In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
August, 2009
Regional Report

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Children (and adults) play in the Bug Abode Treehouse at Tyler Arboretum in Media, PA.

Playground of Branches and Trunks

"Let me take your picture," urged mothers and dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. "Hold still. Look at the camera," adults called to their kids -- among dozens of children climbing on, swinging from, toddling through Totally Terrific Treehouses at Tyler Arboretum, Media, Pennsylvania.

No quiet, meditative park this Sunday afternoon. Parents with baby carriages, bottles, and backpacks walked the park trails. Eager, excited children of all ages ran ahead to find the next treehouse of 10 in the Nature's Play exhibit, open till September 27. There was little need for a map.

Through the woods, thumps, clangs, and clacks gave clues to two landing spots. I followed my ears, on a twisty path leading to one massive, felled scarlet oak fashioned to resemble a giant guitar. This is one rockin' log! Beyond the strings and neck, Strummin' and Drummin' s oversized drum (in a stump!) welcomed kids to whack, pound, and bang recycled wood and plastic "instruments" inside.

Gardeners often cleverly use dead trees and stumps small-scale -- as structure for clematis, climbing roses, climbing hydrangeas, and moonlight hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides). This playful treehouse by Makin' Music Rockin' Rhythms, Advanced Engineering Inc., and Dream Finishers LLC takes recycling nature's gifts to another level.

Beyond the Butterfly House, clanking cowbells and bangs and clangs meant more fun. Standing on the The Music House's wooden platform, kids AND adults pulled dangling yellow ropes reaching into tree branches. Each copper bell clinked a different sound. On the ground, children made noise -- oops, music -- to their hearts content on various instruments made from recycled materials.

The Bug Abode is an intriguing, visual crowd-pleaser -- on the ground AND in the air. The cantilevered platform sits high in a white oak. Visitors climb the ladder to learn which insects live in trees and why they are so important to the environment. The large black, gray-spotted spider hanging from a front strut brings smiles and lots of comments. I'll come back another day to enjoy the view from above. This was so popular, children were queuing to take turns going up the ladder. Below, most adults held cameras or small children while craning their necks to see who was where in the branches.

Easy-to-read signs direct visitors to the treehouses. Each structure is unique. Most are made from reclaimed materials. Some have "green" building technology. All are designed to encourage connections with the natural world. Besides the above, there are Three Little Pigs Go Green, Imagination Station, Backyard Memories, Tree Hugger, Badger Burrow, Thoreau's Workshop, and The Bird Preserve.

Be sure to take time at the bountiful, beautiful Vegetable Demonstration Garden -- a teaching garden with tips about healthy eating, composting and happy soil, and gardening to encourage bees and other pollinators. Kids can enjoy the worm bin and digging area.

At Nature's Play Station, kids can get down and dirty in the Messy Play Area, burn off extra energy in the Active Area, and use their imagination and creativity in the Building Area and the Art Creation Area. See www.tylerarboretum.org for more.


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