By Paul Kammerdiner
We disembarked in the midst of trees and followed the path up the hill. As we advanced under the watchful eye of the tower that soared into the sky we knew that we had entered a land cut off from the concrete, blacktop and dirt that we came from. Here birds sang, the breeze smelled of grass and sunshine, dragons lurked in the peek-a-boo forest, a peacock gazed majestically into space as he spread his magnificent tail of rainbow colors, shimmers of orange and white flashed beneath the waters of the forget-me-not pond, and everywhere trees nodded to each other in the wind. But when we reached the top our eyes were drawn to the amazing beauty of the gardens.
This bit of whimsy is to introduce you to where we are in the Arboretum and what we are going to look at: the Display Gardens. In the original master plan they were called “demonstration gardens” and were to be created so that “Visitors will become acquainted with the important principles of garden composition including correct proportion, color balance, focal points and sight lines which they can use in creating their own private gardens no matter what size.”
In its earliest incarnation, Craig Ritland designed the gardens, Doan Construction installed the limestone walking paths, and Vogel Irrigation installed the sprinkler system. Then, in 2007, a sub-committee was created to plan improvements to the entire Tower Hill area with special attention to the area east of the raised bed gardens. Before this time, small gardens maintained and designed by a variety of volunteers were there.
From this group, a plan began to emerge of a collection of small gardens that would not only fulfill the stated purpose in the master plan but enhance it to include separate areas for ornamental displays, some shrubbery, and a separate space for an herb garden. Recently the herb garden has expanded into a distinct space for an edible garden. These all combined have become our wonderful Display Gardens. They lie just east of the raised bed gardens and extend from the pond on the south to the Education Center on the north. There are three round “activity lawns” in close proximity surrounded by limestone paths. These gardens are lovingly cared for by a group of dedicated and hard-working volunteers that call themselves the Weed and Unwind group. Together they have created an amazing space of color and texture; mulched pathways lead you into and through the flower gardens with something to delight all the senses everywhere you look. The herb and edible gardens can be accessed from the limestone paths.
We encourage you to take a break from the hectic routine of everyday and spend some time letting these gardens put on a display for you.