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September 23, 2015: The Dallas Arboretum Fall Festival
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September 25-29, 2015
Steve Lee Visits Me in Dallas


Once a year, my friend from college, Steve Lee, comes to Dallas to attend a course at SMU; one of his alma maters. When he does, I am happy to have him stay with me. This year, he'll be staying with me from Thursday afternoon, September 24, through Tuesday, September 29.

The only outing worth photographs this time was the visit that Steve and I made to the Arboretum on Friday afternoon.



Getting to the Dallas Arboretum

The Dallas Arboretum is not too far from where I live over on Inwood- I'd guess about six or seven miles as the crow flies (see the map opposite)- but you can't get there as the crow flies because White Rock Lake is in the way. So you can either go through town and wind your way around the south end of the lake or you can take Mockingbird over around the north side of the lake. When Fred and I go there from the house, the northern route is most direct. That's the drive Steve and I made this afternoon.

In this closer view, you can see the south end of White Rock Lake and you can pick out the bike trail that hugs the lake shore almost all the way around. At the south end is White Rock Lake Dam and spillway, which takes the overflow water and sends it under Garland Road to continue on down to the Trinity River.

The bike path used to cross the top of the dam, but for one reason or another, the bike path was rerouted a year ago, and now it goes through some parkland and playing fields south of the dam, across the spillway, up Garland Road for a ways, and then back north along the lake shore.

You can also see a closer view of the Arboretum in this picture, and can begin to pick out some of the pathways through the gardens.

Finally, in this close-up of the Arboretum itself, you can see most of the major features- including the parking area just off Garland Road, the new administrative buildings, the restaurant and gift shop (all right near the parking lot) and, off in the middle of the gardens, the DeGolyer house (the former residence of the family that donated the land for the Arboretum to the Arboretum Society.

You can also see the maze of pathways that criss-cross the gardens.

Steve and I went from the house across town on Mockingbird Lane, then south on Buckner Boulevard to Gaston Avenue. Then we came back southwest to the main Arboretum entrance. Fred and I usually make a circular transit of the entire Arboretum each time we visit, but today Steve and I will just wander around and look at what's interesting. I do plan on taking him to Pumpkin Village. Fred and I were just there a few days ago, so I don't plan on taking any pictures that don't include Steve.

At right is a diagram of the Dallas Arboretum, and you can follow our route through the gardens on it. We didn't follow the usual big circle route that Fred and I do, but we mostly walked along the Paseo del Flores and also went over to the Rory Meyers Childrens Adventure Garden at the east end of the Arboretum complex.

1.   Main Entry
2.   Entry Plaza
3.   Trial Gardens
4.   Pumpkin Village
5.   Frog Fountain
6.   Test Beds
7.   Lay Family Garden

The Paseo is the main walkway through the gardens. It begins at the Arboretum Entry, where during the festival there is a display of fall plants as well as pumpkins and gourds. The Paseo leads past the display gardens, where there is always a lot of color, and then past the Pumpkin Village. It also passes the DeGolyer house, the Garden Restaurant and the Red Maple Rill- a beautiful, shady area of the gardens. It ends at the entrance to the Lay Family Garden, which is right next to the Alex Camp house. Behind the Camp house is the performance lawn that slopes down to White Rock Lake.

With that bit of orientation in mind, we can look at the pictures we took on our visit today. Usually, I would divide the page up into sections keyed to specific gardens and such, but I took so few pictures today that I won't bother with so much organization.

From the main parking area, the Arboretum entrance is reached by going down some stairs from the parking level to the Main Entry. At the bottom of those stairs there is a water feature that consists of a small waterfall and some seasonal plants. That I where I stopped to take my first picture of Steve.

Steve lived in Dallas for a time in the late 1960s when he attended SMU, but the Arboretum didn't get organized until ten years later. So Steve hadn't visited it when he lived here, and other than the occasional visits he has made her to see me or attend SMU events, he has been busy. I believe (but would have to check) that I brought him here some years ago, but I do know that he hasn't been to the Arboretum in quite some time.

We went through the Members Entrance and into the Trammell Crow Entry Plaza- a large area with a couple of fountains enclosed on three sides by a gift shop, restaurant, the actual entry and an education building.

Steve and I in the Arboretum Entry Plaza

When you come through the members' entrance you are at the top of this plaza with the gift shop and restaurant to your left and an information station and the education building to your right. The plaza opens up in front of you. You can leave the plaza via the Paseo del Flores ahead of you on the right or you can take the walkway down to the Fern Dell and the west end of the Jonsson Color Garden that is found on your left past the restaurant.

For the Fall Fesitval, there is always a huge display of pumpkins and gourds in the middle of and all around the entrance plaza, and the display in the center was an excellent place for me to prevail on another visitor to take the picture at right of Steve and I.

I think the display of gourds was more amazing this year than last; it is hard to describe the variety of them. They were of all sizes, shapes and colors, and it seemed that no two were at all alike. From the entry plaza, we turned right to walk down the beginning of the Paseo del Flores. Along both sides of the flagstone walkway there continued to be row upon row of pumpkins and gourds.

Steve at the Trial Garden

Immediately adjacent to the Trammell Crow Educational Pavilion is a special area of the Arboretum officially named "The All-America Selections Trial Garden". A non-profit named "All-America Selections®" tests new varieties of flowers, plants and vegetables and then introduces only the best garden performers as "AAS Winners". The AAS organization has designated some 100 gardens across the country- most of them in arboretums, botanical gardens or at universities- as official AAS Trial Gardens.

