If you're like me and enjoy road trips to see beautiful gardens, a great place to visit in the Central Midwest is Rockford, Illinois. I wrote about the fabulous Anderson Japanese Garden in January, but that is not the only place in this city just an hour west of Chicago that is worth the drive. The Klehm Arboretum and the Nicholas Conservatory are just two of the larger attractions in Rockford.
The Klehm Arboretum has 155 acres of natives and plants from around the world. Originally a nursery, the land was donated to the city by the Klehm family in 1985 with the stipulation it be maintained as a public botanic garden.
A wide variety of trees, many of them planted by the original nursery owner in the early 1900's, line the walkways. Friendly dogs on a leash are even welcome here; if I lived much closer, I know Sophie would love visiting the Arboretum with me.
One of several unusual creatures in the garden, a painted cow is sure to delight visitors to the Children's Garden.
If you took every trail that wanders off the main pathways, you could walk for hours and still not see everything. This archway just looked too inviting to pass by.
This delightful secret garden was worth the detour.
The pollinator garden wasn't hidden at all, but along a major walkway
Tall Rudbeckias (?) in another planting.
The Arboretum's main focus is on trees, and there are many examples of native and unusual trees to be found here including this conifer and the black locusts below.
The only drawback to the Arboretum is that there is no snack bar: Beckie and I made the mistake of not stopping for lunch before coming here, and after awhile, my energy was sagging or we might have stayed longer. Next time I visit, I'll be sure to eat first--I could walk off a lot of calories on these trails!
Another place not to miss is the Nicholas Conservatory located along the Rock River. Unfortunately, the Conservatory itself, which houses 11,000 square feet of a tropical setting, was closed for renovations on the day we visited.
But seeing the beautiful grounds outside the Conservatory, we decided to stop anyway, and we weren't alone. It's obvious this is a popular place, not only for garden enthusiasts, but also for walkers and joggers who enjoyed the pathways through the grounds and along the river.
Border plantings include many native plants such as the Lobelia cardinalis above and the Joe Pye Weed in the previous photo.
A planting of Clethra in another area showed me what the puny little specimen in my garden is supposed to look like.
For rose aficionados, the Sinnissippi Rose Garden at the far end of the Conservatory grounds showcases a large number of rose cultivars.
If I were to ever attempt growing something other than easy-care roses, this would be my choice--'Glowing Peace.' Isn't she beautiful?
I wasn't the only one taking photos on this pleasant morning. I try to be considerate of others trying to frame the perfect shot, but I realized after standing behind this gentleman for a minute, that it wasn't necessary to be so patient:) (Seriously, I did stand several feet behind him for awhile, until I realized my mistake.)
Garden sculptures, beautiful plantings, and lovely water features including the lagoon with fountains make this an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. Note the bike path in the background.
There are other smaller gardens and attractions in Rockford, but some of them weren't open at the time we visited. Our time was limited anyway, and the three places we visited--the Anderson Japanese Garden, the Klehm Arboretum, and the Nicholas Conservatory--were well worth the three-hour drive. Looking forward to more fun road trips this summer!