A fairy-tale world of delightful surprises and nature’s beauty comes alive at the Children’s Garden at Tarrywile Park and Mansion in Danbury. “From a quiet walk with their parents to an exploration of flora and fauna, there’s something for everyone. Kids are often running around and excited to be in the garden,” says Becky Burr-Petro, executive director. “It’s a great place for children of all ages to experience nature, gardens, and ponds in a smaller setting than the larger Tarrywile Park setting of 722 acres.”
The site is awash in color as blueberry bushes, roses, native grasses, butterfly bushes, iris, and other plants bloom from late April through October. Inspired by the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by former Danbury resident Maurice Sendak, the garden is all about the things children can imagine, explains Becky. Start your journey at the story wall to learn about the woodland garden’s pathway. Troll footprints meander throughout the garden, beckoning children to follow their lead. Children can go inside an adorable wood-shingled Troll’s house. Or they can pretend they’re pirates as they step onto a sunken ship observation deck and watch the abundance of fish and frogs in the pond. Also, they can walk along the Troll bridge, explore the playhouse, hunt for frogs, butterflies, and dragonflies, and climb on nearby boulders. “The blueberry bushes form a snake with a tongue at the end. The garden becomes where the wild things are,” notes Becky.
Opened in 2000, the one-acre site was designed by award-winning landscape architect Jane Didona. “The Children’s Garden encompasses what was once a Japanese garden developed in the early 1900s by Tarrywile’s original owner, Dr. William C. Wile,” recounts Becky. In spring and summer, a butterfly maze, planted with butterfly bushes and other flowering shrubs, becomes filled with colorful fluttering insects and dragonflies. For added fun, families may pick up a scavenger hunt checklist at the mansion office. Created in 2013 by Allison Murphy of Danbury for her Girl Scout Gold project, the list challenges kids to find all kinds of items, such as dragonflies, troll footprints, animal tracks, and koi. “The hunt can start in the Children’s Garden, where many of the items can be found, and then it can take you out to the larger park area if families wish,” says Becky.
Both fun and educational, the garden is dotted with informational markers, also written in braille, so visitors can learn about the garden’s natural features. A bench and a picnic table offer places to rest and savor the scenery. The garden is only one part of the historic passive recreation park. It will be a day well spent in nature if you hike the property’s 21 miles of trails, enjoy a picnic by the lake, or tour the mansion.
The garden is open year-round, seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free. The handicapped parking available off the Children’s Garden is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., April 15 to Nov. 1. At all other times, people may park in the lower parking lot and walk across the mansion lawn path to the Children’s Garden. For more information and directions, visit www.tarrywile.com or call 203-744-3130.