By Greg Lecker
On my drive to the Arboretum Saturday morning, I saw a miraculous sight – Canada geese walking on water. Or so it appeared – their feet were visible under their lightly colored undersides. Upon closer inspection, I learned the truth. A thin, clear, but strong layer of ice had formed overnight. High temperatures in the upper 50s degree Fahrenheit on Thanksgiving morning yielded to a dreary afternoon with incoming cold front, a dusting of snow, and air temperatures dropping below the freezing point. Last night, the mercury plunged to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperatures since last February.
Adjacent to the main parking lot, a White Cedar reminded me of the promise of rebirth next spring. Fittingly, the Arborvitae – tree of life – bears seed cones.
The Learning Center offered numerous opportunities for studying bulbs, another sign of life in a dark season. Classroom displays presented stations for printing, planting, and even cooking with bulbs – in the form of making garlic toast. A cross-sectioned hyacinth bulb revealed the secret that a miniature identifiable flower bud already exists deep within the nested leaf scales and protective tunic, awaiting its dramatic appearance next spring.
Outside the Learning Center, Picnic Shelter C stands shuttered until next year. But atop its green roof wave seed heads of Prairie Dropseed (Sorobolus heteroleis) and Prairie Onion (Allium stellatum) – which is itself a bulb.
The Arboretum’s buildings offer plenty of reasons to visit this holiday season. Glass enclosed conservatories shelter plants and visitors alike in both the Learning Center and the Arboretum’s Snyder Building. Certainly, the centerpiece of Oswald’s Great Hall is a twenty-foot-tall tree of live poinsettias. The Herb Society’s birch-bark ornaments are inspired by Susan Betz’s book Magical Moons and Seasonal Circles. Fragrance of Fraser Fir wafts through the Great Hall. Among other sculptures covered in natural materials, a snowman is dusted with sunflower and safflower seeds.
In the Reedy Gallery, outside the MacMillan auditorium, paintings remind us of the autumn colors of the Arboretum’s grounds (on display now through January 31). Next to the Arboretum restaurant, Jacque Rosenau’s digital paintings allow close-up selections from the Arboretum’s Iris Collection (now through January 14).
Consult the Arboretum calendar for more information on holiday events, times, and locations. The Saturday I visited, the Chanhassen Dinner Theater and holiday heralders of the Minnesota Chorale sang Christmas carols. Enjoying art, a musical performance, the Auxiliary sale, or tasty brunch is a great way to warm up after a walking, skiing or snowshoeing tour of the Arboretum grounds.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.