The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has become a legendary destination for its spring flower displays. A whopping 40,000 tulips bloom nearly all at once, amidst blooming trees and other flowers, quenching Eden Prairie residents’ desperate thirst for living color after a long winter of darkness, snow and ice.
But did you know that autumn at the Arboretum is equally stunning?
A convergence of beauty occurs this time of year as summer’s bounty bursts forth with a lushness unimaginable in April, all while autumn’s splendor begins to emerge. Local favorites such as roses, dahlias, showy annuals, vegetable crops and ornamental grasses look their best now and continue all the way until early October or beyond. Meanwhile, pumpkins, squash and gourds, grown primarily on Arboretum’s farm plots, start showing up in mid-September alongside whimsical Scarecrows in the Garden, including — new this year — some whimsical creatures made out of giant round hay bales.
Apple harvest begins in mid-August and continues until the end of October, with each seasonal variety rolling onto the sales floor at the Arboretum’s AppleHouse, 1.5 miles west of the public garden’s main entrance. Unlike the Arboretum, it’s free, and no reservations are required. North Star Donuts (Tuesday-Sundays) has a popular food truck that serves up apple cider mini donuts, cold cider slushies and cold-press coffees — every day except Mondays — through October.
Add to all this the rich fall colors of trees, which turn technicolor as the evening temperatures dip, and you have quite a spectacle.
It’s almost overwhelming! Where to begin? Here’s what I suggest:
If you’ve never been to the Arboretum: Simply book a ticket (required) online and treat yourself to a beginner’s tour on Three-Mile Drive to get the lay of the land. If you’re looking to move a bit more, try the Three-Mile Walk, or you can take a narrated tram ride at select times if your schedule permits.
If you want to get away from it all: Get your ticket and explore the Arboretum’s many miles of secluded hikes (now that the insects are slowing down), including an East Side trail system (map) and a West Side area (map).
If you have visiting kids or family you want to entertain: Explore the special events and activities schedule. My top picks would be Field Fest on Sept. 9, AppleFest on Sept. 23 and the Arb Glass Pumpkin Patch on Sept. 15-17 or the Fall Color Trail Run/Hike on Oct. 6-8, held in conjunction that same weekend with Arboretum’s Library Book Sale, Minnesota Herb Society Sale and Auxiliary Harvest Sale.
If you love apples (or mini donuts): Celebrate Minnesota’s apple season at the Birthplace of the Honeycrisp at the Arboretum’s satellite destination AppleHouse, just 1.5 miles west of the main Arboretum grounds entrance. First Kiss and Zestar apples are on sale now, with new varieties ripening week by week. You’ll also find Arboretum-grown table grapes and locally made pies, strudels, ciders and an array of gourmet food items and even University of Minnesota meats in the freezer. I recommend you make this an annual tradition, in addition to a stop at the aforementioned North Star Donuts truck.
Editor’s note: Sarah Jackson is a former journalist, editor and garden writer who found her calling as the public relations/media specialist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.
Jackson’s column on the happenings at the Arboretum will appear periodically on the Eden Prairie Local News website. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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