“Les jardins sont des poemes
Ou l'on se promene les mains dans les poches.)”
“Gardens are poems
Where you stroll with your hands in your pockets.”
― Pierre Albert-Birot
I’ve always thought of art museums as poems where I wander keeping hands away from alarm sensors. From the Uffizi, the Louvre, the Prado, the Winter Palace, to the more local Art Institute in Chicago, misty words float among the Renoirs and Caravaggio’s waiting for me to scan and rhyme them. Which I haven’t -- yet.
I had the same feeling, without the fear of alarms, in Rockford’s Klehm Arboretum and gardens. I did not want to disturb the beauty of the trees and blossoms with my hands or a careless footstep, but branches reached out to me, caressed my arms, and sprinkled pollen in my hair. Here, you can pocket fallen leaves, seeds and cones and fashion your own souvenir.
An arboretum is a living museum of trees, and Klehm offers 155 acres resplendent with 500 varieties of trees and other woody plants along with gardens of flowers both wild and cultivated. The peony garden features over 70 varieties, and the fountain garden has a gazebo, making it a popular wedding venue.
A leisurely walk of both paved loops, which form a figure eight, takes 1 1/2 hours, and the paths are accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Dirt trails branch away from the main path. The Elm Trail and Old Hedgerow Trail are among the most traveled.
In keeping with its ‘living museum’ mission, Klehm offers educational programs for children and adults and festive events such as wine tastings and luminary walks.
No matter how you choose to experience Klehm, it will bring out the poet in you even if choose to clutch a fallen pine cone instead of scribbling down some words.