A Win-Lose Weekend

The first week of professional football 2016 had my wife and me keeping a promise to our daughter Olivia. A split household, only during football season, my wife’s team is the Giants and ours is the Cowboys. We promised Olivia that we would take her to AT&T Stadium and see a Cowboys game there. And while the outcome was not what we as Cowboys fans had hoped for, I always can take solace in plants.

An exciting weekend all around, my wife and daughter graciously gave me a few hours to visit an exciting place in Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. A passion for preserving history and nature, this arboretum is one of the most spectacular and well thought out I have seen thus far, and it is relatively young by comparison to others. “In 1977 the City of Dallas Park Board recommended that the grounds of the DeGolyer Estate, which the city purchased from Southern Methodist University, be the official location of the botanical garden” (www.dallasarboretum.org). In 1982 contracts were signed creating an arboretum and botanical garden on 66 acres and in 1984 the gardens were opened to the public.

Given that my family only afforded me two hours, to appreciate some 66 acres, I did my best to cover it all. Some 300 pictures later and a drenched t-shirt, it was 90 degrees that day, here are my highlights. A Woman’s Garden, a gift from the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (DABG), featured a formal garden with terraced walkways and exceptional views. Several small outdoor “garden rooms” which include a Poetry Garden, there is also The Majestic Allée that affords stellar views of White Rock Lake beyond a reflecting pool. However, it was the Nude Bronze sculpture that captivated my attention the most here and yet again proved that art in the garden amplifies what nature does so instinctively. A Texas limestone bridge and towering Dawn Redwoods both help support and “celebrate the strength, courage, creativity and nurturing demeanor of women”(www.dallasarboretum.org).

Heading towards the Pecan Grove, I passed an exceptionally large, almost windswept Osage Orange or Hedge Apple, Maclura pomifera. This particular tree trunk can be measured in feet! Native to our country, this Hedge Apple showed off its orange-brown bark, shiny green leaves and thorny twigs. However, I was deprived on that day, its large, wrinkled, grapefruit-sized green fruit. The Pecan Grove serves as the centerpiece for their famous fall festival, Autumn at the Arboretum. I counted over 200 bins of assorted pumpkins and gourds, affirming their claim that they have over 50,000. YES THEY DO! Their nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village was complete with several homes that had their walls stacked with pumpkins and a life size Cinderella horse and carriage. The largest Pecan however, Carya illinoinensis resides outside the grove and has been recognized as living there since the time of the signing of our Constitution.

The pièce de résistance for me was their Crape Myrtle Allée. Two powerful lines of Crape Myrtle line, arch and enclose a beautiful stone pathway creating an ardent experience. This “natural tunnel” leads visitors to the popular Polliwogs,  “frog fountain”, that my daughter was smitten with. Four huge bronze frogs spew water from all four corners into a small plaza. Opened in 1994, the current Allée replaced the one initially installed by the DeGolyer family.

Despite the fact that our Cowboys lost opening weekend, visiting the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden was a huge win for me. A thoughtful and engaging experience that has outstanding plant combinations. Plants like Loropetalum, dwarf Mondo grass and Celosia ‘Intenz’ were used in immense sweeps and proved themselves as useful, colorful groundcovers. Proving yet again that our dedicated public spaces, including public squares, parks, beaches and arboretums, to name a few, are an excellent escape, culturally rich and often prove to be an educational experience.