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Part of the Richard C. von Hess Gardens, Penn’s Woods is an educational garden featuring native plants of Pennsylvania. This section of the gardens provides the opportunity to learn more about the trees, shrubs, wildflowers, perennials and ferns that comprise Pennsylvania’s landscape. Penn’s Woods also showcases the state tree (hemlock), the state flower (mountain laurel), and many historically significant plants that provide connections between people, communities and landscapes of Pennsylvania. 

During the summer and into the fall, the people of Pennsylvania can learn more about the commonwealth by taking a stroll through this idyllic section of the gardens. Each second Sunday from June through September, visitors are invited to explore the Governor’s Residence gardens from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Each event will highlight a specific theme and feature outdoor, family-friendly activities. 


Snowbank Boltonia Perennial Flower
Scientific Name: Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’

This is a native, fall-blooming perennial flower.

Numerous ¾” white flowers appear in profusion on this 3’ – 5’ tall by 3’ – 4’ wide plant from late August into October. Its fine texture and open growth habit make it an elegant addition to the fall garden where it blends in beautifully with other fall blooming flowers.

This trouble-free perennial is a true low maintenance plant with few insect or disease problems. When planted in full sun and well-drained soils, Snowbank Boltonia can be a very sturdy plant that does not need staking to stand upright - if shade increases or strong winds are present in the gardens, however, staking may be required. If desired, cut them back by one-half to two-thirds in early June to create fuller, sturdier, and shorter plants.

Last year’s plants should be left standing in the gardens during the winter to be cut down in early spring. Every few years they should be divided in the spring or the fall to control their spread.


Autumn Sun Coneflower Perennial Flower
Scientific Name: Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstsonne’

Easily growing to 7’ tall by 3’ wide, this impressive, native perennial flower is grown in the southwest corner area of Penn’s Woods. Dozens of large sulphur-yellow flowers, 3”-4” in diameter with drooping ray flowers, tower above the bright green foliage in late summer. When in bloom, it is very attractive to butterflies. The flowers also are excellent for use as cut flowers.

If sited in full sun and grown in well-drained soil, it is a low maintenance plant with few insect or disease problems. Staking is usually the only maintenance this trouble-free perennial will require during the growing season. In order to eliminate the need to stake this plant, it can be cut back by one-half when the plants are about 2’ tall (usually in early June). This will produce a plant that grows to a maximum height of 5’ and flowering will be delayed about a week.

If any stems fall over during the growing season, they should be cut back to the basal foliage. All stems can be left standing into the winter to provide food for birds or they can all be cut back to basal foliage in late autumn. The plant only needs to be divided every 4 to 5 years. Dividing can be done in either the spring or early autumn.


Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree
Scientific Name: Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is one of the newer cultivars that was breed for insect and disease resistance. It is best in naturalistic plantings, as we have done in Penn’s Woods and along the fence at Second Street in the Rose Garden corner of the gardens.

The beautiful 2-4” clusters of white flowers appear in spring as the leaves are emerging and berries follow them that mature to a dark purple color in summer. Michael Dirr, author of the Woody Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, writes that he believes the berries from Serviceberry trees make a better pie than blueberries! Once ripe, however, the berries must be picked quickly, since they are one of the favorite summer sources of food for songbirds. As the name of this cultivar suggests, this tree has wonderful fall color as the leaves turn a brilliant shade of red as autumn approaches. In winter, the stately silhouette of this tree is accented by its attractive light gray bark.

Autumn Brilliance eventually reaches a height of 20-25’ and does well in either full sun or partial shade. Although it prefers moist, well-drained soil that is acidic, it tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Pruning is rarely needed.