The new Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden at Cheekwood opens Saturday, March 7, 2020.

NASHVILLE, TN — On Saturday, March 7, Cheekwood will open a new permanent destination for its youngest visitors, offering inspiring discovery, exploration, and play with the realization of the Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden. Since the groundbreaking in 2018, construction of the new two-acre garden, designed for the young and young at heart, is near completion. A team comprised of garden planner and designer Tres Fromme of 3.Fromme Design and the Nashville-based landscape architecture firm of HDLA and general contractor The Carter Group have led the project. 

Nestled between the Howe Garden and the Frist Learning Center – Cheekwood’s education hub – the garden’s special interactive features will be a welcoming and accessible reflection of Cheekwood’s year-round beauty, encompassing gardens, art, and history. The garden will be complemented by the newly renovated education center which now features a family friendly café and offers picnic amenities as well. Highlights as follows:

• The Serpentine Stroll serves as the connector of the garden, leading visitors in discovering each area of this special new family destination. The design meets Outdoor Accessibility guidelines created by the Federal Access Board while preserving the site’s majestic trees.

• Springing from a Lily Pool at the garden’s central Plaza, a Creek flows through a Willow Thicket in the heart of the Children’s Garden, winding down a gentle hillside where children can view sunning turtles in a Turtle Pond, which was been ecologically-curated in consultation with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The Creek area also features custom designed turtle sculptures by award-winning fine artists Ring Studio.

• Inspired by the historic architecture of the Frist Learning Center, a Studio Pavilion will serve as a centerpiece of the garden, featuring a balcony, secret passageway, and pairs of “water paintings” for creative exploration and artistic discovery. The architectural gem will also be a focus for programs and activities.

• Inspired by a historic well behind the Frist Learning Center, an interactive Wishing Well will surprise and delight visitors with whimsical water effects. 

• A shaded Labyrinth Glade, highlighting the history and mystery of another era, will capture the imaginations of children and adults, and a Woodland Ramble that will feature a plank passage, a stump meander, and a rope bridge.

• An enclosed area called Little Woods, designed with Cheekwood’s youngest visitors in mind, will feature a series of special features, from a Tea House and Fairy Garden, to a Story Tree and Little Adventure Path, to a Digging Quarry and splashing “Duck” Puddle, featuring additional custom duck sculptures by artists Ring Studio.

• At the base of the garden, a Stage will highlight children’s performances, both featured and impromptu, and a Rolling Lawn will invite both concerts and cartwheels.

• Special horticultural areas include a native Tennessee Woodland Walk, edible landscape plants in the Hungry Hedgerow, and an immersion in the Sensory Walk.

• A second phase of the garden will include a Welcome Garden and Nature’s Library, a platform for literary and educational programing focused on nature, inspired by the Mansion’s historic interiors.

“We are thrilled to bring a permanent family feature to Cheekwood for the enjoyment of thousands of children and families who visit each year,” said Jane MacLeod, president and CEO of Cheekwood. “As an extension of our mission to stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit, the garden will provide children a joyful and immersive experience with nature, increasingly absent but vitally important for today’s youth.”

Richard Bracken, Foundation family representative, said: “We were inspired by the idea of a Children’s Garden for Cheekwood, particularly as we heard how children’s gardens have positively impacted other leading botanical gardens throughout the country. We are delighted and honored to be part of this important project for the Cheekwood campus.”

Following the generous $4 million lead gift from The Bracken Foundation made in 2016, Cheekwood established a task force – comprised of leading experts and community stakeholders – dedicated to the research and development of the garden. Focus groups were held for creative brainstorming and discussion, including parents, educators, and members of the Cheekwood staff, to inform goals and objectives for the garden. Members of the task force traveled to leading Children’s Gardens throughout the country, including the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, The Morton Arboretum, Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and The Huntington Library, Art Collection & Botanical Gardens.

A cornerstone of The Cheekwood Campaign, the lead gift from The Bracken Foundation was structured as a challenge to raise an additional $2 million in endowment funds for the garden’s long-term care and maintenance. The challenge was met and exceeded with generosity from at least 80 ‘Founding Families’ (donors of $5,000 and above), with major support provided by an Anonymous donor, HCA Healthcare, proud education sponsor of Cheekwood, Sally & Jim Hunt, the Scarlett Family, the Sandra Schatten Foundation, Sherri & Barry Stowe, Becky & Jimmy Webb, Barbara & Rick Turner, Janet & Jim Ayers, and Anne & Joe Russell. Cheekwood will continue to seek support for the construction and endowment of the garden and invites interested parties to participate at any level.

The new Children’s Garden will be open during Cheekwood’s operating hours, and will also offer a new art program, Tots!, with unique art and garden activities for toddlers on Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am – 2pm. Tots! is including with general admission or Cheekwood membership. 

For more information about the Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden, visit