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Great Garden Spots

Connecticut’s climate, soil and varying terrain make it a wonderful place for growing and observing plants and flowers. There are so many gardens and sanctuaries calling out for a visit – and this season, garden visits are a great way to get out while remaining socially distant. Here’s a few spots you might considering exploring.

Arboretums and Gardens

One of the state’s most rewarding destinations is the Arboretum at Connecticut College in New London. Established on 64 acres in 1931, the Arboretum has now grown to encompass the college’s entire 750-acre campus, including forests, meadows, wetlands, wildflower gardens and ornamental trees and shrubs. July brings a spectacular show of the Oakleaf Hydrangea, a white to purplish-pink bloom that lasts into autumn.  

Similar pleasures can be found across the state at Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens in Stamford. Set on 91 acres, Bartlett describes itself as “a living museum of numerous specimen trees and plants displayed in several distinct natural habitats including woodlands, wetlands, meadows, and in formal gardens.” Numerous trails wind through the various habitats, while educational programs for children and adults highlight each season. 

State Forests

A couple of state forests in eastern Connecticut offer spectacular shows of two of our best known (and best looking) natives. In season, the Rhododrendron Sanctuary in Voluntown’s Pachaug State Forest is one of Connecticut’s most impressive natural sights. A raised boardwalk takes visitors on a half-mile walk among giant Rosebay rhodies, some growing as tall as 30 feet. Meanwhile, in Union’s Nipmuck State Forest there’s a Mountain Laurel Sanctuary, a mile-long path through stunning displays of our official State Flower. It would certainly be possible to visit both sanctuaries on the same day.

Rose Gardens

Rose fanciers can take in the color and fragrance of the 800 varieties of roses and 15,000 plants that form the centerpiece of Hartford’s Elizabeth Park. The park encompasses just over 100 acres and features many garden areas, pathways, greenhouses, lawns and a pond. The garden is one of only 22 public All America Test Gardens in the country. In Norwich, Mohegan Park’s rose gardens bloom in later June and early July. It’s a great place for outdoor activities or to enjoy the view from the pavilion that overlooks Spaulding Pond.

Nurseries & Shops

One of Connecticut’s true hidden gems for flower lovers is Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, a plant nursery established in 1989 devoted to introducing American gardeners to the beauty and variety of Chinese tree and herbaceous peonies. On seven acres there, the gardeners have created a terraced woodland garden they call Peony Heaven, one of the few such habitats in America.  

Finally, if you’re in a buying mood for your own garden or from a world-famous collection of plants and flowers, plan a visit to White Flower Farm in Litchfield. Long a mail-order favorite of avid gardeners, White Flower’s retail location is open for curbside pickup, so you can still take home some beautiful blossoms.

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