Holden Arboretum – Adventures in Wonderland

Back in September I had the pleasure of visiting the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland Ohio. I am a little behind in this post because it was one of the places we visited at the beginning of our trip, but it has taken me a lot longer to pare down and edit pictures because there was so much to see and photograph. I am sure it doesn’t look the same right now as Fall has begun, but hopefully these pictures will be a bright spot that you may be in need of, in the world right now.

I have been to other Arboretums and gardens but Holden is by far the most spectacular one I have seen in person. The only place I have been, that I would describe as more beautiful, are the grounds and gardens of the Taj Mahal. Their butterfly garden especially makes you feel like you are in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. One of the best things about the Arboretum was that they were pet friendly. If they had camping options I would seriously consider living there in the summers, it was such a beautiful, peaceful place to just be.

The garden was started in 1931 by Albert Fairchild Holden, who created it as a memorial to his daughter Elizabeth, who died at the age of 12. While there is no information about Elizabeth being a fan of Alice In Wonderland, the way this garden is designed leads me to believe that either her or Albert were. The garden encompasses 3,500 acres in Lake and Geauga counties in Northeast Ohio.

There are 200 acres within the park with cultivated gardens, all connected by walking paths and trails. Each garden has it’s own theme and design, as well different educational aspects and programs. Throughout the grounds there is one large lake, as well as eight named ponds, a number of small, unnamed ponds and miles of trails.

While I recommend seeing all the gardens, if you are short on time, don’t miss the butterfly garden. It was the most spectacular display of flowers and plants to attract butterflies and pollinators that I have ever seen. Bella has a love of watching bees, so she had the time of her life.

Once you leave the Butterfly Garden, there are three other gardens to explore. They include the Display Garden that features Lilacs, and two distinct rhododendron gardens that also feature azaleas and mature oak and hickory trees.

Throughout the park there are also a Lotus and Lilly Pond. They both attract a number of water fowl, but I wasn’t able to get pictures of them.

This butterfly picture is my favorite from the trip. Partly because it was amazing to get the butterfly in this position, partly because it stayed still because Bella was fascinated with it and watched it, without chasing it.

There is a very large variety of flowers and plants on the grounds and there are guides along the trails to identify them. My original plan for the post was to identify each plant, but as I got started writing it, I decided that would take away from the wonder of the pictures. If you want to know more about the plants, you can get more information about the gardens from their website. https://holdenarb.org/explore-the-gardens/

This was also the point of the trip that I realized Bella is a water connoisseur. I took water for her but she wouldn’t drink it when I offered it. However, she had to taste the water in every pond and stream we visited. She never drank much of any of them, but had to lick them all once, I assume to taste them. As a whole, the time we spent here may be the happiest I have ever see that little dog.

There were some sections that were closed due to Covid, including group picnic areas and event spaces. They do have a great bar-b-que, outdoor dining cabin, pictured below.

I visited at a unique time when the gardens were featuring Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork – “twisting mazes, towering castles and hedges full of faces.” They were one of the few places were pets were prohibited, which is understandable, so I could not get any pictures up close.

My only regret with this stop was that it wasn’t long enough, even though we spent three hours there. I could have spent a week there and probably not seen everything there was to see.

Another aspect that made it feel like Wonderland was the number of small critters we encountered through the gardens that were used to people. As we were heading back to the camper, Bella got the scent of something that intrigued her and ran a groundhog out of the bushes. It was a first for both of us seeing a groundhog in person. Once it came out, she didn’t chase it or bark at it, just watched it.

If you are in this area, I could not recommend it more. In fact, I already look forward to including it in a future trip. I also hope to find ways to incorporate some of their designs in a backyard garden of my own.

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