Before you even enter the lush and exquisite gardens of the UC Davis Arboretum you can smell them. Rich sweet scents from the flowers and trees in bloom, and the earthiness of the grasses taunt your nose and lure you down the paved winding path into the serene setting of this gem. It sits inconspicuous amidst the hustle of a bustling University campus.
Walking through the gardens on its system of interlocking paths is a journey into relaxation, beauty and education. The colors of the flowers pop against the greens of the many native grasses along the waterway of the Putah Creek drawing your eyes and beckoning for you to come a little closer. As you get closer you realize the signs that identify the plants and their scientific classifications. It is an almost second nature reflex to read the signs and fill your brain with knowledge as you fill your senses with the sights and smells.
There are benches throughout the gardens tucked away in little coves that provide a comfortable place to drink it all in and watch the butterflies fluttering from plant to plant. It is a wonderful place to view insects, waterfowl and local songbirds along with the decorative foliage.
Continue down the path to find the redwood garden where the trees tower and the earthy bitterness of the bark and canopy of the needles offer ample shade on a hot valley day. While the Mary Wattis Brown California Native Garden is a perfect place to view the local flowers, plants and wildlife, the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove is perfect for bringing a book and relaxing amongst the giants. Rays of sunlight stream through and highlight the rich redness of the bark and make the greens of the ferns seem to glow at the bases of the trees.
The Arboretum was established in 1936 and now boasts seventeen different gardens to enjoy on its 3.5 miles of path. There are over 4,000 varieties of trees and plants to be seen. Every garden offers plenty of beauty and a chance to immerse yourself in your natural surroundings. The gardens are also a great example to show children the rewards of gardening at home and create interest for them to get involved in nature. The UC Davis Arboretum is as much a gift to the community as it is to the University and its students. The Arboretum offers a variety of community educational programs including guided tours, family nature programs, school programs for grades 2-4, talks by artists, naturalists and scientists, classes, workshops and plant sales. Whether you choose one of the many offered programs or a self guided tour the alluring gardens have something for everyone.
My family is interested in returning to the gardens near dusk on an evening of a full moon to take full advantage of the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden that is based on medieval moon viewing gardens of India and Japan. The gardens fragrant and pale flowers show their luminescence in moonlight.
For more information on the UC Davis Arboretum please visit: http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu
For a map of the gardens please visit: http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/visitor_map.aspx