Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ready for a Road Trip?

The sun is shining and the temperatures are slowly climbing . . . but there's a possibility of snow later this week, arrgh!  I am so ready to get outside!  Yes, I do mean in the garden, but as wet as the soil is, that probably won't be for awhile.  I'm also ready to get outside and go somewhere after being cooped up much of the winter.  Good friend Beckie and I are headed next week to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, which is always a highlight of March and a great way to get motivated for the coming gardening season.  I hope this will be just the first of several short road trips we can take this season.

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 
so visitors would be sure not to miss it.

Filled with native plants, it was a haven for bees and butterflies on this August afternoon.  The more I looked at it, I realized this is my vision of what I wish my garden looked like.

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!


  1. Seeing these plants,gardens,color...makes my heart go pitty patter. I love it. I know you girls will have a good time at the Flower show. I want to hear all about it. Have fun.

  2. What a beautiful trip. I LOVE that pollinator garden so much. It is exactly what I am going for in my new gardens. Too funny on the other photographer. He can fool anyone!

  3. Had to smile at you waiting behind that gentleman!

    Loved all the little nicknacks scattered amongst the plants and that is a beautifully decorated cow in the children's section.

    Its awful if you can't get anything to eat and you are so hungry, though.

    Glad things are warming up around you and hope you don't get snow.
    Things are looking up here too.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  4. What a fantastic trip you made and so nice of you to take us with you. The polinators garden is just how I wish my garden would be, but it is not helas! The rose is a brilliant one. I hope you can go out outside soon Rose. Overhere temperatures are not normal for our country at this time of the year. Yesterday almost 20C it was lovely to have my first cup of coffee in the garden this year. I hope a lot of beautiful days will follow also for you Rose.
    Have a wonderful day.

  5. So interesting to see my "hometown" through fresh eyes :-) We live in kind of a suburb of Rockford, but have enjoyed both Klehm and the Nicholas Conservatory. (I'm actually not from here, but moved here for my job teaching at the college about 18 years ago, and I don't like it enough to really call it my hometown, hence the quotes.)

    If you haven't already, there is a wonderful Rotary Botanical Gardens up a bit farther north, in Janesville, WI. It's in the far southern edge of the city, so it's only about another 1/2 hour from Rockford. (

  6. A wonderful collection of photos of the gardens.
    I also see the lovely variants decoration.

  7. I love, love, love garden tours. I'm more than ready to go on one. Enjoy your trip.

    I also really like the orange rose. One you might want to check out is Easy Does It. I had one in my garden before we moved and I love it. It was a very easy rose to care for.

  8. What gorgeous gardens, well worth a road trip! That photographer statue is hilarious. We are on the same page. It's raining, switching to snow in Maine, and like you, I'm flashing back to a warmer day on my blog.

  9. What a beautiful garden! Looks like the road trip was well worth it. Gardens like these always give me good ideas for my garden, too.

  10. Sign me up! Midwest garden bloggers roadtrip...or roadtrips! Come visit me in Madison and we can check out Olbrich Botanical Garden, the UW-Arboretum, and/or Allen Centennial Gardens!

  11. Thanks, all, for stopping by. My computer is really acting up--the browser keeps crashing, so I will try to reply to everyone, but if I don't, you know it's because I got frustrated with my computer not because I'm ignoring you.

  12. Lisa, Wish you could be with us in Chicago!

    Tina, Isn't the pollinator garden lovely? I might just have to start a new garden area here:)

    Maggie, I get low blood sugar if I don't eat at regular intervals, so I should have planned ahead on this time. Still, we enjoyed our time here.

    Marijke, We have had a few warmer days to tease us, but I know that spring will come here...eventually.

    Cassi, I knew you lived not far from here. Beth of Plant Postings and I have talked about meeting in Rockford this summer--maybe you could join us!

  13. Whay a wonderful arboretum! I love the stone waterfall, weeping conifer, flowers and this funny sculpture!
    Thank you for sharing, Rose!

  14. Ela, Both of these places were a delight. Thanks for stopping by!

    Sally, I think I've heard of Easy Does It--I'll have to check it out. I have several Knockout roses, which are also easy to grow.

    Sarah, I felt like such an idiot when I realized the "photographer" wasn't moving:)

    Casa, I always come home with some new ideas after visiting gardens like this, too.

    Beth, I love Madison--it's just an hour more of driving, so maybe I'll just do that! I'm always up for a garden adventure!

  15. Nadezda, If I lived in this town, I would visit the Conservatory park often--it would be a great place to walk, too.

  16. I used to go on garden tours, many years ago but these days it is too much walking and I can’t manage. I do enjoy seeing gardens like these on TV and on blogs and I often get ideas I can use, small scale in my own garden. I wish I could incorporate the cow, but lovely as it was it would be too big for my tiny garden! Also loved the stone-waterfall, beautiful. Thanks for the tour!

  17. It is always so nice to visit large gardens like this and see such grand plantings. I love the conifer bending so gracefully over the stream and all the color in the native pollinator garden. Too bad the conservatory was closed when you visited, but it is always a great excuse for another road trip!

  18. Really nice road trip and tour. I think that cow is darling in the children's garden and the photographer hilarious.

  19. You know, I'm only an hour from Rockford and even go there sometimes for work - and I have never seen this garden. I'll have to remedy that. Your tall Rudbeckia is R. laciniata, I'd guess.

  20. I know where I will be longing to go (and bugging SAM about) this summer when we visit IL. You find the most delightful gardens, Rose.

  21. Wow, the arboretum looked amazing! I love that archway and the pollinator garden! Looks like so much fun! Today I'm off to the Boston Flower & Garden Show - I can't wait! I'm ready to see some flowers and to get some great garden ideas!

  22. The bed with all of the rudbeckia is gorgeous!!


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