Staring out the window at a snow-covered garden, it’s easy for most gardeners to envision green grass and flowers erupting from the ground. Looking forward to spring, the experience is enhanced by a trip to one of the best and largest arboretums in the Midwest.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (arboretum.umn.edu) is located about 25 miles west of Minneapolis in Chaska, Minn. The arboretum also houses the Anderson Library, known throughout the horticulture world for its holdings.
Affiliated with the University of Minnesota, its 1,000-plus acres are open all year. Thousands of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs surround walking trails and paths. The paths and trails allow visitors to experience the quiet, more private areas of the garden.
A three-mile drive takes visitors through the property and past numerous plant collections. Pull off areas for parking let visitors stop and walk through many landscaping options. The drive is closed to vehicles during the winter, but the grounds remain open for hiking and cross-country skiing. Or take a tram ride with a driver who gives a guided tour and history of the collections.
Springtime is peak flowering time for the fruit trees as well as additional sweeps of color being provided by many bulb collections.
Spring-blooming daffodils have naturalized along a hillside at the arboretum.
Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ and Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Spangle’ perfectly complement each other for the spring beauty.
Plant collections include lilacs (Syringa), roses (Rosa), clematis, nut trees, viburnums, shrubs, ornamental grasses, hedge options, azaleas and rhododendrons, crabapples (Malus) and many varieties of fruit trees. Specific areas of the garden feature annuals with color schemes that change throughout they year.
The prairie area and the bog walk feature native plants, enabling visitors to envision what can be done with low-maintenance plantings that provide year-round beauty in their own landscapes.
The affiliation with the University of Minnesota includes the testing of plants being developed for USDA Zones 3 to 5, which includes the upper Midwest. The arboretum has been responsible for many plants that are now commercially available in garden centers here and elsewhere in the Midwest. One of the most spectacular is the ‘Northern Lights’ series of azaleas (Rhododendron).
The visitor center houses a bookstore, library, classrooms, a gift shop and cafeteria. Winter season includes indoor displays of artwork and orchids.
Never-ending color is enhanced by seasonal plantings that start with tulips, crocus and daffodils and expand with new plantings throughout the growing season. A visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is probably one of the best public garden experiences one could wish for.
Tulips greet spring visitors.
From Minnesota Gardener Volume I Issue I. Photos by Bill Johnson.