Stickwork “Summer Palace” at the Morris Arboretum


Sculpture420One of the wonders of the Morris Arboretum (at the U. of Penn. in Philly) is their newly created "Summer Palace" sculpture by North Carolina artist Patrick Dougherty.  Made entirely of natural materials locally acquired and no nails or hardware of any kind, this three-story Russian-themed structure was built with the help of 75 volunteers over the course of 19 days this spring, is and expected to last two years.

Aside from its obvious aesthetic appeal, I love that the design came to Dougherty spontaneously as it evolved, and that all those volunteers had the fun of being part of its creation.  The whole process is chronicled on a blog, Patrick Dougherty at the Morris Arboretum.

The Morris has quite a collection of more permanent scultpure, as you see on this page.  While the choice of sculpture pieces for gardens is often controversial, I'm always happy to see the effort being made because once in a while the results are as spectacular as this. 


  1. A couple of years ago, I worked on the installation Patrick did here in Ithaca. In addition to being a great artist, he is the nicest guy and really knows how to involve volunteers in his work.

    While you certainly can’t expect to pull off the large and beautiful works Dougherty does, you should try something small, Helen. You could weave up a little teepee arbor and send some vines up it, if you have some material lying around. I know that since working with Patrick, I don’t look at pruning leftovers or brush piles quite the same way.

  2. How fun! I want a Summer Palace!
    Spring is just now coming to Philly?? The bare trees rather took me by surprise!
    Spoiled in N. Cal.

  3. I would love to go visit that. I can’t believe they built it in just 19 days… helps you realize- somewhat- how the Egyptians could build those pyramids.

    Until the next post, much love, peace, and medicated hair grease.

    – Thierry

  4. How wonderful! And yes, it does make me look at shrub and tree trimmings with a different eye! Gonna go cut something now, see what I can do.

  5. It’s posts like this that get me into trouble sometimes. I took one look at that Palace and now I want one in my yard, and even more than that I want to make one. (Sometimes the process of creating something intrigues me more than having or using the actual finished piece.) So I’ll probably start a little structure, as Craig suggests. A teepee maybe or a little shed maybe. It will be a huge eyesore, and while I’ll follow some of P.Dougherty’s suggestions I’m just as likely to try to figure out how to build it with no advice at all. And that’s what gets me in trouble. Thanks for the post!

  6. Pam: It takes an incredible amount of material. And to do the stuff that Patrick does requires fresh material. Try making a basket-sized piece and you’ll get an idea for just how quickly the material goes.

  7. I love It, problem is I don’t have any Willow Trees. Made some tuteur’s Today from what ever I could find to use. perhaps next year we will tackle a project like that one. Would love to have some thing like that in our garden.


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