Merryspring was founded in 1974 by Mary Ellen Ross, a local horticulturist who had attained national recognition through her mail order plant business, Merry Gardens. She envisioned creating a sanctuary where horticulture and nature could be studied firsthand. When the 66 acres that make up the Nature Center came on the market, Mrs. Ross enlisted the help of many friends in the horticultural community and bought an option on the land. Merryspring, Inc., a nonprofit, member-supported corporation, was formed to develop, maintain and operate the property as a nature park and horticultural center and to provide nature-based educational programs.
Since then, the Park has enjoyed steady growth under the guidance of many dedicated volunteers, trustees, and staff. New attractions have been added regularly: Hiking Trails throughout the 1970s, the Kitty Todd Arboretum in 1980, the Herb Garden in 1984, the Hexagon in 1987, the Rose Garden and Cottage in 1990, the Perennial Border in 1992, and assorted Memorials to individuals located throughout the park.
Another burst of activity began in 1995 when Merryspring embarked on building a visitor’s center. Completed in 1996, the Ross Center houses Merryspring’s administrative office, meeting room, Nature Library, and basement workspace for volunteers and staff. This project was a catalyst for other additions: the Hosta Garden in 1997, the Birds and Bees/Winter Color Garden in 1999, the Aileen Lubin Greenhouse in 1999, and the American Chestnut Breeding Orchard in 1999. Newer additions at Merryspring include the Daylily Garden in 2008, the Interpretive Trail in 2013, and a renewed Children’s Garden in 2015.
Today, more than 40 years after its founding, Merryspring is thriving with about 500 members and thousands of visitors each year.