Below read a guest post from Debbie at A Garden of Possibilities. She shares her life-long love affair with trees and how she feeds this love with visits at Bartlett Arboretum, one of Connecticut’s great public gardens. Debbie provided the photos for her tale …
I love trees. I always have, they fascinate me. My love affair with trees started years (and years) ago, when I was growing up in upstate New York. We lived across the street from a golf course and there were big white pines lining that section course for privacy and to stop any errant balls from landing in our front yard. Along with my two best friends, Jeanne and Wendy, I used to climb into those pine trees and hang out for hours. We’d laugh and gossip, discuss boys, homework and read books our parents specifically told us were off-limits.
In the fall, if we weren’t hanging out in the pines trees, we could be found a few streets over collecting chestnuts from a tree that was swollen with them every autumn. We’d walk by the tree on our way home from school everyday just to see if it was releasing its bounty yet. Once it was, every kid in the neighborhood knew. We’d collect chestnuts by the bag full. We’d stomp on the prickly burrs and rub the nuts until they were shiny and glossy. Then we’d make jewelry out of them, play games with them or simply try and kick one all the way home. Ah, childhood memories…
OK, I haven’t climbed a tree in I don’t know how long, but I still get excited when I hold a chestnut burr in my hand. And I still find trees magical. Luckily, I’m able to indulge my love of trees right in my own backyard, so to speak. Located just a few miles from my home is the Bartlett Arboretum, a 91-acre living museum of trees and other plants. The Bartlett is the former home and laboratory of Dr. Francis Bartlett, famed dendrologist (a scientist who studies trees and shrubs) and founder of the FA Bartlett Expert Tree Company. At one time, the state owned the arboretum but now it’s owed by the city of Stamford.
The Bartlett is probably one of the best examples of an undisturbed, native Connecticut landscapes you’ll find in this area. It offers a variety of natural habitats, including woodlands, a red maple wetland, swamps, bogs and even a wildflower meadow. There are also 5 acres of trails and numerous stroll paths for exploring the grounds.
As you might expect, the Bartlett is home to an amazing collection of trees. In fact, it houses about 20 trees that have been given Champion or Notable status by the Notable Trees Project. If you live in Connecticut, you can find the notable trees in your town by clicking here.
Some of my favorite trees at the Bartlett are the redbud (Cercis canadensis – top photo) you walk under to get into the main lawn, the stewartias (Stewartia psuedocamellia) with their smooth, muscular, camouflage bark and the fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’) with its massive trunk and roots, to name a few.
Even if you’re not into trees, the Bartlett Arboretum has something to entice you. If you have young children in your life, they will absolutely love the boardwalk through the red maple wetlands and the pond that’s home to a plethora of toads and frogs.
And just a quick walk through the woods brings you to the wildflower meadow. There’s a collection of over 300 different rhododendrons, all hardy to southwestern Connecticut. And seasonal displays of flowers and rare plants not normally planted in the Northeast.
The Bartlett also offers many educational opportunities for adults and children and hosts ‘Summer Music Sundays’ with classical in the morning and pops in the evening. It is the site of a seasonal plant clinic staffed by master gardeners who will help diagnosis plant problems. I’ve been to the plant clinic a few times and the staff is always helpful and very knowledgeable. So the next time you’re looking for a neat place to visit to get a sense of the real Connecticut, remember the Bartlett Arboretum. You may not love trees when you arrive, but I bet you will by the time you leave.
The Bartlett Arboretum is located in Stamford, CT and is open every day from 9:00 – dusk. Admission is free on Wednesdays.