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It’s Poppin’: May 12th

May 12, 2023


Did this week feel a little more like summer than spring to you? Did you enjoy the sunshine this week? Let’s take a look at what’s poppin’!

Holden Arboretum

Right now, the Arboretum is ablaze with lilacs and azaleas. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the Display Garden adjacent to the south side of our main parking area, is looking spectacular. The lilacs are full of blooms this year, and all our cultivars are at absolute peak bloom. Dozens of different lilacs await, and once again, don’t be afraid to stop and smell them – it’s part of the experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Common Lilac ‘Krasavista Moskvy’
Common Lilac ‘Glory’

Azaleas are also stealing the show. Look for the Korean azalea (Rhododendron yedoense ‘Pink Discovery’) in the Rhododendron Discovery Garden. Travel to the Layer Rhododendron Garden to see the beautiful pinkshell azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi), a native of the southern Appalachians. And while you’re there look for the dwarf crested iris nativar Iris cristata ‘Power Blue Giant’ on the west side of the same garden.

Korean Azalea
Pinkshell Azalea
Dwarf Crested iris

Finally, in the wildflower garden, spot the Ohio native roseshell rhododendron, (Rhododendron prinophyllym) on top of the sandstone rockery, and in the limestone rockery, look for the beautiful shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia), a wildflower that grows in the sweet soils of southwest Ohio. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see this uncommon bloomer to those of us who mostly botanize northeast Ohio.

shooting star

Cleveland Botanical Garden

The story at the Garden is that our beautiful peonies have opened up. It’s the first time of the season that we’ve talked about this group of plants. The tree peonies (Paeonia x suffruticosa) have perennial, woody stems. Visit the entrance to the Western Reserve Herb Society Garden to find a white tree peony, and then move to the restorative garden to spot a beautiful deep magenta flowering tree peony.

White Tree Peony
Tree Peony

Between the two, in the rose garden, you’ll see the beautiful white flowers of Rhododendron ‘Desire’, an azalea. Walk down the stairs to the Woodland Garden to spot Halesia tetraptera, the Carolina silverbell, a southeastern native shrub that has white, downward facing bell-shaped flowers. For another bit of white, look down at the forest floor to find the mayapples in full bloom. Finally, as you’re walking to the Waterfall Garden, you’ll see a red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) blooming between the path and East Boulevard. This beautiful tree is native to the southeast and south-central United States.

Rhododendron ‘Desiree’
Carolina Silverbell
Red Buckeye

While we’re still waiting for the large leaved rhododendrons to bloom in earnest, azaleas, lilacs and peonies all make for wonderful opportunities to take in the floral wonder that abounds at both of our campuses. It’s poppin’!

Thomas Arbour

Thomas Arbour

Curator of Living Collections

I grew up in northeast Ohio, graduating from Stow High School. I attended Hiram College, where I learned to love plants through the mentoring of Dr. Matt Hils. After Hiram, I obtained a Master of Environmental Science at Miami University, completing an internship with The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in Columbus to help convert the Ohio Natural Heritage Database from paper maps to a GIS-based system. Over 20+ years, I worked with ODNR in central office in Columbus as a rare plant botanist, wildlife research technician, nature preserves administrator, and finally, the state trails administrator. In these positions, I had the opportunity to document many of Ohio's rarest plants and plant communities.

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