Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden
In celebration of Cheekwood’s 60th anniversary as a public institution, we’re highlighting one of our 12 distinct gardens each month to showcase our wide variety of garden offerings. With 55 acres of rolling hills and 12 intricate, unique gardens, there’s something for everyone to experience and love at Cheekwood.
The Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden occupies a dynamic two-acre space on the eastern side of the property and bridges the botanical garden progression with the historic core. Situated between the Howe Garden and the Frist Learning Center, Cheekwood’s youngest garden is intended to be evocative of the historic estate. Designed by Tres Fromme in collaboration with the local landscape architecture firm HDLA, this space is truly a celebration of Cheekwood’s year-round beauty.
Paying homage to Bryant Fleming’s inspiration for the estate, the Children’s Garden incorporates a series of connected garden rooms amid a woodland setting, alongside an open lawn with multiple occasions to experience scenic vistas, characteristic of a Country Place Estate.
The children’s garden is presented as a journey through the arts. When exploring the children’s garden, guests have a fully immersive experience of several types of creative expression. Performance, the art of horticulture, the visual arts and literature, along with the vital art of play are all depicted through key architectural and landscape design elements.
The performing arts are celebrated at the performance stage, where children can let their imaginations inspire them to improvise through dance, song, and pretend. This stage is defined by a mature tree canopy of decades-old ash trees and a stately southern magnolia. It is also used as a venue for professional concerts and other events.
The Studio Pavilion marks the center for visual arts, where children can dip their brushes in water basins and create original artwork on slate tablets in plein air style. The literary arts are hosted in a natural setting in the Living Library. Bookshelves frame an outdoor room where visitors can rest or launch a scavenger hunt to find the natural elements categorized and stored upon the stone shelves.
The art of horticulture is prominently featured throughout the children’s garden and design cues are borrowed from the other spaces it borders. The incorporation of dogwoods and smaller shade perennials is a direct correlation to the Carell Dogwood and Burr Terrace Gardens.
The art of play is celebrated along the woodland adventure path that features log hoppers, a rope bridge and balance beams. The path originates at a stone labyrinth, an active though mindful feature of the garden. In the middle of the labyrinth lives one of Tennessee’s most treasured natives, the yellowwood, known for its picturesque shape and white, pendulous sweet pea-like blooms.
Playtime is consolidated and fully contained within Little Woods for the garden’s smallest visitors. Here children can spend time in the digging quarries, create scenes within the fairy garden, have a tea party inside the Japanese-style tea house, and travel the miniature adventure path.
Turtles come alive in the turtle pond, where Cheekwood partners with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to maintain a sanctuary for native turtles confiscated from the illegal pet trade. Cheekwood’s permit allows the institution to serve as a rehabilitation center to these turtles, ensuring that the animals have every need met by a well-trained and knowledgeable staff with a background in zoological studies who also oversees the children’s garden.
The Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden is a place for people of all ages and is a true destination at any time with its many ways to offer pure delight and fun ways to learn. Horticulturally intriguing, with interactive surprises at every turn, spending time in the children’s garden at Cheekwood is a truly rich experience.
Click here to read about our other distinct gardens.
Check out our Tots! weekly art and garden activities in the Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden and Frist Learning Center every Tuesday – Saturday.