Philbrook Museum Gardens

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One thing that I confirmed, while staying home more due to the pandemic, is that I REALLY want to travel. Feeling the itch to travel, during a time when travel as we know it isn’t possible, presented unique opportunities.

Since I can’t hop on a plane to somewhere, I channeled my desire to travel into other ventures.

I’m taking an online travel blogging course. And as a result, I’m writing weekly travel posts, based on past trips. Check out this example, The Tower of London Ravens. Today happened to be Take a Road Trip Day. Inspired, I set out on a road trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Philbrook Museum Gardens. Childhood memories of the museum drew me back to explore the gardens, which just reopened Wednesday. The museum is not yet open again to the public.

The Philbrook Museum Gardens were everything I remembered them to be…and more.

Philbrook Museum Gardens title meme

History of the Philbrook Museum of Art

The original museum is a former 1920s Italian Renaissance villa, owned by pioneer Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve. Kansas City architect Edward Buehler Delk designed Villa Philbrook. Construction began in 1926 and the house was completed the following year.

A stucco and ground marble exterior covers a reinforced steel and concrete framework. Kasota limestone, quarried in Minnesota, forms the corners and decorates doors and windows. At the rear of the house a spacious loggia with Corinthian columns overlooks the spectacular gardens.

The original villa featured 72 interior rooms, decorated with travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, teak, walnut and oak floors and ornate ceilings.

In 1938 Phillips donated Villa Philbrook to the City of Tulsa, for use as a cultural and art center. Although the rooms on the main floor remain as they were, the rest of the villa received extensive remodeling for use as a public museum. In 1990 another wing expanded the museum, adding 70,000 square feet of space.

Philbrook Museum
Looking through the informal and formal gardens, to the former Villa Philbrook.
Philbrook Museum Gardens grand fountain
Philbrook Museum gardens – grand fountain and the loggia

The Philbrook Museum Gardens

Although I enjoy wandering through the former villa, imagining it as it was back when the family lived there, it is the gardens that appeal most to me.

The museum sits on 25 acres of formal and informal gardens. Originally designed by Hare & Hare, Philbrook’s gardens drew inspiration from Villa Lante, an Italian estate north of Rome.

Behind the museum, the original gardens extend through an expanse of formal gardens, pools of water and informal gardens to a classical tempietto, a stone structure similar to a large gazebo.

The gardens that extend to the summerhouse feature native Oklahoma plants and a nearby creek. This project completed in 2004.

Philbrook Museum Loggia
Looking from the loggia to the tempietto. It was the perfect spot for Ferni’s first travel photo.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tempietto
Looking across the pools to the tempietto. The far pool once served as the family swimming pool. Koi swim there now.
Philbrook Museum side garden
Another pool in the informal gardens.

Take a Tour with Me

Come with me on a photo tour of the Philbrook Museum Gardens. My desire is just to stir your curiosity. These gardens must be experienced, to fully appreciate them.

Italian style gardens
The Italian influence is seen in the main gardens.

Sculptures

There are 16 sculptures scattered throughout the gardens. They range from classical styles to contemporary. Here are three of them.

Philbrook Museum sculpture 2
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculptures – Nymph Holding Pluto
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculpture
Native American
Philbrook Museum Gardens woods
Tree sculptures in a wooded area. The orange leaves are made of glass.

Garden Cats and Wildlife

The garden is home to two cats, Cleome, a black and white, and Perilla, a calico. We saw Cleome, wandering about near the upper pond. She seemed intent on stalking something near the water. She reminded me of Rilynn, my garden cat!

And Greg and I spotted a variety of wildlife, including red squirrels, rabbits, a heron and several species of birds. The gardens are home to turtles, water snakes, foxes and beavers as well.

Garden cat
Cleome the Philbrook Museum Garden cat.
Wildlife at Philbrook
Heron in Crow Brook

Summerhouse Formal Garden

This area south of the museum underwent changes throughout the years. Officially completed after the family donated the property to Tulsa, this formal garden leads to a summerhouse. There are swings and benches along the pretty avenue.

