Spring brings flowers, activities to Arboretum

By Brad Gosser

One hundred acres of beautiful Kentucky countryside are right across the street.

On the other side of Commonwealth Stadium from UK campus, just off Alumni drive past Greg Page Apartments, begins a two-mile stroll through all seven major regions of Kentucky.

The Arboretum is a living museum that showcases the diversity of the state’s native plant life. It also enriches the life of thousands of visitors from around the Lexington area, being for many students and area residents the nearest retreat into the woods.

Spring at the Arboretum has taken off running, and in its wake, flowers and trees burst with color. The park is alive with walkers and joggers, stoppers and gazers. Some are on bicycles, some walking dogs, others pushing wheelbarrows of compost or holding garden tools in dirty gloves. The objects of attention may be a rare flower, a school of fish in a shallow pond or a red-tail hawk hunting from the sky.

The Arboretum Woods Path leads visitors through 16 acres of rare undeveloped Inner Bluegrass woodlands.

Jim Lempke, The Arboretum’s Curator of Native Plants, said it hosts 18 tree species native to Kentucky, some older than three centuries, and more than 80 native Kentucky plant species. All in all, the Arboretum contains more than 1,200 native species of plants.

“It’s just a wonderful, marvelous place,” said Nancy Graves, a Tates Creek resident who has been coming to the Arboretum every year since it opened in 1986.

“There’s something for everybody,” Graves said. “It just gets prettier all the time, trees get older and leaf out so beautifully.”

Ashley Darland, one of the Arboretum’s new children’s education coordinators, has been busy planning for the opening of the Children’s Garden. The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on May 14 at 11 a.m.

The theme for the garden is “Ready or Not…Here we Come,” because although the garden is still under development, portions of it are ready to open to the public.

“We’re going to have musicians, popcorn and lots of fun,” Darland said.

Marcia Farris, staff director, described the Arboretum as “a living library.” She said an idea for a children’s garden was first mentioned in 1994. Ten years later, a conceptual design was drawn, and in 2007 construction began.

This year, feedback from visitors will help the Children’s Garden staff find out “what we need to do to make it successful,” Farris said.

“It’s the Kentucky Children’s Garden, so we’re trying to make it very much the story of Kentucky,” Farris said. “We want the children to be proud of Kentucky because it is a beautiful state, and also to connect them with nature.

“They can get in the water, they can garden, they can climb, they can do whatever,” she said.

The Children’s Garden will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission will be $3 a day per person or $50 per household for a season pass.

The Arboretum also hosts special events every week. Party for the Planet is a series of events throughout April to celebrate Earth Month.

Arbor Day on April 30 will be packed with events, and tree seedlings will handed out freely. The Arboretum will feature a big band/jazz concert every Tuesday in May.

An event calendar is available on the Arboretum’s website.

Every year, hundreds of students and members of the surrounding community volunteer at the Arboretum. There are a wide range of opportunities available, from leading tour groups to protecting the forest area from invasive plant species.

Adopt A Plot allows individuals or groups to take the responsibility to maintain small sections of the park throughout the season. This usually requires a one to two hour per week commitment, depending on the size and complexity of the plot.

Anyone can volunteer at the Arboretum. No prior gardening experience is required, and those interested can stop by the visitor center between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit http://www.ca.uky.edu/arboretum/ for more information.