sugar maple, up, treeI am searching for a tree – not just any tree, but a TREE.

I’m a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) and one of our upcoming juried international exhibits is the Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial exhibit called ‘Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens’, November 18, 2017 – April 22, 2018. Our submission deadline is next April and so I am searching for a representative from Connecticut.

Here is the criteria for choosing a tree:

The theme of the Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial will be trees in gardens, inviting artists to capture images of one of the planet’s most important and beautiful resources. These tree subjects must be found in a botanical garden or arboretum, and each entry will include the location(s) of the entered tree(s). We encourage artists to seek out unique trees in botanical gardens and arboreta, in any season, and depict whatever aspect of them they find most engaging and inspiring. Or reach out to the garden’s horticultural staff to learn what trees they believe are worthy of note.
Our goal with the exhibition is to highlight the role of botanical gardens and arboreta in educating the public about trees and their ecological and utilitarian roles, as well as the research/scholarship they do in these areas. This includes a scientifically ordered collection rather than a collection assembled for aesthetics, although of course aesthetics are important.

The Arboretum at Connecticut College

My first stop was the Connecticut College Arboretum. I visited the Arboretum on June 24 with my friend Cindy. Our first thought was ‘we should have come a week or so ago’. The first view after walking through the gate is a grassy lane bordered by mountain laurels on each side. They were just on the down side of blooming. We persevered and started our walk.

The first tree that caught my attention was some sort of magnolia, judging by the flower.

Umbrella Magnolia or Umbrella Tree flower

Umbrella Magnolia or Umbrella Tree flower

The reason this tree is called 'the umbrella tree'

The reason this tree is called ‘the umbrella tree’

The latin name for this tree is Magnolia tripetala. It is commonly called umbrella magnolia or just umbrella-tree, and it is a deciduous tree native to the southeastern United States in the Appalachian Mountains region. The leaves are clustered at the ends of the branches forming a shape reminiscent of an umbrella!

The next tree was one of the arboretum’s signature trees – a beautiful, stately and very tall, Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.

Very tall tulip tree!!

Very tall tulip tree!!

I actually had some tulip tree blossoms in my refrigerator that I had gathered after a windstorm a few weeks earlier. Upon returning home, I pulled them out. Unfortunately they had gone a little ‘bad’ and had to be thrown out. But this tree is still on the short list.

The next trees that caught my attention were these two eastern redbud trees, Cercis canadensis. One has such a beautiful growth habit and the other very interesting leaf color. Although they are small trees, they would make interesting subjects when in bloom. They bloom before the leaves come out but I am not sure I would be able to see these specimens in bloom with enough time to complete the painting as my deadline is late April.

Two different varieties of redbuds.

Two different varieties of redbuds.

When I was a young girl, my mother took me on several spring break road trips with my best friend and her mother. We would head south from Connecticut just driving. I remember watching the landscape change towards spring and summer as we got further south. I vividly remember seeing the redbuds in bloom – bright pink spots in an otherwise dormant picture. I think these trees are still on the shortlist!

We walked on trails with lots of native mountain laurel in various stages of bloom searching. I was beginning to think there was nothing that really grabbed at me, Cindy kept telling me we have more garden to go through. And then we saw this venerable one.

The Sugar Maple

The Sugar Maple

Now this is a TREE – a sugar maple, Acer saccharum. This tree is magnificent! I was so impressed that I forgot to even try to estimate how big around it is! I will be watching this tree and will get that measurement the next time I visit it. I will also have to find out from the arboretum how old this tree is; my research tells me that a healthy sugar maple can live up to 400 years. The sugar maples can have every fall leaf color on a single tree so you can be sure I will visit this tree in the fall.

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There were other highlights – one is the woodland wildflower garden that was pretty much all past bloom as most of the species are spring blooming. We will definitely be coming to see this garden next spring.

They have a native azalea garden where we found some late blooming varieties still putting on an incredible show!

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We also found the mountain laurel garden; the flowers were starting to go but the varieties were absolutely gorgeous!

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We really enjoyed this arboretum and recommend it as worth visiting!

My search continues though – next stop, a very unlikely arboretum – at the Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum in Rocky Hill, CT. Practically in my backyard!