TRAVEL HERE: MUCH TO LOVE ABOUT DALLAS ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL SOCIETY
My mother loves gardening and from the moment she heard an estate on the edge of White Rock Lake had been earmarked for an arboretum, she pledged her heart to it. The plans for the gardens were announced a few years before she retired. When the city threw an open house for interested parties, I went with her to see what the fuss was about. She told me she wanted to play a part in the project. Our family’s modest means wouldn’t provide a vast monetary donation, so Mom gave herself.
From Nothing, Bounty
In its infancy, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society (DABS) needed everything. The land for the Arboretum, which had been donated to SMU and then sold by the university to the city, had two homes on it. The grounds were lovely, but no one would have called it an Arboretum.
There were rolling hills, a great view of the lake, huge trees and lots of grass, but very little in the way of floral displays. Volunteers planted, mulched, watered, raised funds, served cookies, dusted furniture, started a gift shop…well, they did whatever needed to be done.
When she retired, Mom joined the ranks of the docents in the DeGolyer House. They gave tours of the house, even though there was little beyond architectural features to show. The owners donated the house and the grounds, but all the furnishing went to the owner’s children and grandchildren. Over time, furnishings authentic to the house or the period found their way into the rooms, but in the beginning, visitors wandered through vast empty rooms.
Mom volunteered much of her time and energy to the Arboretum. Throughout the year, she gave tours on Thursdays and during special events she’d sign up to help on other shifts. She’d pack her lunch, park in the volunteers lot and spend the day at the DeGolyer House infecting visitors from all over the world with her love for the arboretum. As part of a housekeeping committee she’d dust the mantles, windowsills and library shelves. She made cookies for a fund-raising committee and spent as much money as she could afford in the gift shop. The Volunteer Bulletin Board in the gardens could have been called “Ruth’s Hall of Fame.”
DABS Grows Like Weeds
And the gardens were growing. The Lay family of Frito-Lay fame donated an ornamental garden. The primary walkways became the Paseo de Flores. Other prominent families donated the Jonsson Color Garden, the Boswell Family Garden, the Palmer Fern Dell and the McCasland Sunken Garden. Our family donated Mom.
Then I moved to California with my husband. One day I attended a luncheon sponsored by a local women’s networking group. If I’d really been paying attention, I wouldn’t have been caught by surprise, but after lunch I turned my chair to see the speaker better. Projected on the screen was a familiar vista of my hometown arboretum. The speaker, who was priming the pump for a local horticulture project, said, “Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are the perfect example of what a community garden should be.”
The speaker was right. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are a perfect example of what a community garden should be. The rich have donated the funds to make the gardens beautiful and the rest of us have given our time. On any given Sunday afternoon children play in the fountains amid large stone frogs. Many brides plan their weddings in the gardens and many more just come to be photographed. Throughout the summer, concerts fill weekday evenings. An extravaganza called Blooms graces the Spring and Fall has Autumn at the Arboretum. In summer, children frolic in fantastic cottages and in winter, local decorators festoon the DeGolyer house with imaginative Christmas trees. Every day, tour buses drop off hordes of visitors from around the globe. I go as often as I can to see the garden and honor my mother’s contribution to it.
Come to Dallas. When you come, save a day for the arboretum. I’m sorry to say that if you come on a Thursday, Mom won’t be there to lead the tour. She’s much too frail for that now. But you can smell our most fragrant flower and enjoy our beautiful bouquet – The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.