As we made our way up the hill, a glimpse of pink stood out against the pine backdrop. A slight breeze helped the azaleas wave hello. I knew it had been too long. It wasn’t on purpose. Mother Nature seemed to be dishing out an endless supply of gloomy days. The brief reprieve from the rain meant the perfect opportunity to take a hike and clear my head.
At just under one mile, the Fred Lape Trail is well suited for visitors interested in a gradual stroll with ample opportunity to be immersed in plant and bird life. Adventure seekers looking for something more strenuous at the Arb have plenty of opportunity to add mileage by including other trails.
It was a Sunday morning in early May when I brought my husband Sam and our Pomeranian, Lil’ P, for our first hike of the season. Boots were a must, given the wet weather we’d been having. The weeping Alaska cedar, which is part of the Choice Conifers Collection, has to be one of my favorite trees. Its Seussian-like branches are a sight to behold.
The azaleas and rhododendrons are on a little path that veers off the Fred Lape Trail. These beauties are surrounded by the Pine Shelter — another one of my favorite spots at Landis. You may hear a serene trickle from a seasonal stream contrasting with the cackle of a pileated woodpecker in a neighboring tree. This balance offers an ideal location to gather your thoughts as you peer up into the towering pines. Sam agrees.
After we left the Pine Shelter, we turned right to make our way past the oaks and lilacs. The lilacs prepared to open, while the oaks remained leafless. Although it was a bit early for their show during this visit, the full-bloom lilacs (I’d estimate mid-May) are a must see when exploring the Arboretum. The dainty purple and white flowers release a sweet, floral scent that is almost intoxicating. Bluebirds and tree swallows swooped above our heads, seemingly in competition for a prime nesting location this season.
Sam often has to catch up with Lil P’ and me because he gets distracted by their songs. Crabapples and pines are in view as you visit the Fred Lape Memorial, honoring the Arboretum’s founder. We stopped here to admire the vista and reflect on the man who founded this natural sanctuary.
Since it was our first outing this year, we didn’t cover as much ground as we anticipated. But we couldn’t pass up a peek at Willow Pond and the Van Loveland Garden. Willow Pond is absolutely serene. Walking the perimeter of the pond, we like to play a game. Instead of “Where’s Waldo?” it’s “Where’s Frog‑o?” and we search for green friends camouflaged amongst the aquatic foliage. Plop, splash. Lil’ P must have startled a hidden turtle.
Yellow-green buds just started forming on the willow tree bordering the pond. In the summer months, its wispy, cascading branches will provide a shady reprieve.
Our last stop took us through the pale yellow daffodils and purple crocuses bringing life back into the Van Loveland Garden. I was reminded of a passage from one of my favorite childhood books “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett:
“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always a pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden — in all the places.”
Each time we visit the Landis Arboretum, it’s as if there is always a new treasure to discover. It could be because of the sheer number and variety of the plants at Landis — or just the pure joy we McClarys get observing the natural world.