Although many arboretums boast flower gardens during spring and summer, those are incidental to their raison d'être. 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.
Bayville Road and Feeks Lane
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.
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.
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.
114 Student Center
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.
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.