Explore the Gardens

The Holden Arboretum incorporates about 3,500 acres in Lake and Geauga counties, with 200 acres dedicated to cultivated gardens and special collections. Our gardens showcase a wide range of plants from delicate spring ephemerals to grand displays of brightly colored rhododendrons, and each garden has its own story to tell.

Arlene and Arthur S. Holden Jr. Butterfly Garden

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly in the Holden Butterfly Garden
The Holden Butterfly Garden was designed to attract pollinators.

Built in stages starting in the mid-1990s and completed in 2002, the Holden Butterfly Garden is a haven for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Located behind the Corning Visitor Center, the garden is often the first stop for visitors exploring the grounds. The two ponds surrounded by a lush garden designed to attract pollinators is filled with summer blooming plants and reaches peak bloom in July and August.

In addition to delighting visitors in search of butterflies or with its breathtaking summer color, interpretive signing in the garden provides visitors with a better understanding of the pollinators that visit its flowers.

Display Garden

The nine-acre Display Garden has been a part of the Arboretum landscape for many years, but its current layout was developed in the early 1980s. A four-season garden, planted with a mix of trees, shrubs, perennials, dwarf conifers and bulbs, the garden is home to two of the Arboretum’s plant collections – the Arthur S. Holden Sr. Hedge Collection and the lilac collection.

The hedge collection is one of the first things guests discover after leaving the Corning Visitor Center grounds and entering the Display Garden. Designed in 1969 to provide visitors with ideas for hedge selection and maintenance practices, the collection’s display showcases a variety of different hedges valued for their aesthetic and environmental benefits. All of the hedges in the collection are pruned with hand pruners, which is time-consuming but gives the hedges a more natural look.

The Display Garden’s gentle trails take guests past around Lotus Pond, where guests may spot waterfowl enjoying the pond, which was dredged in 2015 and replanted with lotus plants – Nelumbo ‘Mrs. Perry D. Slocum’.  On the shores of Lotus Pond, look for the giant bird’s nest, which provides children with a bird’s eye view of the pond and garden.  A golden weeping willow (Salix x sepulcralis ‘Chrysocoma’) is located on the shores of Lotus Pond. Planted in 1990, this fast-growing tree is a favorite for photographers visiting the garden.

The garden’s Lilly Pond was added in 1980 and a contains hardy water lilies that can spend the winter on the bottom of the pond.  The lilies will bloom from June to September.

Each spring the lilac college fills the garden with color and fragrance. The collection includes about 350 lilac plants, which are all native to Europe and Asia.  Depending on the species, you will find them in bloom from early May to mid-June. In the summer, the garden is filled with a variety of blooming plants, including hydrangeas and daylilies.

Visits the Display Garden should include a stop at the Whitney Bed Memorial on the west side of the garden. Built in 1998, the Whitney Bed Memorial effectively demonstrates how to use herbaceous perennials for season-long color and texture.  The short loop trail allows visitors to observe these plants up close.  Located off the main trail, close to the Wildflower Garden the sitting area is a popular place for visitors to stop and enjoy the view.  The log arbor is covered with Dutchman’s Pipe vine.

Eliot and Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden

Named in honor of C. W. Eliot Paine and his wife Linda, the 4.5-acre Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden opened in 2013 after two years of construction and now allows visitors to learn more about this beautiful group of plants as they stroll through three different areas. The first introduces visitors to rhododendrons in their native habitat, the second explores the role Northeast Ohio has played in Rhododendron hybridization and the third helps visitors learn how to successfully use rhododendrons in home landscapes.

At the center of the garden is an overlook with a rustic pergola created from black locust wood. The garden’s central walkway leads visitors into the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden, a larger display garden.

The garden was designed by MTR Landscape Architects, LLC and constructed by Vizmeg, Inc. of Stow. The garden was named in honor of the Arboretum’s former executive directors and his wife. Paine led the Arboretum from 1983 until 1995. He later served on the organization’s board of directors.

Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden

The gazebo in the Layer Garden.

The rhododendron collection at the Holden Arboretum was started in 1940 by Warren H. Corning. In 1971, contributions made in honor of Helen S. Layer allowed for the creation of a 20-acre garden with rolling hills shaded by oaks and maples. Heath, Hourglass and Sherwin ponds are all located in the garden. The heron statue, which can be found in Sherwin pond, is dedicated to Harold Layer, who helped fund the garden in honor of his late wife, Helen.

