In 1958, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was a little-known horticultural research station sitting on 160 acres of remote marshland.
Today, 50-plus years later, the Arboretum has blossomed into an international research center and cultural destination that contributes to the horticultural, economic, and intellectual lives of people all over the world. Named as one of the "10 great places to smell the flowers" in America by USA Today, the Arboretum boasts 24,775 member households, 856 volunteers and more than a 402,619 visitors each year. With its 1,200+ acres, 28 gardens, 18 displays and model landscapes and 45 plant collections and more than 5,000 plant species and varieties, the Arboretum has become one of the premier horticultural field laboratories and public display areas in the country, reaching out as a living, vibrant extension of the University of Minnesota.
From its interactive displays of Minnesota's natural environment to the scores of plant labels designed to allow visitors to replicate favorite gardens at home, the Arboretum is a kinetic wellspring of education, research and inspiration.
The mission of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, as part of the University of Minnesota, is to provide a community and a national resource for horticultural and environmental information, research and public education; to develop and evaluate plants and horticultural practices for cold climates; and to inspire and delight all visitors with quality plants in well-designed and maintained displays, collections, model landscapes and conservation areas.
Faced with a substantial need to research plants suitable for growing and surviving in a rugged northern climate, in 1956 the Men's Garden Club of Minneapolis approached the Minnesota State Horticultural Society with an idea for an arboretum. An option was taken on 160 acres of land near the University of Minnesota Fruit Breeding Farm west of the Twin Cities, and with the help of a gift from the Lake Minnetonka Garden Club, the land was purchased in 1958 and given to the University.
Dr. Leon C. Snyder
In 1970, Dr. Leon C. Snyder, head of the Department of Horticulture, was selected as the first full-time director. Having outgrown its small education building, ground was broken in 1971 for a new research and education building. The structure, subsequently named the Leon C. Snyder Education and Research Building, houses the Andersen Horticultural Library, offices, classrooms, research facilities, conference areas and an auditorium. With this new facility, the number of visitors increased markedly and many more classes were offered, plant collections continued to grow, and new greenhouses were added.
Dr. Francis de Vos
Upon Dr. Snyder's retirement in 1976, Dr. Francis de Vos became the Arboretum's second director, ushering in eight years of refining and redesigning. A new master plan emphasized plants relevant to gardeners and the general public. Under de Vos' directorship, new display gardens were developed, linked by paved walkways. These include perennial , herb, rose and home demo gardens, hosta glade, woodland azalea garden and Japanese garden. A conservatory was added to the Snyder Building and in 1982 the Learning Center was built.
Peter J. Olin
In 1985, Peter J. Olin became the Arboretum director. His focus turned to expanding research and educational programs, including a unique Urban Gardening program and expanded children and adult classes. The Arboretum's internationally recognized Therapeutic Horticulture Program was initiated during Olin's tenure. Other new additions were the Nelson Shrub Rose Garden, the Irvine Sensory Garden, Horticultural Therapy Center, Pillsbury Shade Tree Exhibit, Spring Peeper Meadow, MacMillan Terrace Garden and Bailey Shrub Walk. Olin also oversaw the opening of the new 45,000 square-foot Oswald Visitor Center.
Edward L. Schneider
In the summer of 2010, Edward L. Schneider became the Arboretum's fourth director, following an interim directorship by horticulture professor Mary H. Meyer. Prior to joining the Arboretum, Schneider served as president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden from 1992 to 2010. Schneider holds a Ph.D. in botany from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A recipient of distinguished teaching and research awards, Schneider has published five books, including an introductory botany textbook at the collegiate level and four related to CEO and trustee governance. He is also the author of over 110 scientific, peer-reviewed papers and has been a board member of several organizations including the Botanical Society of America (BSA), Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), American Public Garden Assocation (APGA), American Association of Museums (AAM), Texas Academy of Sciences and the International Water Lily Society (IWLS).
Research at the Arboretum's Horticultural Research Center has taken on global significance as it continually develops improved, hardy strains of fruits and woody plants. Since its inception in 1908, the Horticultural Research Center (HRC) has been a strong contributor to Minnesota's "green" industry, generating more than 103 fruit introductions, many of them internationally known and in demand.
The Arboretum's heritage as a trendsetter in plant research began in the early 1900s when the researchers' singular task was to develop apple varieties that could survive in Minnesota's subzero temperatures. Over the last century, the HRC has emerged as the center of fruit research for the upper Midwest with connections throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia.
