Garden Detective: 5 arboretums to visit in winter

An American Elm tree dominates the courtyard in An American Elm tree dominates the courtyard in between administrative buildings near the arboretum on the LIU Post campus in Brookville. (Dec. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print ...

Your own garden may be looking bleak right about now, and with summer a distant memory, you might think there's nothing more to do than pine for spring. Au contraire: Long Island's arboretums beckon.

Although many arboretums boast flower gardens during spring and summer, those are incidental to their raison d'ĂȘtre. By definition, an arboretum is a collection of trees, shrubs and woody plants cultivated for scientific and educational purposes. And the best part is that trees and shrubs are beautiful all year long.

Here are five local arboretums that not only are open, but offer a winter diversion, an education about exfoliating bark and twisted forms, and a peaceful, meditative walk.

Bailey Arboretum

Bayville Road and Feeks Lane

Lattingtown

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516-571-8020

Bundle up and take a self-guided stroll through this 42-acre Gold Coast property, which boasts a large collection of rare shrubs and trees, including a handful of endangered dawn redwoods, one of which is believed to be the widest of the species. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week.

Bayard Cutting Arboretum

440 Montauk Hwy.

Great River

@Newsday

631-581-1002

Situated on 690 acres along the Connetquot River, Bayard is home to a wide variety of bird species and has several nature walks to choose from, including a 2-mile riverside walk and trails through a woodland garden and naturalized area. Afterward, warm up with a traditional Victorian tea at the on-site Hidden Oak Cafe (reservations required, call 631-277-3895). Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday.

LIU Post Community Arboretum

720 Northern Blvd.

Brookville

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516-299-3500

Stop by the information desk at Hillwood Commons or call the arboretum to obtain a map, then set off on a 30-45-minute self-guided tour of the grounds, which are open from dusk to dawn. You'll see more than 70 species of trees growing in the formal gardens in this arboretum at the LIU Post campus in Brookville.

Hofstra Arboretum

114 Student Center

Hempstead

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516-463-6623

The 240-acre Hofstra University campus has an exciting little secret: It houses an arboretum with 12,000 trees, 80 sculptures and a notable pinetum with 110 types of conifers. What's more, it's open to the public for self-guided tours 24 hours a day every day of the year. There's also a gothic labyrinth constructed of 40 feet of circular granite surrounded by beautiful parterres.

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park

1395 Planting Fields Rd.

Oyster Bay

516-922-9200

The main greenhouse is open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. You'll see orchids, cacti, begonias, palms, ferns and hibiscus, plus special seasonal exhibits featuring poinsettias and more. The camellia greenhouse, also open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m., contains the largest collection of camellias under glass in the Northeast -- and they're in bloom all winter, peaking next month. The garden library in the Hay Barn complex will be open Tuesdays 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. beginning Jan. 10.

But the main attraction at Planting Fields is what's growing outdoors, like Stewartia, hollies and various evergreens, which are in top form this time of year, and the arboretum's 4.5 miles of nature trails.

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