Shaw Nature Reserve magnolias and daffodils 1

Northeast Ohio is known for the splendor of its four seasons. Thus, if you really want to see the four seasons in all of their glory, take the family or a loved one for a day trip to Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, just southeast of Cleveland. Holden Arboretum features 3,600 acres of gardens, woody plants, trails, and more. Holden is a museum that showcases a woody plant collection of trees, rhododendrons, and viburnum. It sees itself as a place to connect people with nature for inspiration and enjoyment, all while fostering learning and promoting conservation. Holden is among the largest arboreta in the United States. Documenting more than 120,000 plants, Holden’s horticultural focus is on a recognized collection of trees and shrubs, which are displayed in gardens accompanied by groundcovers and perennials, and in themed collections. Plants here include rhododendrons, magnolias, maples, conifers, nut trees, wildflowers, lilacs and more. A visitor center, reference library and picnic area are on the grounds. In addition, Holden is a haven for bird watchers, hikers, gardeners and nature enthusiasts. A differentiating factor for Holden (from other arboretums) is that it has gardens, too. In late April, guests enjoy the wonderful lilac area; in spring, there’s an attractive wildflower garden, as well as a world-class rhododendron garden with over 600 different varieties. The magnolias are also in bloom. And don’t forget the summer and early fall; the butterfly garden outside of the Visitor’s Center attracts a beautiful array of species during autumn. The Arboretum is also the place to view spectacular fall foliage and snow-covered winter conifers. So you see, regardless of the season, there’s always something to see, always something in bloom at Holden. There are roughly 20 miles of trail that are open to visitors, too. Two trails, Little Mountain and Stebbins Gulch, are restricted to guided tours. In 1965, these two areas were designated Natural Landmark Areas because of their biodiversity. They represent what was here before the Europeans came to Northeast Ohio, including old growth forest. Call the Visitor’s Center for dates and times of group hikes. And in the winter, there are six groomed miles at the Arboretum for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing! There’s also an array of educational opportunities at Holden during anytime of the year. From children’s programs to adult research studies, just as there’s always something in bloom, there’s always class work to partner it up with! For example, a wealth of opportunities for adults and students is available: choose classes ranging from Tai Chi in the Garden and home landscapes to family activities like building forest shelters and playing nature games! Children revel in the opportunity to get close to nature and wildlife here, and thoroughly enjoy the curriculum laid out for them, which includes the most popular course of all, Discovering Animal Tracks! If you’re headed out to the Cleveland area, or even if you live there and are looking for a respite from downtown and the arts, stop on by Holden. And don’t forget to take along the following Top Ten Attractions list. Use it as an appendage to any information or maps and brochures you receive on-site upon entry. It’s a “to-see” list of sorts! However you use it, be sure you don’t miss the attractions and exhibits contained within!

1. Natural Areas Guided Tours

For a rugged view of nature at its best, take a long tour of the natural areas. (Tours take about three hours.) To preserve these fragile areas, tours are open to a limited number of guests each month, so call ahead. The Stebbins Gulch tour is a wet walk through a tributary of the East Branch of the Chagrin River. You’ll discover geologic formations and plant communities not found anywhere else. Or try the Little Mountain nature area tour; it was once a resort for those escaping summer’s heat, and has once again become a woodland retreat. Learn the history of the area while touring geologically fascinating ravines and unique wooded areas. Contact the Education Department at 440.602.3833 or educ@holdenarb.org three weeks prior to your tour date and for pricing information.

2. Leaf Trail

Each year, a trail is set up through mostly native trees to provide an opportunity for students and kids to practice identification skills using a simple key that is provided in the leaf trail brochure. This is the only area of The Holden Arboretum where leaf collecting is permitted. The Leaf Trail is ablaze with fall colors and a great family activity for all ages! Check the website for specific dates and times for this yearly autumn event.

3. Family Snowshoe Hike

Have you ever wondered how snow shoes work? Well come out and try on a pair. You’ll learn how to put them on, how to walk and turn and how to get back up once you fall down. Play some games and take a long, enjoyable walk; you’ll be a pro in no time! Dress for the weather and be sure to wear boots with a large sole if possible. The bigger and heavier the boot the better the snowshoes stay on. This annual February event is loads of fun for families or for anyone with little ones. Take a snowshoe hop through the snow and see all kinds of wildlife, trees, snow-covered hills and more!

4. Pierson Creek Loop Nature Trail

Walk, jog or hike this continuously shifting creek of babbling water; skip rocks or look for the numerous fish, turtles and frogs with the tykes! This creek flows through a valley filled with delicate ferns and wildflowers plus thousands of blowing trees!

5. Holden Display Garden

Different nearly every month, here you’ll find hundreds of blooms at anytime of year. Enjoy the marvelous foliage of the maple, Sweetgum, Sourwood, Sassafras, Tupelo, and Birch trees in the gardens, woods, fields and around the ponds. Take a walk along the “Leaf Trail” and make a collection of colorful fallen leaves. The last flower to come into bloom in the Display Garden is the Tatarian aster. See the beautiful flowers of the Rough Gentian and don’t miss the blue-lavender blooms of the aromatic asters! Also check out the 8′ tall Maximilian sunflower!

6. Wildflower Garden

Splendid during any season, the wildflower garden was named after Mrs. Myrtle Holden, who loved to grow them. Hundreds of wildflowers are in bloom at a given time and the Garden is flanked by Blueberry Pond to the West, offering views of migratory ducks, birds and butterflies as well.

7. Lilac Garden

The Lilac Garden at Holden is, in one word, resplendent. A popular garden flower throughout Northeast Ohio, this pretty flowering, fragrant shrub shows its pretty hues: lavender, pink, white, bright yellow, bluish and more. Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. Since they bloom for only a very brief couple weeks in the spring, Holden breeds a gigantic variety, including, early, mid and late specimens. The Lilac Garden at Holden is a popular picnic spot with local families and lovers, and is oft photographed by local newspapers and gardening magazines and publications.

8. Discovery Packs

Check out the free “Discovery Packs” to explore gardens, flowers, animal tracks, ponds, plus birds and their habitats, stream life and trees. Discovery Packs can be checked out at the Corning Visitor Center and are quite popular with those going on self-tours and/or attending the children’s classes, and tour offerings.

9. Holden Meadows Natural Area

One of the areas open to the public for self-guided tours, the Meadow is managed to maintain and present important horticultural collections, scenic vistas and biologically diverse meadows. You’ll see a variety of shrubs, flowers and flowering trees here, making this a popular destination in the park and a special place for weddings, receptions, family gatherings and more.

10. Viburnum Collection

See these shrubs and trees anytime of year! Common sightings include those of the honeysuckle family, certain species of which, as the cranberry bush or snowball, are cultivated for ornament in the Cleveland area. You’ll also see wayfaring trees with small white flowers and berry-like red or black fruits. Also, check out the surrounding areas of Lotus Pond and Buttonbush Bog.

Holden Arboretum
9500 Sperry Road in Kirtland
Willoughby, OH 44094
440-946-4400

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