Dedication Set for Morris Arboretum’s Horticulture Center Complex, a Regional Model of Sustainability

PHILADELPHIA – The Morris Arboretum will host a dedication ceremony for its new $13 million Horticulture Center at Bloomfield Farm, across the street from the Arboretum’s public garden, at 11 a.m., Oct. 5. The Horticulture Center marks the first new building to be built on the property since the founding of the Morris Arboretum in the early 1900s. 

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann will speak at the dedication ceremony as well as Dorrance Hamilton who has been a key supporter of the Horticulture Center.  Also in attendance will be Peter and Bonnie McCausland, long-time Morris Arboretum supporters and now, the Arboretum’s new neighbors at Erdenheim Farm. Both Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Steward Greenleaf have the dedication on their calendars.

 The completion of the new Horticulture Center Complex at Bloomfield signifies a time of great excitement and achievement for the Morris Arboretum. The complex utilizes modern sustainable energy and water management technologies, reflecting the stewardship and teaching intentions of its founders, John and Lydia Morris. Designed and built to achieve LEED® Platinum standards, the highest rating of the US Green Building Council, the Horticulture Center is a demonstration of best land use practices of our time. 

Some of the design features of the Horticulture Complex that will qualify it for Platinum Level LEED® Certification include the following:

  • An efficient ground-source heat pump will provide heating and air conditioning for the building, using only about one-forth the energy of a typical boiler/air conditioning system.
  • Photovoltaic panels will provide on-site generation of renewable energy, with peak electricity production during the hot summer months when the demand for electrical power is highest.
  • The building will be well insulated to eliminate infiltration of outside air and reduce the energy lost through the walls.
  • Fresh air will be maximized for ventilation inside the building.
  • Solar hot water heaters will provide much of the building’s hot water.
  • Storm water will be collected in cisterns and used to flush toilets and provide water for irrigation.
  • The building’s lighting system is designed to take full advantage of natural daylight and minimize energy use by using skylights and roof monitors to supplement artificial lighting.  Photocell sensors will automatically dim the electric lights in use on bright days to reduce energy use.
  • Rain gardens and other collection systems were built to mitigate storm water run off
  • The green roofs on the equipment storage garages will capture and absorb rain, slowing the surge of stormwater to the site drainage system.  A green roof also helps reduce the ambient summer temperature by providing a cool roof surface instead of the “heat island” associated with most asphalt or rubber roofs. The two green roofs on the garages are very visible examples of sustainability.  The 4-bay garage has a four inch deep planting area with various types of sedum.  The 6-bay garage roof is eight inches deep and was planted by hand with an experimental mix of plant species including north American species and other plants that are native to this region. 

The newly created Horticulture Center will provide flexible work space for the Arboretum’s horticulture, education, maintenance, and facilities staff, providing important infrastructure for staff and equipment.. The 20,840-square-foot facility will provide space for staff to manage their extensive responsibilities for the Morris Arboretum’s 167-acre property in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.  It will contain:

• 24 office spaces

• Two conference rooms

• Kitchen

• Break room

• Men’s and women’s locker rooms

• Mechanic and arborists shop

• Storage for Arboretum vehicles including trucks, garden carts, lawn mowers and other large equipment

The added space will enhance research opportunities, providing additional room for preserving and studying the Arboretum’s plant collection.  It will also provide suitable storage and maintenance areas for the variety of equipment needed to care for the property.  The new complex is not open to casual visitors to the Morris Arboretum, but will be open for scheduled tours and special events.

The Horticulture Center was designed by architects from Overland Partners of San Antonio, TX, Muscoe Martin of Philadelphia’s M2 Architecture, and Adropogon Associates, Morris Arboretum’s Philadelphia based landscape planning partner since 1977.

The overarching goals for the Arboretum’s new Horticulture Center include creating a “forward looking” building of national significance that incorporates the highest standards in sustainable principles. It is a structure that is respectful of its site and surroundings, and a facility that meets programmatic needs for the Morris Arboretum. It presents a vision whose time has come.

John and Lydia Morris purchased the Bloomfield Farm property in 1913, establishing a working farm with rich soils and a working mill with water rights. The farm provided fresh food for the household, and supplied animal feed, vegetables, poultry and dairy products for the community.

The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is located at 100 East Northwestern Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.  The 92-acre horticulture display garden features a spectacular collection of mature trees in a beautiful and colorful landscape. The Arboretum features numerous picturesque spots such as a formal rose garden, Japanese gardens, swan pond, an elegant Fernery and the 2010 Best of Philly Award Winning Out on a Limb canopy walk that transports you 50 feet above the ground.  The Morris Arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information, please visit

To read a Philadelphia Inquirer story about the new Horticulture Center, click on