What is an arboretum?
An arboretum is a place where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown for scientific and educational purposes. Plants are maintained, labeled, cataloged and mapped. Each arboretum is unique, due to the characteristics of the setting, the collections, and the research and educational goals.
- Provide an aesthetically pleasing, diverse and accessible landscape conducive to academic study, recreation, meditation and visitor interest.
- Identify future planting goals through landscape guidelines that visually and spatially reinforce the character of both artificial and natural environments on campus.
- Develop the arboretum as an outdoor laboratory to provide opportunities for botany, biology and horticulture.
- Preserve unique natural plant specimens of historic value.
- Incorporate future plantings that are sustainable in Central New York, with an emphasis on native species.
- Provide interpretive materials such as plant identification signs, maps and accession records.
- Provide opportunities for partnerships with local plant organizations.
From 1920 to 1940, Professor of Chemistry Arthur Percy Saunders hybridized herbaceous and tree peonies in the Root Glen at Hamilton College, a process which resulted in the creation of 73 named varieties. Biology major Tara Cicic ’18 spent a good deal of time in Grant Garden, collecting samples from Saunders’ peonies, and genotyping them.
A Level II arboretum must feature at least 100 species of woody plants, employ a paid staff, and maintain enhanced public education programs and a documented collection policy. With 787 trees, 114 shrubs, and perennials that are labeled on 1,350 acres, Hamilton’s arboretum includes 125 tree species.
Professor of Chemistry A.P. Saunders hybridized the peonies in the early- to mid-1900s. His work with tree peonies — which resulted in 80 named varieties — was a notable achievement and his fame especially established with hybridizing the yellow tree peony. The Grant Garden, created by Elihu Root for his daughter, Edith Root, was renovated in 1996 to become a display garden for peonies.