History of the Garrett Park Arboretum

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GardenFounded in 1872, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is the oldest public arboretum in North America. A mere 105 years later, the Town of Garrett Park made itself, by law an arboretum and that is special. To our knowledge no other incorporated town has that designation.

What is an arboretum? It is a varied collection of trees and shrubs, selected, labeled and grown for a specific purpose. At a large institution like the Arnold Arboretum, plant exploration, education and research are the primary objectives. In a small town like Garrett Park, the goal is to provide shade, beautiful flowers, fine fall color, winter interest and botanical diversity. In addition, the goal is to make its residents more aware of the plants along their streets, in their parks and in other public spaces through brochures, articles, labels and tours.

A concern for trees was nothing new for Garrett Park. In 1887, the Metropolitan Investment and Building Company, then developing the area, promised plantings of native trees to shade and ornament the streets: in 1890, elms and sugar maples were planted. After Garrett Park was incorporated as a Town in 1898, one of its earliest ordinances gave legal protection to trees and shrubbery.

A lifetime later, trees inevitably had to be replaced. In 1977, rather than limit choices of variety of trees normally permitted by Montgomery County, Garrett Park legally declared itself an Arboretum. The Arboretum Committee advises the Town Council on acquisition and maintenance of this collection. Our Arboretum has many rare and unusual varieties obtained from other arboreta, botanic gardens and specialty nurseries, often grown from seed or cuttings. Today the search for new and better varieties continues.