Designed by Cleveland landscape architects, 250 rhododendrons for the garden were donated by Charles Dexter, one of the first east coast gardeners to start a rhododendron breeding program. Between 1921 and 1943 he raised thousands of plants at his Heritage Plantation on Cape Cod. Today, Holden’s collection of rhododendrons includes 52 species, 46 of which can be found in the Layer or Paine gardens. Among these are examples of Rhododendron ‘Maud Corning’, named in honor of the wife of Waren H. Corning, the arboretum’s first volunteer executive; and Rhododendron ‘Holden’, developed by Tony Shammarello of Euclid.

Visitors to the garden will also notice beds where the rhododendrons have been pruned to promote vigorous new growth. This was done in 2015 after some of the rhododendrons began to falter after the hard winters of 2013 and 2014.

At the center of the garden, guests will find the Guardians of the Garden carved in the stump of a red oak. Created by Dan Sammon, a local artist, with a chainsaw and a torch, the stump is decorated with woodland animals and a mythical green man. The stump is the remains of a 150-year-old red oak that broke apart on May 29, 2007.

The garden’s newest feature, currently being developed is the June Room. When it is complete, the June Room will feature rhododendrons and other woody and herbaceous plants that bloom in the month of June. In addition to the beautiful rhododendrons, the garden is also home to the Judith and Maynard H. Murch IV Canopy Walk.

Henry Norweb Jr. Tree Allée

R. Henry Norweb Jr. Tree Allee
R. Henry Norweb Jr. Tree Allee

One of the Arboretum’s newest features, the Norweb Tree Allée was dedicated in 2013, honoring the memory of R. Henry Norweb Jr., who led the institution from 1959 until 1983.

A modern idea on a classic gardening element, the Norweb Tree Allée is lined by five different species of trees that over time will grow to provide guests with a shaded walkway as they travel between the Display Garden and the Eliot and Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden. While the trees still have a way to go before they reach full growth, the young trees and accompanying groundcovers provide a pleasant walk along a riparian stream garden.

The wide walkway is lined with 11 Corylus fargesii  (paperbark hazel), 11 Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak) and a dozen Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’ (American elm), which is resistant to Dutch elm disease. In addition to the three canopy trees, horticulturists have planted disease resistant flowering dogwoods, Cornus florida ‘Appalachian Spring’ and serviceberry trees, either Amelanchiergrandiflora ‘Robin Hill’, along with the walkway as well.

The choice to use a variety of trees rather than the single species of a tree often seen along other tree allées reflects Holden’s commitment to biodiversity and will help preserve the integrity of the allée from a pathogen affecting one of the species.

Lantern Court Gardens

Lupinus perennis (wild lupine)
Wild lupine blooming at Lantern Court

Built in the 1930s as a residence for Warren H. and Maud Corning, Lantern Court is a Georgian Colonial house built of Ohio sandstone, surrounded by 25 acres of informal gardens and woodlands.

The landscaping was planned by Warren Corning and landscape architect Donald Gray. Entering the grounds, visitors can enjoy the view of the magnificent perennial borders, rose and wildflower gardens, rockery and primrose valley, where Candelabra primroses bloom in late spring and early summer. A terrace at the house overlooks a wooded ravine where a tributary of the East Branch of the Chagrin River forms a 20-foot waterfall. The garden is shaded by oak trees planted when the house was built, which have aged into beautiful specimens, which adds to the grand appearance of the grounds.

The home is now used as a venue for private events. The gardens are open to the public Monday – Friday from April through October and included with admission to the Arboretum. Guided tours are also offered in the spring and summer. Visit our online class schedule for dates and times.

Myrtle S. Holden Wildflower Garden

Native wildflowers in the Holden Wildflower Garden
Native wildflowers in the Holden Wildflower Garden

Located in a native pawpaw patch, the Myrtle S. Holden Wildflower Garden was established in 1968 through the generous donations of the Arthur S. Holden family in memory of Myrtle S. Holden, commemorating her deep love of Ohio’s native wildflowers. Developed by former volunteer coordinator, Elizabeth Martin, and naturalist Louis Sturm, the garden was first used to bring in and display the many wildflowers found on Holden’s diverse acreage, the Holden Wildflower Garden has evolved into a showcase of Ohio’s native flora and a repository for the vanishing flora of the Great Lakes region.

The five-acre garden includes more than 400 native Ohio species displayed in representative habitat plantings modeled after significant plant communities found in Ohio. The plantings consist of the woody and herbaceous species characteristic of each community. Associated species are displayed together to demonstrate habitat relationships, landscape situations and Ohio’s diverse flora.

Want to explore the gardens with an experienced guide? The Arboretum offers Highlights tours of the grounds each weekend from April through October, which visit the key gardens in our collections. Tours of the Lantern Court gardens, as well as tours and classes focusing on specific collections, are also available throughout the spring, summer and fall. To find out more about scheduled tours, visit our online calendar.