I’m sure my two daughters aren’t the only little girls who have ever wished for a chance to tromp through a magical forest filled with bright flowers, exotic trees, and enchantment around every turn. Fortunately, they have something akin to this fantasy not far from their own backyard.
Neatly tucked away behind the campus buildings of the University of Idaho sits the 63-acre UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The large arboretum is divided into smaller collections based on the geographical location of the species on display. These include eastern and western North America, Europe, and Asia. The botanical garden has many permanent displays and adds approximately 1500 new annuals every year to ensure bright blooms and color are visible for much of the year. A 1.5-mile gravel trail loops through the lush grounds and bark covered paths wind through smaller exhibits.
While I would have been more than content to stroll slowly and read all the informational plaques posted near the trees and flowers, my daughters were far more interested in running through the greenery, darting around trees and looking for fairies they were certain lived in this fascinating forest. Although the flying sprites eluded them, the girls enjoyed skipping along the trails, chasing ducks near the arboretum’s pond, and shouting for me to look at one awesome tree here and another unusual tree there. My favorite sights included an impressive Gingko tree, moss-covered Pioneer Elms, a striking array of Lily cultivars, and various Clematis varieties trellised up a large rock wall.
The UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden is open to the public and many classes and student groups from the University of Idaho use the grounds for educational purposes. Planting maps and a detailed directory are offered online and a basic map is available at the trailhead. Nature lovers and tree and plant enthusiasts could easily spend hours investigating all the arboretum and botanical garden have to offer. Several commemorative granite benches are scattered throughout the grounds and provide lovely spots for rest or reflection.
While it’s always been an ideal location for picnics and leisurely walks, in recent years the arboretum has become a popular site for outdoor concerts, weddings, and photo-shoots. The UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden is open every day from dawn to dusk, there is no fee for visitors and free parking is available near the entrance.♦