Yesterday was my husband's and my 17th anniversary, and we had a nice outing with our children to Clinton, Iowa for the day, a drive of about an hour-and-a-half from our house. Our first stop was for lunch at the Candlelight Inn restaurant, which is located right on the edge of the Mississippi River, and because the weather was ideal -- mid-70s, sunny and with a pleasant light breeze -- we greatly enjoyed eating our meal on the restaurant's large elevated deck overlooking the river.
Then we visited the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, which is now owned and managed by Clinton Community College, but was established by Bob and Frances Bickelhaupt on their 14-acre property on the edge of Clinton, starting in the 1970s. The centerpiece of the Arboretum is the Heartland Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers, begun in 1990, and which in 2012 was named a Reference Garden by the American Conifer Society.
The collection is truly impressive. My husband and I are thinking about planting more conifers in our gardens, and our visit was very inspiring -- the variety of shapes and colors and textures of the different trees was extraordinary. The trees were uniformly healthy and vibrant, their placement was artistically pleasing and the simplicity of the conifer-only design was very appealing.
Don't get me wrong: my love of flowers is still paramount, but it would be nice to have some areas of my gardens that look as good (or maybe even better) in winter as in the growing seasons. I have been thinking about redesigning my North Border to include some evergreen trees and shrubs for winter interest, and our visit has provided me with much inspiration to do so.
Here are some photos of some of the highlights of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum:
|The best section of the Arboretum!|
|The beginning of the path through the conifer collection. I love how the new growth on the low shrub at left is glowing in the sun (the sign was missing from the specimen, so I don't know what it is, unfortunately).|
|A lovely wooden bridge through the trees.|
|You can see the wide variety of the conifer trees. In the background on the other side of the stream at the bottom of the property is a large area of deciduous trees, many of them impressive in size.|
|The bench is made from stones that were originally cut to build a local building in|
the 1850s. When the building was dismantled, the stones were purchased and given to
the Arboretum. We all thought that the tree to the left (a Bruns Weeping Serbian Spruce)
looked like an Ent, the tree creatures from the Lord of the Rings.
|I particularly like the the gold-colored conifers.|
|Two more "tree monsters" schlepping along together ('Wingle's Weeper' Norway Spruce).|
|The arboretum was admirably well-maintained, with very few weeds in the neatly edged and mulched beds, and trim, orderly lawn and paths.|
|A closeup of the beautiful cones on a tree that disappointingly did not have a sign -- most of the plants did have signs, but a few were missing.|
|The Peony Garden contains about 30 peonies, including intersectional and tree peonies, as well as the old-fashioned herbaceous kind. This was definitely the right time to visit this part of the garden.|
|I found the undulating topography along the winding creek absolutely fascinating -- sinuous and dramatic. My photo certainly doesn't do it justice.|
I highly recommend a visit to the Bickelhaupt Arboretum if you are close to Iowa or traveling along the Mississippi River, especially if you have an interest in conifers. We greatly enjoyed our visit and came away full of ideas for our own gardens. The Arboretum is open every day from dawn to dusk and is free to enter.
|On the way home, I saw this field of wild mustard near our house glowing in the sun and had to stop and take a photo. It was really quite magnificent, a whole field of bright gold that my camera couldn't fully capture.|
I hope you are also enjoying visits to inspiring gardens -- we gardeners can easily become preoccupied with our own gardens, particularly at such a busy time of year, but it's important to see other gardens to inspire us to improve our own -- plus it's just fun to enjoy a garden without the need to weed.... Thanks for reading! -Beth