LISLE, Ill., (Sept. 8, 2022) — The Morton Arboretum will open its lush, colorful new 2-acre Grand Garden to the public at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18, as part of its yearlong centennial celebration in 2022.
Arboretum President and CEO Gerard T. Donnelly, Ph.D., explained that the garden was designed to showcase the beauty and diversity of plants as a masterful horticultural display. It will be a central attraction for Arboretum guests, located just steps away from the Visitor Center, spanning the length of two football fields and reimagining the footprint of the Arboretum’s former Hedge Garden dating back to 1934.
“The Grand Garden will have great appeal to the public with vibrant plantings, delightful water features and spaces designed for celebration and joy,” said Donnelly, who spearheaded the vision and fundraising for the project. “The garden adds a significant new dimension to the Arboretum guest experience. It is brimming with beautiful blooms, bright vistas and the alluring sounds of falling water.”
The expansive new garden features three main spaces—Centennial Plaza, the Celebration Garden and the Joy of Plants Garden. Each provides guests with a different experience, from a series of plant-filled rooms defined by hedges near a large, shimmering fountain and plaza dedicated to Morton family descendant Jane Morton Berry, to a spacious terrace for weddings and other special events.
Susan Jacobson, the Arboretum’s head of site planning and design, described the Joy of Plants Garden as having distinct garden rooms created using decorative metal treillages as doorways. Each room is centered around a mature ginkgo tree in addition to a different signature ornamental tree. In contrast to the immersive rooms, Jacobson said, “There is a stunning long view from east to west where you can take in the sweeping expanse of the entire garden.”
The Grand Garden is a major feature of the Arboretum’s year-long anniversary celebration that has included monthly special programs and events, and the launch of its Centennial Tree Planting Initiative on Arbor Day in April, which is adding more than 3,000 trees throughout the seven-county Chicago region through 2023.
The $16.6 million garden was funded through philanthropic gifts covering capital costs and establishment of an endowment for its ongoing care and maintenance, as well as a $500,000 matching grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for its development. Lead donors Doris Christopher, founder and chairman of Pampered Chef, Anna Ball and Susannah Ball, and the Hamill Family Foundation, made seven-figure gifts to the garden project. Anna Ball is president and CEO of Ball Horticultural Company and serves on the Arboretum’s Board of Trustees.
In recent years, the Arboretum has made a number of site improvements to engage guests and advance its tree-related mission, with the last major specialty garden being the Children’s Garden, which opened in 2005.
The Morton Arboretum was established in 1922 by Morton Salt Company founder Joy Morton as a nonprofit organization with a mission to plant and protect trees for a greener, healthier and more beautiful world.
During the public opening event from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18, guests will enjoy music, refreshments available for purchase, face painting, and the hospitality of volunteer docents to share information about the garden and answer questions. Access to The Grand Garden is included with timed-entry admission to the Arboretum.