In our backyard: Garden spots with trees, flowers are not far from the Valley

MARIETTA – For those still trying to shake off the last remnants of cold weather, a trip to a lush arboretum or vibrant botanical garden could be just what the doctor ordered.

Spring in these colorful wonderlands means blooming flowers, budding trees and any number of activities for the family to enjoy. Three such outdoor-and sometimes indoor-oases are just a short drive away, including the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh and Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio.

At the Dawes Arboretum, the 1,800-acre facility is literally a museum of trees, said Laura Appleman, public relations and marketing director for the site.

Not unlike a museum, the arboretum has several thematic collections of trees and plants, she said. For example, the Japanese Garden features traditional Japanese stylings such as the artistic use of rocks and flowing water.

“This time of year is perfect for spring blooms,” noted Appleman.

The plants and shrubs in the Azalea Glen are also starting to burst with color around this time of the year, she said.

The grounds feature more than 12 miles of hiking trails, wetlands perfect for birdwatching and endless stretches of lawn for picnicking, she added.

Spring is also a good time to enjoy a variety of events at Dawes.

“It’s a musical, interactive science program,” Appleman explained.

For the horticulturists, the arboretum’s May 18 plant sale offers a chance to purchase rare, hard to find plants.

“It’s a very unique plant sale. We sell trees and shrubs not found in everyday nurseries or garden centers,” said Appleman.

The gardens make for an easy road trip because they are located just three miles north of I-70, she said.

“There’s plenty here to spend the day and make it a true day trip,” she added.

Admission to Dawes is always free. The arboretum is open 7 a.m. to sunset everyday of the year except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

At the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, bad weather will never ruin a trip.

The year-round botanical garden is housed almost entirely inside a large Victorian greenhouse built in 1893. It is also one of the few remaining botanical gardens to hold seasonal flower shows, said Liz Fetchin, director of marketing and communications for Phipps.

“Right now our horticulturists are installing the summer show which features local glass artists whose work is integrated into the gardens,” said Fetchin.

The event is a revisiting of a popular show the gardens presented in 2005 featuring world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, but this time the event gives local artists a chance to shine, she said.

The conservatory’s always popular butterfly forest opened last weekend and will remain open through Sept. 2.

“The chrysalises are displayed in cases and often you can watch them hatch, dry off their wings and fly through the gardens,” said Fetchin.

New chrysalises are always being brought in so there is always a good chance to see a butterfly hatching, she said.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for members and children under 2, $15 for adults, $14 for students and seniors over 62 and $11 for children ages 2-18.

At the Secrest Arboretum, everyday is Secrest day. That is the motto of Secrest Arboretum Program Director Ken Cochran. Summer, winter, fall and spring all have unique things to offer at the Wooster-area arboretum, he said.

“There’s something for everybody anytime,” said Cochran.

Currently spring flowers are in bloom and a variety of events are lined up at the arboretum, which is a part of The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

“We have about a mile and a half of paved walking areas through the gardens and arboretums. There are six or so different themed areas,” Cochran said.

The grounds are meant to give children and families a chance to interact with the outdoor world, he said.

That is the idea behind the Buckeye Forest, a fortress that was built for younger children to crawl through, slide down, and generally enjoy being outdoors, he said.

Coming up soon is the arboretum’s Rose Garden Open House on June 8 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

The open house shows off more than 1,500 old-fashioned roses and features a pruning demonstration, said Cochran.

“A lot of these roses were the basis for special hybrids. The roses should be in full bloom so it will be sort of be the highlight of the season for those plants,” said Cochran, who added that the arboretum is a treat regardless of the season.

Children might especially enjoy the Bug Night and Insect Walk on July 20 at 8 p.m. The presentation is put on by Ohio State University graduate students. Participants will use jars and flashlights to find, collect and learn about insects that are active at night, said Cochran.

The arboretum is certainly bustling considering that just more than two years ago a tornado ripped through the grounds, damaging several buildings and thousands of plants and trees on the grounds.

“We were closed for about three months after that, but now we’ve got a lot of new plants and new programming,” Cochran said.

Secrest is open from sunrise to sunset and admission is free.