While apple breeding remains the cornerstone of the research program, home gardeners, nursery professionals and commercial fruit growers have benefited from Arboretum plant introductions such as ‘Northwood' Red Maple, ‘Northern Sun' Forsythia, selections in the ‘Northern Lights' Azalea series, and the many varieties of hardy apples, blueberries, plums, apricots, pears, raspberries and strawberries.
Today, the HRC encompasses 230 acres and continues as a research arm of the Arboretum and the University of Minnesota's Department of Horticultural Science.
The Arboretum's Spring Peeper Meadow Wetlands Restoration Project (SPM) is bringing back to life a sedge meadow as it develops model prairie wetlands restoration landscapes. Originally slated to become an industrial park, Spring Peeper Meadow was acquired by the Arboretum in 1995. The 30-acre project is the country's first restoration of a sedge meadow on a tiled cornfield.
Because restoring a wetland is an incredibly long process, long-term data for inland wetlands simply doesn't exist. Dr. Sue Galatowitsch and her team are working to change that as they gather data on everything from birds and amphibians to soil chemistry and temperature.
A site for cutting-edge data collection, SPM is also a groundbreaking project designed to demonstrate techniques used to effectively restore biodiversity in urban wetlands. Private and public agencies from around the country can turn to SPM for a model they can replicate in their own communities.
The award-winning Marion Andrus Learning Center creates educational experiences for children, teachers, and families, and is at the heart of the Arboretum's mission. Children's educational programs reach about 50,000 students and teachers each year through school field trips, an Urban Gardening program and the popular Plantmobile.
Renovated in 2003, the Learning Center has new and existing programs and state-of-the-art learning spaces, including an interactive greenhouse and gallery, where children can get their hands dirty as they touch and experience plants; the new Harvest Kitchen, a unique and innovative demonstration kitchen and fiber lab where visitors can connect plants with their uses in everyday life; a Potting Shed for growing plants; a treehouse, and a children's garden. In the Sally Pegues Oswald A Growing Place for Kids, two hands-on educational labs allow the Arboretum to reach children and their families more effectively than ever before.
The Arboretum's Therapeutic Horticulture Program serves people of varying abilities in every stage of life via programs in the community and in the Clotilde Irvine Sensory Garden, where visitors can indulge their senses as they experience plants chosen for their fragrance, texture and form. By helping to connect people to plants and the earth, the internationally renowned Therapeutic Horticultural program promotes healing, self-esteem, pride, and socialization.
The Arboretum's Adult Education Program provides rich opportunities for life-long learning, offering seminars, lectures and workshops in a variety of topics - from aromatherapy and handmade papermaking to prairie plant propagation, edible landscaping, butterfly gardening, and ecological landscape design. The gardening classes are a way for beginner gardeners, gardening enthusiasts and industry professionals to learn from expert instructors in the Midwest's largest and most spectacular outdoor classroom - the 1,200+ acres of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Arboretum offers seasonal classes so students can immediately apply what they've learned to their own garden.
The heart of the Arboretum is its new Oswald Visitor Center, with its soaring McQuinn Great Hall, Reedy Gallery, MacMillan Auditorium, Wall Education Wing and Teaching Garden, and expanded gift store and restaurant. The Oswald Visitor Center is the formal entry point to the Arboretum's gardens and starting point for exploration of Arboretum grounds on foot, or by car, bike or tram. It is joined with the Snyder Building by an enclosed skyway, allowing both facilities to be used as one.
The Leon C. Snyder Education and Research Building was dedicated in 1974 and plays host to the world-renowned Andersen Horticultural Library, which houses 15,000 volumes on horticulture, natural history, and children's literature. The only horticultural research library in the Upper Midwest, it also maintains one of the largest seed and nursery catalog collections in the country, with more than 56,000 entries dating from 1840 to the present. Also in the Snyder Building is the Meyer-Deats Conservatory, which offers visitors an opportunity to learn about indoor plants and their care.
Spaces are available within the Oswald Visitor Center and Snyder Building for meetings, retreats, banquets, and other special events. The Arboretum's exquisite gardens and terraces are also available for business receptions and weddings.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum features 1,200+ acres of beautiful public gardens designed to inspire ideas for visitors' own backyards. From spring's pastels to autumn's blazing palette, garden highlights include:
Grace B. Dayton Wildflower Garden: This popular garden features native plants of the deciduous woodlands and includes a collection of Minnesota's state flower, the Showy Lady's-slipper. A population of the Dwarf Trout-lily, a plant listed on the federal endangered species list, is also preserved here.
Pauline Whitney MacMillan Hosta Glade: This cool summer spot borders the fern walk and features more than 300 varieties of this foliage shade plant. Constructed in 1980 on a gently sloping site, shaded by a canopy of mature sugar maples, it is a favorite place for many visitors.
