These events on the ground floor of the hospital’s main building will give guests a peek at the “antique room,” Delgado said.
The elegant space, once the hospital superintendent’s parlor, is furnished with pieces that are 100 years old or older, Delgado said. A 150-year-old table in the room is one of only two in the world, she said. The other is in England.
At the June 9 brunch, Brown’s Bartram will talk the healing benefits of plants. He valued the restorative power of nature. During the June 9 tea, he will focus on the spiritual values of his forays into the wilderness and about how he started the first public gardens in America. After years of introducing plants, King George III dubbed Bartram the Official Botantist of the North American Colonies and presented him with 50 pounds annually.
Ashton-Hergehan said she met Brown at a gardening seminar in which he addressed attendees as John Bartram. When he visited the hospital’s grounds, she said, he came dressed as the botanist.
“This guy does not go out of character,” she said. ••
Brunches are $25 per person; teas are $15. For more information and to reserve seating, call 215-831-3000.EndFragment