A place for your wildest wintery dreams

Ashby Leavell
Favorite Spot: The Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Neighborhood: Chestnut Hill
Address: 100 East Northwestern Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I am: A Virginia native with a deep adoration for the natural world, city living, and attending and/or hosting wonderful parties. Trained in gardens, working in the arts, and taking the city by storm.
Years in Philly: Just shy of 3
Current Home: Cedar Park, West Philly


My Love Note

A Celebration of the Fernery at the Morris Arboretum.

It can be brutal, this time of year. We curse the sunlight as it fades earlier and earlier still, and frigid air seeps through cracks in walls. All faces turn downwards on the walk to work, bodies tense. Life gradually slows as winter settles into the city.

It is important to develop a set of tools to help you through the wintertime. In addition to owning a big puffy jacket, I recommend identifying a place of refuge to warm the bones and restore the spirit. Someplace just right—peaceful and cozy, without a lot of noise. Let me tell you about a place nearby I enjoy when the weather turns cold.

In case you were wondering, The Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery at the Morris Arboretum is the only freestanding Victorian fernery in North America. A fernery is simply a place where ferns are grown, often under glass in an ornamental display. Now, knowing that Victorians were captivated by ferns and had an eye for design, imagine a tiny glass building that is more beautiful, lush, and green than all of your wildest wintery dreams.

Chestnut Hill you say? Not today. But it’s worth the drive. I promise you. You can visit your friend in Mount Airy or stop at Forbidden Drive along the way. Winding up the Arboretum’s long drive, you pass by happy neighbors walking dogs through lovely golden meadows. Once you make it to the top, head for the hillside. Look for the handsome slate patio and elegant glass structure. You will know it when you see it.

You descend into the fernery. Immediately, you are enveloped in delightfully humid air, the smell of earth, and a kaleidoscope of green. There is no place to sit- you must keep moving into the grotto and out along the wooden bridge, over the Koi pond. Your fingers brush warm, weeping rocks covered in moss, as prehistoric fronds arch overhead. Ferns erupt in celebration from every crevice, unfurling and expanding all around you. They love it here, and so do you. Your heart beat slows to match the rhythm of a lazy fan blowing ahead and falling water below. You begin to thaw, as a forgotten tenderness overwhelms your senses and draws you in. You are enchanted. This, is love.

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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Chestnut Hill 2 Comments

2 Responses to A place for your wildest wintery dreams

  1. Daily Vacation

    This is beautiful! Can’t wait to go for a visit!

  2. Eileen

    Thanks for sharing your special place — I can’t wait to travel there soon!!


Reply to Eileen