Out & About
The Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens
By Paul Hicks
In 1913, Francis A. Bartlett, founder of the F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company, acquired 30 acres of North Stamford woodlands to use as his residence, training school, and research laboratory. Over the years he assembled a large number of trees and other woody plant specimens from all over the world on the property.
After his death in 1963, Bartlett’s Stamford property was purchased by the State of Connecticut. Four years later, The Bartlett Arboretum opened to the public, and in 2002, the title to the land was transferred to the City of Stamford with an association responsible for all managerial and operational oversight of the property. An additional 27 acres of adjacent city property was added to the existing property.
Today, the Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens is a 93-acre natural preserve filled with a wondrous collection of trees, a variety of gardens, wildflower meadows, and woodland walking trails. It also provides a number of environmental, horticulture, and plant science educational programs for children and adults.
Trees and other woody plant collections are the backbone of an arboretum. At the Bartlett Arboretum, some of the most interesting of the collections are:
The Bartlett family continues its interest in the Arboretum and contributions to the collections. Robert Bartlett Jr. has a keen interest in magnolias and has provided the Arboretum with several new hybrids in recent years. The collection has grown to more than 40 cultivars of magnificent Star Magnolias, Chinese Magnolias, and Saucer Magnolias.
A large grouping of needled evergreens, including pines, spruces, true cedars, false cypress, and hemlocks is known as the Pinetum. Among the more exotic are Weeping Hemlocks and Japanese Umbrella Pines with needles that diverge around the stem, giving them an “umbrella” effect.
Alice Smith Fern Allee
This pathway is bordered on each side by more than 60 varieties of ferns, which thrive with other shade-loving plants. The woodlands and wetlands of the Arboretum are dotted with no fewer than 22 varieties of native ferns. Ferns are among the oldest plant forms, dating back as far as 350 million years.
Filled with more than 100 local species on about one-quarter of an acre, this garden represents the diversity of attractive native plants that can be used for the home landscape. Some of the noted plants in this garden are Virginia Bluebells, Trout Lilies, Mayapples, Black Cohosh, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
The grounds of The Arboretum are open to the public seven days a week, from dawn to dusk at no charge. A trail map is available at www.bartlettarboretum.org/trail-map-1. Before you visit, download their free mobile app to take a self-directed audio and visual tour, answering your questions about their collections and history.
The Arboretum and Gardens are at 187 Brookdale Road in Stamford, the best route is via the Hutchinson and Merritt parkways to the High Ridge Road exit, turning left (north) and watching for the sign on the left to the entrance.
As their website rightly says: “With 12 gardens and hundreds of new species to discover, the Bartlett is a living classroom for people of all ages to experience and enjoy nature. Whether you are looking for an enchanting environment to discover, exploring the grounds with a four-legged friend, or researching a particular variety of plant.”