One of the most beautiful places in Minnesota is in Chaska. It is the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum (The Arboretum). The Arboretum “serves as a research center and extension of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Science (CFANS)”. The Arboretum is a public garden that serves as an outdoor destination, research center, events venue and education hub, spanning 1,200 acres and serving more than 500,000 visitors annually (https://arb.umn.edu/).
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum began in 1956 as a collaboration between the Men’s Garden Club of Minneapolis and the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. They committed to develop plants that would thrive in the harsh Minnesota weather and perform well in the long term. The Arboretum has developed more than 30 varieties of cold hardy apples, winter hardy grapes, and more than 160 cold-hardy plants.
The Arboretum, as part of the CFANS, is world-renowned for woody plant and fruit breeding research programs, including commercial introduction of the favorite Honeycrisp apple. The Plant Conservation Program based at the Arboretum works to conserve rare and native plant species in Minnesota. Part of their work involves maintenance of a seed bank for plants native to Minnesota such as native orchids, carnivorous plants, cacti and more (https://arb.umn.edu/about/about-us).
The Arboretum offers classes for more than 20,000 adults and children each year. They provide classes at the Arboretum, online, and as outreach to area schools. A professionally facilitated Nature-Based Therapeutics program connects visitors to “measurable improvements in their health and well-being” (https://arb.umn.edu/about/about-us). Additionally, there are specialty areas such as:
- The Bee Lawn Demonstration area with plants that attract bees and other pollinators, such as white clover.
- The Wildlife Garden demonstrates the best way to attract birds, insects and mammals by providing food and shelter.
- A Green Play Yard shows how to bring nature to children.
- A Green Roof that demonstrates a method of water management and how it can be good for the environment, home and the landscape.
- Hedge Display that shows how hedges block unsightly views, direct the viewers gaze, define spaces, and are used to create a maze.
- Rain Gardens that collect parking lot runoff and move the water into planted swales rather than flooding and polluting storm sewers, streams, and wetlands.
- Shade Tree Exhibit and Treehouse gives answers to questions all people should ask before planting a tree, such as type of shade, growth rate of the tree, shape, messiness, etc. The treehouse and other small playhouses are a draw for visiting children.
- Wall Family Teaching Garden teaches families about growing herbs, vegetables and annual flowers.
- Weeping Trees Garden with a total of 25 trees planted according to behavior.
There are 32 display and specialty gardens, 48 plant collections, more than 150 permanent works of art, and a stunning array of 5,900 unique species, cultivars and hybrids. There is also a conservatory, a library, and event spaces. Some of those specialty gardens include the following:
- Annual Garden is a formal garden with 25,000-30,000 plants for a different color scheme each year.
- Chinese Garden integrates artistry with nature.
- Dahlia Trial Garden develops new dahlias each year. Staff observe the plantings for growth, habit, disease and flower quality.
- Daylily Collection is home to three species and more than 300 cultivars.
- Fern Walk holds a collection of 20 varieties of ferns, 9 varieties of wildflowers and wild ginger.
- Hosta Glade has over 300 varieties where some are fragrant, some have huge leaves, and some are very tiny.
- Iris Garden has both tall bearded iris and Siberian iris for a total of 516 specimens.
- Japanese Garden is “about borrowed scenery and evoking nature’s beauty”. You can’t see everything within this garden at one time, “different views are explored and created as you move through the garden” (https://arb.umn.edu/gardens-grounds/specialty-gardens).
- Lily and Dahlia Collection have 102 varieties of hardy lilies with dahlias that are planted each year.
- Maze Garden is one of the newest gardens at the Arboretum. It is a fun time trying to find your way through the maze without losing your way.
- Mum Collection includes the University of Minnesota’s mum breeding program, which is one the oldest public sector breeding programs in the world.
- Ornamental Grass Collection has over 200 ornamental and native species and cultivars.
- Peony Walk has three species of peony and 191 cultivars.
- Perennial Garden is a formal garden with a pool and fountain. This garden will give the northern gardener many ideas about plant combinations and how well the plants grow in this area.
- Rose Gardens consists of hybrid garden roses and hardy shrub roses with heavenly scents.
- Sensory Gardens appeals to all the visitor’s senses. This garden begs the visitor to interact. It has sights and sounds that entice the visitor, and demonstrates how gardens are adapted for all abilities.
- Wildflower Garden presents endangered native plants of the Upper Midwest.
- Woodland-Azalea Garden has examples of the University’s Northern Lights series of Azaleas.
- Seven terrace gardens that demonstrate how to effectively garden in a terraced spot.
Your reason to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum can vary from seeking education, researching plants for your personal garden, or just relaxing in a bucolic setting. No matter your reason, you will find yourself renewed by your encounter with nature at the Arboretum.