Each garden location "enters" plants into a judging process run by AAS Judges; they score each entry from 0 to 5 points, with 5 being the highest. Judges report their scores after the growing season for that variety. Judges are located in geographically diverse areas all over the U.S. and Canada. AAS uses an independent accounting firm to calculate the average score of each entry. Only the entry with the highest average score is considered for a possible AAS Award. The AAS Judges determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners.

The Judges look for significantly improved qualities such as earliness to bloom or harvest, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, novel flower forms, total yield, length of flowering or harvest and overall performance. In the last ten years an entry needs to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by Judges for an AAS Award.

The AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in Trial Grounds across North America, thus, our tagline of "Tested Nationally and Proven Locally®". The garden here at the Arboretum is one of these trial grounds. From here, we went further down the Paseo to Pumpkin Village.

Steve in Pumpkin Village

Pumpkin Village is undoubtedly the main attraction of the Fall Festival; it is always a hit with kids and offers a lot for their parents as well. There are two aspects to Pumpkin Village that draw visitors. The first, of course, is the absolutely gigantic collection of pumpkins and gourds.

The Arboretum brings in many thousands of pumpkins and gourds each year. Some are used as decorative borders, both in Pumpkin Village and elsewhere in the gardens. Many of the pumpkins are gathered together in Pumpkin Village in a huge collection where kids and other folks can wander through. Sometime in October, I think, the Arboretum begins allowing visitors to purchase the pumpkins, since otherwise they would go to waste.

The other use to which the pumpkins are put is as a construction material for building a series of structures that kids and their parents can go inside. The theme of these structures changes from year to year. Last year, it was fairy tales; this year, it was a western theme, and here you can see Steve standing by "the Sheriff's Office".

From a distance, it looks as if the structure walls are just stacked pumpkins, but a closer inspection reveals that the pumpkins and large gourds are actually sitting in metal holders, and are put close enough together to give the impression that the pumpkins are just stacked into walls.

On either side of the post office structure there were what are supposed to look like wanted posters (as you would have seen in a frontier building. They are actually photo ops, as you can stick your face in from the back while someone takes a picture from the front.

From Pumpkin Village, we cut across the lawn over towards the Frog Fountain at the south end of the Crepe Myrtle Allee. The fountain, a favorite with kids, has four huge bronze frogs spouting water into the center, where it drains down and is recirculated. I took a picture and a movie here, and they are below. The picture is at left and you can use the movie player to its right to watch the movie:

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From the Frog Fountain, we headed back up to the Paseo via the Test Garden, where the Arboretum is always testing new varieties and colors of various plants to see how they will do in the gardens- before they install large numbers of them. The test garden, which consists of long beds of different plants as well as a section where pot plants are tested, is always colorful, and on our way through I took the two pictures below:

Once we got back to the Paseo, we continued eastward past the Alex Camp House to one of the entrances to the Lay Family Garden. That's the garden that has the four waterfalls that are always a pleasure- particularly on a hot day.

The Lay Family Garden used to be the easternmost garden in the Arboretum complex; beyond it to the east were just service areas. When the Rory Meyers Childrens Adventure Garden was added to the Arboretum, however, an easy way to get to it from the rest of the gardens had to be created. Actually, two entrances were created. One was a walkway around the south side of the Lay Garden; that access was needed for the trams that run folks around the gardens.

The other entrance was created right by the Lay Garden's koi pond, and to add some interest, a kind of grotto was constructed over this walkway with its own waterfall down into the koi ponds. You can see this grotto behind Steve in the picture at left. On the walls of the grotto are some actual fossils brought to the Arboretum from Lake Texoma where they are found in abundance.

Walking through the grotto is always fun, and right on the other end of it is the pedestrian walkway that takes you to the entry plaza for the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden.

The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden was opened two years ago, and was designed to connect children with nature. Named for the Arboretum patron and Board member who spearheaded the effort to build it, its central focus is education. There are indeed quite a few plants, but those that the garden contains are usually part of exhibits- such as plants that feed us, plants that feed animals, Texas plants, and so on.

In the center of the garden is the education building that contains a working laboratory, education stations and a planetarium. (It is also air-conditioned, making it a popular stop in the heat of the summer). The garden covers eight acres with oddles of activities for kids at all kinds of little stations throughout the area.

Our Arboretum membership gets us entry to the Children's Garden, so I took Steve over there and got the shot of him at left by the main entrance.

We didn't go very far into the Garden; it is, after all, mostly for kids, but I did want to show Steve what it looked like. Just inside the main entrance there is an overlook where you can see most of the garden spread out in front of you, and I took a picture of Steve there.

The education pavilion is right in the center, but it is lower than here at the overlook (as the land slopes down to White Rock Lake). It is also hidden as there are gardens on top of it. But in the picture you can get an idea of the extent of the area.

I did want to take Steve and show him the curtain waterfall that is quite near the entrance. At the overlook, you can see what looks like a small infinity pool where water flows out and over the edge. The edge is designed such that the water falls in an unbroken curtain. Down below the overlook, you can walk behind that curtain of water and look at the gardens through the shimmering water curtain. This is also a nice place to be on a hot day.

So Steve and I went down the stairs to get behind the waterfall. There, I took one still picture (below, left) looking out through the curtain of water and then a movie (use the player below, right) so you can get a better appreciation for what it's like:

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With our walk through Arboretum complete, we headed home to meet Fred coming back from a visit to his Mom's. The three of us did some movies and dinners over the weekend, and then Steve had his seminar on Monday and Tuesday; he headed back to North Carolina on Wednesday after an enjoyable stay.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.

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September 23, 2015: The Dallas Arboretum Fall Festival
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