Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing the incredible Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which is located on the southeast shore of White Rock Lake. Now that spring’s mostly here, I figured it was a great time to finally visit. I was right. They’re right in the middle of their Dallas Blooms festival, which lasts from March 8-April 13.
All I can say is, “Wow.” I was highly impressed.
It’s not that the festival itself was all that overwhelming. The Arboretum is big — 66 acres — and the activities were rather scattered. Most of them were for kids anyway, especially the handicrafts, but there was other stuff to view, including cowboy activities like trick roping. The attraction, really, is the incredible mix of statuary, landscaping, fountains, streams, grottos, pools, winding paths, perfectly manicured parks, gardens, structures, and of course all the wonderful plants, trees, and flowers — all accented by views of White Rock Lake and the buildings of downtown Dallas. And hey, it’s early in the season yet; a lot of flowers haven’t even thought about blooming. Most of those visible were tulips, irises, daffodils, and other early risers. I can only imagine what the place will look like once the roses start blooming; there were some areas that were nothing but hundreds of rosebushes, all growing together for dozens of yards. I took 113 pictures, and it was very hard for me to trim my photos down to a reasonable number for this report. Needless to say, I have a lot to show you; expect this to be a two-part entry at least.
The Arboretum is open all year round, but expect it to be very crowded if you go during Dallas Blooms or a similar event. They do have a large parking lot (which is landscaped very prettily), but it can’t handle a huge crowd like the one I experienced this past Sunday. Even though I arrived after 3 PM, the parking lot was closed, and I had to proceed to a temporary remote parking lot several miles away and catch a shuttle to the Arboretum. Actually, that worked out pretty well, because parking was free at the remote lot — it’s ordinarily $5.
Before I start describing the place, let me point out that I now understand why anyone would pay for a year’s membership at the Arboretum. The memberships start for individuals at $60, and for families at $95. If you’re a member, parking is free, and so is getting into the Arboretum. (And you get a break on the gift shop items, too). While the place was incredibly crowded when I visited, I imagine that’s not the case on most days; this would make for a wonderful place to exercise or just walk around and soak up the beauty. Since Dallas isn’t one of those cities overly troubled by pollution (most of the time, anyway) it’s easy to sit down on a bench or next to one of the quiet koi ponds and pretend you’re out in the country. Just don’t look west over the lake, or the illusion will be ruined by the city towers in the distance.
The Arboretum, needless to say, is an excellent place to wander (and wonder) around aimlessly. You’ll have to start at the Trammel Crow Visitor Education Center, where you can see a continuous-loop video about the Arboretum, get a great view of the lake, and enjoy some previews of what you’ll see inside the park — as in this photo.
Those are mostly purple and red tulips and a few yellow irises you’re seeing; the Trammel Crow Building is the white limestone structure in the distance, behind the green umbrella. This area also includes some of the Arboretum offices, the gift shop, restrooms, and the like.
Once you’ve entered the place, it’s up to you to decide which of the broad, winding paths you’ll follow into the depths of the gardens. The folks who design the displays have been extremely creative with them; you’ll find everything from wood-chip and gravel paths to follow, to flagstone and concrete walkways, to stepped uphill paths and packed-earth trails. Many of them are designed to complement the Arboretum’s diverse collection of azaleas, of which they have about 2,400 (!) kinds. Unfortunately, it was too early in the year for them to be blooming when I visited, so I missed out on that. But fear not; I will be back. As I recall, some of the lower-growing bushes in this image (which I took across a series of stepped hills viewable from near the entrance) were azaleas.
I went generally east when I left the entrance area, before making a big loop and wondering around back to the entry. I only stayed until they closed, at 5 PM, so I was unable to explore the place in detail. But that’s okay — it’s the kind of place you want to come back to repeatedly. One thing I want to point out before I get too far is that these images only generally reflect the order of my progress, and I can’t tell you exactly where most of these places are, because, well, I didn’t know myself. I was just staying on the paths, see. Here’s one picture I’m especially fond of: a little watery stream that emptied into a pool full of koi. It had a Japanese feel about it, and there were a lot of Japanese maples (still bare, alas) planted around the area.
A little further on, I encountered these kids doing something I used to love to do myself: roll down hills! Brought back lots of fond memories of visiting my great-uncle’s place on the Colorado River near Smithville.
And check out this pretty little channeled stream nearby:
I’ll continue this in Part II, which should be up in a few days. Meanwhile, to learn more about the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, visit their website at http://www.dallasarboretum.org/.