have ridden past the brown sign proclaiming the State Arboretum of Virginia
on Route 50 in Boyce, Virginia (approximately 10 miles east of Winchester)
many times without stopping to investigate. Quite honestly, this was mostly
due to the fact that we weren't sure what an Arboretum really meant. After
learning from the dictionary that an arboretum is "a place where
an extensive variety of woody plants are cultivated for scientific, educational,
and ornamental purposes", we decided it was the perfect place to
ride to on a gorgeous spring afternoon.
Arboretum was originally called the Orland E. White Arboretum for its
founder who arrived here in 1926 after 700 acres was donated to the University
of Virginia for horticultural research and experimentation. Due to his
diligent efforts the arboretum thrived to become the official State Arboretum
in 1986. Currently 175 acres of this land is open for enjoyment of the
general public. The remaining acreage is part of Blandy Experimental farm,
a living research lab for visiting scientists and students from the University
upon entering the gravel parking lot, we began to feel at ease in the
natural setting. One of the first sites we were presented with was that
of an herb garden. Just beyond the initial view was a picnic area for
all to enjoy, as well as a perrenial garden in full-bloom. We were happy
to find out that the area is pet friendly and noticed many pet owners
taking advantage of the lovely surroundings to walk their dogs. Once we
left the parking lot we passed an educational center where many classes
are held throughout the year for visiting school children.
then followed the signs indicating a gift shop and pointing to a rather
large brick complex. We later learned that the building was a former servant's
quarters used by slaves to service the large mansion that can still be
seen over the hill. The quarters, originally built in the 1830's, were
expanded in the 1940's and now contain a gift shop, dormitory, lab, library
and kitchen for students working on the farm. As soon as we crossed the
arches of the quarters into the interior portion of the Arboretum, we
were immediately greeted by two volunteer guides who were more than happy
to answer questions and provide private mini tours and suggestions of
trails and sites to see while on the property.
do not have a green thumb so I had much to learn as the volunteer enthusiastically
pointed out many interesting things such as the fact Ginko trees have
been around since prehistoric times. He also informed us that not all
conifers (trees like pine, spruce and firs) are evergreens and some can
actually lose their needles in the winter. There are over 1,000 varieties
of plants and trees in the arboretum, which contains half the world's
collection of pine trees. All the trees in the arboretum have been meticulously
labeled and dated. Additional signs are also scattered throughout the
trails to provide more detailed information and interesting facts.
if you weren't interested in learning more about trees, you can certainly
appreciate the scenic beauty as you stroll along the grounds. You may
chose from several walking trails that include a stroll though Dogwood
Lane, an old abandoned road that once lead to the mansion over the hill.
You may also choose to stroll along the Virginia Native Plant trail or
just sit on a bench and admire the quiet beauty of the natural area. To
get a great overview of the area, another option would be to drive the
3 mile Loop Drive (portions are gravel so be careful). Brochures are available
that will identify points of interest along your drive.
The arboretum is also used for many special events and even has an outdoor
amphitheater for concerts and weddings. Other events offered include informational
lectures, walks, tours and various educational programs. The Arboretum
also hosts an annual Garden Fair every Mother's Day weekend, in which
plants are available for purchase. There is no admission for entry. However,
donations are accepted. The Arboretum is open every day from dawn to dusk.
It is the perfect place to learn something or just kick back and relax.
You can even hug a tree, if you are so inclined and nobody will think
twice about it.