Restrooms are located near the summerhouse. Greg gave the restrooms a five star rating! They are very clean. I posed on a rope swing in the little wooded area, From there steps descend to the path below.

Philbrook Museum Gardens summerhouse
Summerhouse formal gardens
Greg carrying our picnic lunch
Greg carrying our picnic lunch in my Decocrated bag.
Philbrook Museum Gardens swing
Swinging in the Philbrook Museum Gardens

Picnic in the Park

Multiple picnic areas exist in the park. Tables, benches, grottos and expanses of grass offer pretty spots to pause for lunch or a snack. We chose to stop for a picnic near the cabin next to the vegetable garden. The cabin is created from repurposed materials, including colorful t-shirts stiffened with resin for the roof.

Picnic time
Picnic time in the gardens. Bag from Decocrated spring box. Rug from Decocrated summer box. Watch for a review post of the summer box Monday.
Picnic lunch
Simple, healthy picnic lunch. Gluten free crackers, hummus, an assortment of pickles and olives, grapes, cherries and KIND nut clusters with almonds and coconut.
Philbrook Museum Gardens cabin
Cabin made from repurposed materials. Note the t-shirt roof!

Tiny Doors

As we wandered the grounds, looking for tiny doors attached to some of the trees, became a fun game. Fortunately, small green flags indicate where the doors are. Local artists created the little works of art and each door is unique.

Kids would enjoy this tiny door scavenger hunt.

In search of tiny doors
Looking for tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tiny doors
One of at least a dozen tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.

First Road Trip…But Not the Last

What a wonderful morning spent at Philbrook Museum Gardens. It’s uncertain when the main museum will open again, although special exhibits are opening July 1. However the gardens are available and well worth a visit. Purchase tickets online, selecting a date and time of entry. Masks are recommended, especially when entering the garden, talking to a staff member or encountering other visitors.

We found the park easily accommodated the number of visitors today.  People and staff were courteous and respectful of social distancing.

This was my first Road Trip Friday…but not my last. I may not be able to travel far, however, I can enjoy day road trips. My intention is one road trip, within 150 miles of Joplin, a month. My little VW Van will accompany me. Her name is Ferni, pronounced fairn-ee, from the German word fernweh, which means “longing for far off places”.

Beauty speaks to the heart and soul, I believe. And the Philbrook gardens spoke clearly today, soothing my spirit and reminding me of joys I experienced there as a child. In fact, I see Philbrook’s strong influence on my own desire to create a backyard paradise.

I even found a park bench that perfectly captures who I am now, inscribed with these words from Thomas Arthur Manhart:

“Learning something new everyday is what life is really all about.”

I left the gardens with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Philbrook Museum Gardens path to the museum
I can’t get enough of this view…

Visit Philbrook Museum Gardens

Philbrook Museum is located at 2727 S Rockford Road, Tulsa, Oklahoms.

Hop on their website HERE to order tickets, which are $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and free for children 17 and under.

Want your own little VW van to travel with? Get one by clicking photo below.

 

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13 Replies to “Philbrook Museum Gardens”

  1. These gardens are beautiful – your photos really tell a great story of your visit too. I love that you’re taking more “local” trips – we’re doing the same – trying to explore more of the world closer to home, can’t wait to see where Ferni takes you next!

  2. So beautiful! I’ve been wanting to visit here. We actually went to Woolaroc built by Waite’s brother Frank on Father’s Day. It was our first little outing since March. I’m with you on blogs posts. I have so much past material, I could blog for years and never go anywhere else. Ha! But I still want to go places.

  3. I love the gardens too. I find it amazing that the family swam in one of the pools in the formal garden. I like the idea of koi swimming there much better. I also love the statues and the cat roaming around. The fairy door you found on the tree is amazing and my kids would have been so excited to find that.

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