This is the largest garden on the property, apart from Marian’s Kitchen Garden.  A turn-of-the-century Centre Furnace map shows a garden in this general location, but it was absent for many years.  In the early 1990s a new garden was developed through the creative efforts of Margery Johnstone and Rae Chambers, both knowledgeable and gifted plants women.  They saw this area as a quiet corner of the Mansion grounds away from the traffic of a busy East College Avenue.  The garden was bordered with Rose of Sharon from Rae’s garden. Curvilinear beds were separated with grass walking paths, and a bench was sited so that a garden visitor could look through an arbor to the giant sycamore and the Mansion beyond.

Margery and Rae chose plants that would have been available to Mary Irvin Thompson during the decades from 1840 to 1880. Included were such familiar perennials as daisies, bee balm, lamb’s ear, and a yellow iris, called Mt. Nittany gold, to reflect its rescue from an abandoned old homestead on nearby Nittany Mountain. Twenty-one varieties of roses available in the nineteenth century were selected and planted (among them, Chinas, Centifolias, Noisettes, Bourbons. Rae wrote about the selection, “A major criterion for selecting our varieties was the characteristic most endearing to roses (scent. Many of the old roses bloom only once in a growing season, but their fragrances wafting on the air make those weeks especially glorious.”

A booklet, The Twenty-One Roses in Mary Irvin Thompson’s Garden was published, but initially (and for unknown reasons (the roses did not prosper. Those that were moved to other locations on the grounds began to thrive, however. The mystery was solved with the realization that despite their distance, the toxicity (juglone (of black walnut trees above the garden was impacting the soil. Gardening, even for experts, has its challenges. Or as Margery noted, in mapping and compiling a list of plants in the garden in December, 1994. “The rabbits are gnawing their way through the shrubbery and the frost is heaving up who knows how many perennials, so the maps and the lists may be obsolete by the time spring thaw arrives thus making their accuracy a moot point.”

Plant List

  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
  • Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
  • Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Dianthus
  • Dwarf Goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata)
  • Garden Phlox (Phlox panicuata)
  • Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica)
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
  • Lambs ears (Stachys byzantina)
  • Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, formerly “Plumbago larpentae”)
  • Lilac, common (Syringa vulgaris)
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syrlacus)
  • Silver King or Wormwood (Artemesia ludoviciana)
  • Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
  • Tansy, common (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis)
  • Wisteria sinensis