The Orange County Arboretum in Montgomery, NY is a great place to refresh and refine your appreciation of how and why humans tangle with nature. It’s a public, 35-acre collection of trees and shrubs in several diverse garden settings. It’s park-like, with wide, winding paths, but without the chattering presence of hikes, sports, playgrounds or pets. There’s a gentle, ambling quality that’s increasingly rare these days. It invites the quiet mind to notice certain plantings, trees, garden features and dawdle and perhaps imagine a version in your yard. There are bees and beehives, greenhouses, unusual water features and the occasional frog.
The mix of elements at the arboretum reflects that fusion or confusion of Orange County itself: sliced by busy major highways, home to sprawling distribution centers, malls and yet mountain views, beckoning waterways, horse farms, orchards, back roads and the strong architectural presence of American farming history. The arboretum was built on former pastureland and is not as themed and well-tended as other regional nature places, which makes for a casual accessibility. And it’s quite dotted with memorials: benches, plaques, entire gardens, which make for an otherworldly experience in addition to the plant divas and tree spirits. It’s the site of the County’s 9-11 Memorial. Yet, it’s a lively place. I was there just after many beds of tulips had died. But the wisteria and weigela were in bloom as was a full, bushy dwarf lilac I’d not seen before. Quite a contrast. Thirty-five acres of information like that: the seasons, passing and emerging. Then there are mature, old trees and plantings just waiting for you each visit.
The Orange County Arboretum is open during daylight hours all year. Visiting here on a regular basis is a nice complement to personal yard work and more adventurous hiking. It feeds you in a quiet, important way. And it’s an easy place to meet friends.