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With its dramatic topograpy, water features, and multilayered tree canopy, the Woodland Garden is one of the Arboretum’s most iconic displays. It’s also a huge draw in autumn, when foliage enthusiasts come from all around the region to admire the fall color, especially of the garden’s Japanese maples. The Woodland Garden houses one of the largest collections of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) in North America, with more than 70 cultivars represented.

The concept of the Garden—including its upper and lower ponds—was marked in the original 1936 Olmsted Brothers’ plan for the Arboretum. In his field notes from that time, lead landscape architect James Dawson recognized the potential of the lightly wooded, well-watered ravine to become a major feature of the nascent Arboretum. The plant palette evolved over the next couple of decades, with most of the Japanese maples being installed in the lates 1940s and early 1950s.

In the latest issue of the Arboretum Bulletin, landscape architect Jason Morse writes about the history of the Woodland Garden’s design and how it developed into one of the region’s most beloved horticultural displays.