Behind the Scenes With the Dallas Arboretum Horticulture Staff

Ready to prep your garden for spring but don’t know a sharp shooter from a drain spade? We asked the expert horticulture staff at the Dallas Arboretum to share their knowledge on everything from where to purchase seedlings to what to wear while gardening. Take notes, and get ready for a fruitful spring!

What are the three must-have gardening tools you should always have on hand?

First and foremost, whatever tools you buy, they should always be good quality so that with a little bit of maintenance, they can last a long time. Most horticulturists would agree that the most important tool you can ever own is a good pair of pruners. Our recommendation would be the Felco #2 classic pruners. Keep them sharp and clean. Since the most common task in any garden is weeding, another important tool is a stirrup hoe. This will save your back and your fingers, as well as make your garden more aesthetically pleasing. A good shovel is absolutely imperative since the second most common task is planting. We recommend a sharp shooter or drain spade since Texas has heavy clay soil. The long, narrow shovel blade allows you to cut through the clay.

What is the most used tool in the Dallas Arboretum’s garden shed?

The Dallas Arboretum is an annual color display garden, which means we plant more than 700,000 annuals and bulbs over the course of a year. Our most valued and used tool is the hand trowel. We issue one to all horticulture staff members and tell them to guard it with their lives. Unattended hand trowels get claimed pretty quickly in these parts.

What are two dos and don’ts when it comes to using and storing your tools?

Do clean and properly store your tools when you finish using them. Don’t store them dirty, and do always keep them dry. Do keep all your tools in good working order. This means sharpening and oiling your pruners, shears and shovels. Don’t use your tools for a job for which they weren’t meant. If you use hand pruners and really needed to use a pair of loppers, you run the risk of damaging the plant material, the tool and/or yourself. Don’t buy cheap tools. You get what you pay for.

Do you have a recommended gardening shop for basic/beginner tools?

If you really don’t know what to buy, then you always want to stick with your local retail nurseries such as North Haven Gardens (Dallas), Shades of Green (McKinney/Frisco), Marshall Grain Co. (Grapevine), Archie’s Gardenland (Fort Worth) or any of the numerous Calloway’s Nursery stores throughout the area. These smaller and locally owned nurseries tend to understand our gardening challenges and can recommend what you need to get started.

What would you recommend as being proper attire while gardening? Is it important to wear gloves, pants, a hat, etc.?

Gardening is all about being comfortable and enjoying the activity, but everyone’s opinion of proper attire is different. From top to bottom, here are some basic guidelines:

A good hat. Whether you’re a baseball cap fan or you love a big straw hat, it’s important to keep your head/face covered. Additionally, you should always apply sunscreen to any exposed skin to minimize exposure and potential for sunburn or sun damage. Don’t forget to reapply later in the day.

A cool shirt. Anything cotton is going to breathe better, but in this day and age there are wicking materials that allow you to sweat and cool off without it weighing down your clothing.

Shorts vs. pants. This is more personal preference than anything else. A lot of horticulturists will swear by long pants when working in the garden to minimize sun exposure, bug bites and scratches.

Glove vs. no gloves. If you prefer to wear gloves, there are many types to choose from. One of our favorites are the nitrile-coated cotton gloves—they’re versatile and inexpensive. Leatherwork gloves are still a rose pruning necessity, though.

Work shoes vs. boots. Closed-toed shoes, whether work boots or tennis shoes, need to be comfortable and durable. Merrell, Columbia, Hunter, Muck, Keen, Red Wing, Timberland, Wolverine and Carhartt are all common names around here. Our shoes have to work as hard as we do.

Achieve your New Year’s goals with a 1-mile walk through the Dallas Arboretum

For most of us, January’s arrival usually means making some attempts to live healthier or to save more money. If this sounds like you, then the Dallas Arboretum is where you need to be. With discounted prices for all of January —admission is $5 and parking is $8 when purchased online—and some incredibly beautiful walking routes, the Arboretum is here to support your New Year’s goals this month!

Our One-Mile Fitness Trail is the traditional walk through the Dallas Arboretum gardens. On this walk, you’ll see the Martha Brooks Camelia Garden, the Alex Camp House, the Jonsson Color Garden, the Fogelson Fountain and much more—it’s an ideal way to see natural beauty of the Arboretum, while getting in your daily exercise.

For those who want a break from tradition (or a shorter walk), this second walking route based around A Woman’s Garden—part of the historic DeGolyer garden—is just under a half-mile.

1. Walk to the statue of the Woman looking at the infinity pond.

2. Turn left and go down the stairs for a nice walk through the Buddleia trees. This will take you to the poetry garden, which is reminiscent of a formal English rose garden. Walk up the stairs and back around the pools to the Portal to Phase II.

3. The Portal is where the garden transitions from formal to natural. Here you’ll see a winding creek to your left and a natural lawn and plantings to your right.

4. Walk across the bridge, and come to the grotto, which features shade and small waterfalls in the Koi ponds.

5. Continue past the Koi ponds and up the Bride’s walk. You’ll reach an elegant gazebo with views of the lake—the perfect opportunity for a picturesque rest.

6. From there, you’ll see the historic Sunken Garden of the DeGolyer Mansion, with its long, easy steps to the bottom, as well as a fountain and statue.

7. Up the opposite stairs, turn right back into A Woman’s Garden and reach the Pulpit, a heart-shaped viewing area overlooking Phase II with views of the lake.

8. Continue on the path to the staircase back to Phase I, and take in the views over the infinity pool to the lake. This is an excellent photo opportunity.

9. Back on the main lawn turn right at the first set of steps for a glimpse of a living sculpture: an Aeolian Wind harp, which plays music with the wind.

10. And now you’re back where you started! Pat yourself on the back for taking one more step toward your goals—or begin another loop around the trail!


5 reasons to visit the Dallas Arboretum for just $5


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The Dallas Arboretum’s holiday activity roundup

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