February 2011: Arnold Arboretum

Boston, Massachusetts

When the Father of Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted created Boston’s fabled Emerald Necklace of six parks in 1880 he wrote of the Arboretum site, “On (these) acres much the best arboretum in the world can be formed.” The Arboretum was founded in 1872 when the President and Fellows of Harvard College became trustees of a portion of the estate of James Arnold, a New Bedford whaler in the early 1800s. Botany professor Charles Sprague Sargent collected thousands of plant specimens and carefully sited them by their genus, or common family. Olmsted laid out the road system and overall planting scheme to make it blend naturally with the other parks in the Necklace. Today Boston’s tree museum spreads across 265 acres where more than 15,000 trees, shrubs and vines grow under the careful eye of the Arboretum’s plant stewards.  

There is no prettier hike you can take with your dog in Massachusetts than at Arnold Arboretum. The paths curve gently across the property and before you know it your dog has reached the top of Peters Hill with one of the city’s best vistas playing out before him among the gingkos and honey locust trees. Or peering through the lilac collection at the city skyline on Bussey Hill. You can easily spend your dog’s hiking day just strolling the historic roadways but tree enthusiasts will want to test the natural surface paths. And don’t restrict your explorations to just the marked paths - walk your dog into the collections to get a thorough arboreal education.

One of the first questions you have when you visit an arboretum is, “OK, where’s the biggest tree?” The folks at Arnold Arboretum are one step ahead of you and have designed a self-guided tour to the giants on the property. And the oldest? Probably a big white oak visible along the Oak Path that could pre-date the arboretum by 100 years.

Take Route 93 south or Route 1 south to Storrow Drive west to the Kenmore Square/ Fenway Route 1 south exit. Bear left. Follow signs for Fenway/Route 1 south. Bear right onto Boylston Street, following signs for Boylston Street Outbound/Riverway Route 1. Continue on Boylston for .4 miles as it turns into Brookline Avenue. After 1/2 mile turn left onto the Riverway/Jamaicaway to a rotary at Jamaica Pond. Follow signs for South Dedham/Providence. Enter the next rotary and take the second exit onto Route 203 east. The main entrance is about 50 yards past the rotary, on the right.