The Arboretum is the state botanical garden of Kentucky. Established in 1991 and managed by the University of Kentucky and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, The Arboretum features over 100+ acres of pristine landscapes filled with a variety of trees, shrubs and flowering blooms. The Arboretum, also known as The University of Kentucky Arboretum, The State Botanical Garden of Kentucky or the Lexington Arboretum is open to the public from dawn to dusk year-round.
The mission of The Arboretum is to foster a broader understanding of the natural world and the surrounding environment, encourage an interest in conservation and preservation, and urban forest renewal. The Arboretum also acts as a community center for environmental education, horticulture and provides cultural opportunities for the community to enjoy.
The Arboretum features a variety of gardens that are designed to stimulate all of the olfactory and visual senses from taste to scent and to give visitors some interesting ideas for their own gardens at home. The Arboretum partners with University professionals, horticultural clubs, and groups, and plant breeders to introduce new selections of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and roses to the garden for the public to enjoy.
The Arboretum features a variety of smaller gardens, ranging from a Herb Garden, a Home Demonstration Garden, a Home Fruit and Nuts Garden, and an All-America Selection Trials Garden to a Woody Plant Collection, a Vegetable Garden, a Ground Cover Demonstration and a Perennial Collection. The unique Home Fruit and Nuts Garden features a fascinating array of nuts and fruit, such as Chinese Chestnuts, dwarf apples, Japanese Walnuts, American Persimmon, Pecans, Shellbark and Shagbark, and Native Pawpaw trees.
The garden also has a ‘Walk Across Kentucky’ garden, which simulates Kentucky's seven regional landscapes, namely Appalachian Plateaus, Alluvial Basin, Bluegrass, Cumberland Mountains, Knobs, Outer Nashville Basin and Mississippian Plateaus, Mississippi Embayment, and Shawnee Hills.
The Home Demonstration Garden lies at the heart of The Arboretum and spans four acres, which is divided different sections that each illustrate a particular idea or theme that work well in the Bluegrass. This garden features plants that require less maintenance such as watering and fertilizer, yet are still visually appealing.
The Fragrance Garden is a small garden tucked between the Rose Garden and the Home Demonstration Garden and has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. The garden features mulched walking trails, wooden columns covered in climbing roses, including some of the arboretum’s oldest heirloom roses, and rows of lavender and espaliered fruit trees. The Fragrance Garden is also home to a wide selection of herbs and other plants that are renowned for their distinctive scents.
The Rose Garden at The Arboretum features more than 1,200 different cultivars of roses, including Climbers, Floribunda, Rugosa, Landscape, Polyantha, and Hybrid Tea. The garden’s collection was gathered by rose breeders from around the world with the aim of sharing their beauty with the public. Vine and rose-covered pergolas and a dry-laid stone wall are features in the garden, as well as a beautiful cobblestone walk that leads to a beautiful sculpture of 49 stainless steel birds in flight to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Flight 5191 accident at Bluegrass Airport in 2006.
The Dorotha Smith Oatts Visitor Center features new plantings throughout the year, beginning with spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils, violas, pansies, and other bulbs. Summer annuals, shrubs, and perennials follow and include marigolds, brightly colored zinnias, daylilies, multicolored sweet potato vines.
The Kentucky Children’s Garden is a unique interactive outdoor learning environment designed especially to help children between the ages of two and 10 years old to discover the world of plants. The two-acre garden features child-size theme gardens with immersive educational exhibits, a small amphitheater for presentations, winding pathways and comfy benches. Other children’s activities include storybook time that follows the path from the from the Visitors' Center to the Kentucky Children's Garden with each station along the way telling an interactive tale
The Arboretum is located at 500 Alumni Drive in Lexington and is open daily from dawn until dusk throughout the year. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours and picnics throughout the gardens and guided walks with a professional horticulturist on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
The Arboretum acts as a community center for environmental education, horticulture and provides cultural opportunities for the community to enjoy. Programs include the Fayette County Extension Master Gardener Program, a variety of children’s programs and activities, and docent-led tours.
Back to: Best Things to Do in Lexington
500 Alumni Drive, Lexington, KY 40503, Phone: 859-257-6955
More: Things to do in Kentucky, Places to Visit in Kentucky, Romantic weekend getaways in Kentucky, Things to Do in Kentucky, wedding venues in Kentucky, Kentucky amusement parks, Things to Do in Cave City, Things to Do in Bowling Green, romantic getaways in Lexington, drive-in theaters in Kentucky, Kentucky Waterparks, hotels in Kentucky