The Henry Foundation enhances understanding of the natural world through the study of botanical arts and sciences to inspire responsible stewardship of the environment.
The Henry Foundation for Botanical Research is a historical botanical garden created by Mary Gibson Henry. Her enduring vision, inspiration and creation give us a unique opportunity and forum to educate people about plants and to show leadership in the care and preservation of North American native plants growing with Asian counterpart species in a naturalistic setting.
Mary G. Henry’s life was one of continual curiosity, learning, and intellectual as well as geographical exploration. She and her husband Dr. John Norman Henry both loved the wilderness. Mary Henry was, in the early to mid 20th century, an intrepid explorer. She even made a series of horseback explorations into uncharted portions of British Columbia in the years between 1931 and 1935. These explorations, through very wild and primitive areas, enabled the charting of what had previously been a blank area on Canadian maps. There is a mountain in British Columbia that was named for her, in recognition of her extensive exploration efforts.
Henry eagerly experimented with growing techniques. In her garden, she created new botanical crosses, trialed new plants, maintained meticulous plant and climate records, and she would readily share all she learned with other horticulturalists and botanists.
One of the 20th century’s early conservationists, Mary Henry sought to preserve North American native plants, and save them from the degradation and loss of natural habitat that put incessant pressure on their survival. Thus she became a noted and ardent plant collector, adventurous and unafraid of the hard physical work of finding choice plants in the wild, even in the most remote locations across many states.
Her plant collecting forays into remote and undeveloped areas, especially throughout the American South and Southeast, were fearless, and the body of horticultural data and botanical information, as well as specimens, which she amassed were more than impressive. Her extensive herbarium of nearly 8000 plants is a permanent collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Additionally, she gave specimens to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, the Arnold Arboretum, and to many herbaria throughout the United States.
Mary Henry saw the garden she had fashioned as not only a place of rare and raw natural beauty, but also as a living laboratory for study and learning. Arising from the unique character of the garden and to ensure its permanency, Mary Henry then founded the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research in 1949. This organization is intended to enhance the understanding of the natural world through the study of botanical arts and sciences, and to inspire responsible stewardship of the natural environment. The Foundation serves as a vehicle to protect the garden Mary G. Henry had so lovingly developed, safeguarding its very special collection of plants into perpetuity and continuing her unique legacy of intellectual curiosity and service through study and research.