Johanna Frerichs Garden for Wildlife: From butterflies to bullfrogs, the Garden for Wildlife is a working laboratory designed to demonstrate the most effective ways to attract birds, insects, mammals to the backyard by providing food, shelter, and a reproductive habitat.
Mary L. Griggs Annual Garden: Situated near the scenic Three-Mile Drive, this new annual garden display features more than 75,000 plants, enhanced by circular stone walls, walkways, and a large Victorian-style fountain.
Richard and Judith Spiegel Entrance Garden: One of the first gardens visitors see as they enter the Arboretum grounds is this spectacular perennial display in front of the Snyder Administration Building
Herb Gardens: Specialty collections feature culinary herbs appropriate for a home garden, an English Knot garden, a cloistered garden with medicinal herbs and a collection of fragrant herbs. The gardens are small but well-designed, and offer plenty of ideas for the home herb gardener.
Palma J. Wilson Rose Garden and Nelson Shrub Rose Garden: These gardens display 400 varieties of hybrid garden roses and hardy shrub roses, and are enhanced by fountains, trellises and a gazebo.
Clotilde Irvine Sensory Garden: A model display of accessible containers and planting designs suitable for a variety of gardening styles and abilities, this garden engages the senses and refreshes the spirit.
Elizabeth Carr Slade Perennial Garden: This spacious oblong garden is modeled after traditional European formal gardens. The extensive perennial collection emphasizes a complementary color and texture display of hardy plant material, and provides continuous bloom from late March until frost.
Gordon Bailey Shrub Walk: This area features 350 shrubs whose form, hardiness and availability make them particularly suitable for Minnesota landscapes.
Spring Peeper Meadow: Spring Peeper Meadow is a model wetland restoration project. It is home to more than a dozen species of sedges and many native wetland grasses and wildflowers. The meadow is accessible from the main building via walking paths or visitors may use a parking lot adjacent to the meadow on County Road 41 and 82nd Street.
Japanese Garden: Seisui-Tei (Garden of Pure Water) was designed by nationally renowned landscape architect Koichi Kawana. This traditional Japanese wet garden (featuring Minnesota-hardy plants and a stone waterfall) is perfect for contemplative viewing throughout the seasons.
Woodland-Azalea Garden: This beautiful display of azaleas showcases many specimens of the hardy "Northern Lights" azalea series developed at the Arboretum. It also features woodland plants, such as native ferns and wildflowers suitable for Minnesota gardens.
Francis De Vos Home Demonstration Garden: This collection of gardens presents visitors with a variety of plants and ideas for home gardening. Each garden combines the best plant materials for Minnesota landscapes with attractive building materials and innovative construction techniques.
Sarah Stevens MacMillan Terrace Garden: This wonderful garden represents a model northern perennial and annual garden, featuring a refreshing color palette of pinks, whites and blues throughout the growing season.
Waterfall Garden: The headwaters, pool and granite bridge that allows visitors to literally "walk over water," was added to the reconstructed Waterfall Garden, as well as an accompanying Dwarf Conifer Collection.
Crabapple Tree Collection: One of the most spectacular bloom periods at the Arboretum is in May, when the Crabapple Tree Collection on Three-Mile Drive is in full bloom. The collection features more than 300 crabapple trees, including 100 different varieties.
Eleanor Lawler Pillsbury Shade Tree Exhibit: Designed to demonstrate the importance of the urban forest and the characteristics of shade trees, this exhibit is made up of informal stations that cover topics such as shade quality, sensory appeal, how trees modify the climate and tree diseases.
Bennett/Johnson Prairie: The Bennett/Johnson Prairie, established in 1965, is designed to showcase plants that existed on the tall grass prairies of central Minnesota before the days of settlement.
Year-Round Trails: The Arboretum also features 12 miles of hiking trails, 8 miles of cross-country ski trials, and 7 miles of snowshoe trails.
Arboretum Artwork: Visitors will find 194 words of art in total, including 72 sculptures and 122 indoor works of art. The Harrison Sculpture Garden, initially established in 2013, now includes 26 outdoor contemporary sculptures by internationally known artists. Throughout the gardens, visitors will encounter additional sculptures by acclaimed local and global artists.
For more information or to request an interview, contact the Arboretum's Public Relations department at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information, call (952) 443-1400.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest and a premier northern arboretum, is part of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota and developed as a community and national resource for horticultural and environmental information, research, and public education. It is located nine miles west of I-494 on Highway 5 in Chanhassen. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator. The Arboretum is disability accessible; its buildings and grounds are smoke-free.