Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lovin' The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Garland Road in Dallas, Texas is a busy thoroughfare on the east side of the city. Driving southwest from Garland toward the city center, bustling traffic doesn't allow a driver to take his eyes off the road for long. Frankly, there doesn't seem to be any reason to look around. Much of the area looks worn. But a long brick wall conceals one of the loveliest spots in the city: The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

In the early 1930s, Everette DeGolyer (1886-1956), a geologist who contributed significantly to the development of the oil industry, chaired a committee to find a site for an arboretum. Perhaps while he was engaged in this endeavor, he found a tract of land overlooking Dallas's White Rock Lake.

White Rock Lake was originally established as a water reservoir to serve the needs of Dallas following a severe drought around 1909. The dairy farm was flooded. The lake was completed by 1912 and immediately became popular as a recreation area. White Rock Lake Park was established in 1929. Wealthy citizens began to purchase property overlooking the scenic landscape. Everett and his wife, Nell Goodrich DeGolyer (1887-1972), purchased the property he found on the eastern shore, not for an arboretum but for a home site.

The DeGolyer home was built in 1939 in the Latin Colonial Revival style, but designed to look like it was a century older. It was a most impressive house with twenty-one thousand square feet and served by central air-conditioning and heating. They called it "Rancho Encinal" because of the many encinas (live oaks) on the grounds.

Over fifty years after DeGolyer's committee began its search, the arboretum became a reality, ironically, at "Rancho Encinal." After purchasing the estate from Southern Methodist University, the City of Dallas began work to create their long-awaited garden. A property neighboring the DeGolyer's home was bought. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1984. The DeGolyer's home has been recently renovated to appear as it did in the 1940s, and is open for tours on weekends or during special events.

Some folks associate arboreta and botanical gardens with universities, boring sites set aside for research, visited occasionally by professors and students. But the Dallas Arboretum is not that. It's a delightful place for families, full of pleasure, art, music, glorious garden displays and the fun of learning. There is something always going on. This time of year, the Arboretum hosts The Great Pumpkin Festival. This year's festival began 18 September.

On the day we visited, hundreds of people were strolling along the paths, enjoying performances, enjoying the lawns, reading, photographing friends and family, and gazing across the vista at the Dallas skyline. It seemed that around every corner a wedding was beginning or in progress. Brides were posing everywhere in cowboy boots.  Some folks lingered quietly by water gardens colored by koi. Everywhere the laughter of children could be heard. I was impressed by the wonderful architectural features, sculptures, masses of mums and perennials, elegant walks, quiet pathways and fall landscapes. What a wonderful day it was.

Of course, research takes place, too. Plants of all sorts can be seen on display in trial gardens. Examples of xeriscaping taught visitors how to maintain a beautiful landscape with less water.  Xeriscaping is a concept which time has come.  But the sheer exhuberance of color and scenery demonstrates that learning can be fun and that gardening is delightful. No doubt, many who visited that day returned home inspired to start planning, planting and getting their hands dirty for the sake of beauty.

To experience this season's Great Pumpkin Festival, be sure to visit before mid-November. You can click on links above to enjoy photographs made during my visit. You'll be lovin' the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

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