Arboretum. It’s a word. I had never heard until I joined the Grow team this summer. For those who are curious it is a place where trees are grown to be studied. It’s one of many new words in my vocabulary, but possibly my favorite. What better way to learn more about an Arboretum than to visit one here in Western New York? So, I planned a trip to the Nannen Arboretum in Ellicottville, NY.
The arboretum is an eight acre lot behind the Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County. William O. Nannen donated this plot of land in 1958 for the construction of the Extension, which was completed in 1961. A pond was constructed shortly after and served as a teaching tool for local farmers to learn about proper pond construction and the benefits of farm ponds. The Soil and Water Conservation Service finished constructing the pond, known as Lake Nipponica, in 1965. When John Ploetz began working for the Extension in 1974, he added the plants and trees. Dedicated for the original donors of the land, the Nannen Arboretum became a public sanctuary for the people of Ellicottville. Nannen is still a place of learning today, even on self-guided tours.
As I began my educational journey though the plants, I couldn’t help but gasp. One of the first trees I saw was a combination of a weeping willow and spruce tree, two of my favorites. I was immediately drawn toward this specimen, kicking myself that I hadn’t brought along someone who might know more about it. To my relief, while admiring this tree, I noticed a small black plaque sticking out of the ground by its trunk. It read:
#235 Zone 2
Picea abies “Virgata”
Snake Branch Spruce
30-40’ X 15-20’ wide
Everything I needed to know about this tree was right in front of me. I glanced around, wondering if this was a special plaque, but no! Every tree on the property seemed to have an informational plaque that accompanied it. I was soon walking from tree to tree, learning the different species and growth dimensions. I also learned that the zones describe where the best growing location for each plant is based on the area’s climate and weather.
Amazed by the different spruce species and all the crabapples, I ventured away from the trees and toward the plants. The stone pathway led me to the Carolyn G. Lowe Herb garden which was designed with great precision. Each garden had a specific purpose, from culinary herbs, to herbs used in dying, to medicinal herbs.
With all this new knowledge buzzing around in my head, I wanted a quiet place to sit and reflect on my trip. Luckily, there are a couple of benches around Lake Nipponica. I chose the one closest to the Ryoanji Temple Stone Garden.
This is a replica of the Ryoanji Garden of the temple in Kyota, Japan. The original garden was built over 500 years ago in order to inspire meditation and contemplation. This replication was built in 1980 and contains an abstract positioning of nine larger rocks over white granite grit. It is a serene and calming art piece to look at while sitting on the shores of the pond, and a perfect way to absorb and process all the information that is found on the walk through the arboretum.
Nannen was a horticultural and cultural learning experience for me. From the stone gardens inspired by Japanese traditions, to herb gardens designed by the plant’s use, there is something to amaze you here. Why not head to Nannen Arboretum and wander through the trees and plants that line the walkways? You might just find a new favorite.