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Fragrant Garden at Tyler


The Fragrant Garden at the John J. Tyler Arboretum was originally designed for the visually handicapped. It was one of the very first gardens in this country to be designed primarily for the blind. A letter from Helen Keller, received shortly after the garden construction was started in 1949, in reference to the Fragrant Garden stated, “Heartily I hope that this noble example may spur cities where the blind live throughout the country to plant special garden nooks for the pleasure and instruction in the wonders of nature.” 


The construction was completed in 1954, and the public dedication took place on May 22, 1954. The garden contains two terraces ranging in length from 65 feet to 100 feet, each with a stone wall over two feet high. Each of the terraces faces south, providing full sun on the herbs all day long. This fine exposure plus the high stone walls bordering each terrace providing excellent drainage insure an extremely healthy herb garden, providing blossoms and textures and pleasure from early May until late in the fall. 


In selecting herbs to be used in the garden, the emphasis has always been on the fragrance of each plant in foliage and the blossoms. Since herbs provide such interesting shades of grays and greens, and such varieties of leaf shapes and textures, it is very easy to provide a garden with such lovely herbs. 


The Philadelphia Unit was one of several groups that were involved in the early beginnings of this garden, and the Unit members have maintained the garden for over 40 years. Work begins early in April with the spring tidy-up, and each week all through the summer and late in the fall, many ladies form the Unit are working in the garden, keeping it at its loveliest. 


The most recent redesigning of the garden was in 1981, and again, the emphasis was on using only fragrant herbs. Over 100 varieties of herbs are used in the garden, guaranteeing a continuing blooming from early May with the bulbs, through June and July with lavenders, alliums, dianthus, heliotrope, monarda, nigella, and basils, on into the fall with scented geraniums, oregano, salvias, mints, tagetes, to mention a few. 


Hardly a day passes by without many interested visitors enjoying the Fragrant Garden—little school children experiencing their first touch and smell tests, camera buffs photographing the man butterflies that enjoy the herbs, old and young having a wonderful time enjoying such a pretty place.

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