Destination Illinois: Rockford’s Klehm Arboretum

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — One of the nation’s most beloved botanical gardens is located in the heart of Rockford.

Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is home to a wide variety of flora from around the world and is a popular spot for newlyweds.

It’s called “Rockford’s Living Museum,” a 155 acre site for enjoyment, education and inspiration located at 2715 S Main St.

A landscape architect established the land as a nursery for the Rockford area in 1910.

After nearly 75 years of selling plants, the nursery was donated to Winnebago County with one stipulation: it be maintained as an arboretum.

Now, it is a showcase for over 500 woody plants and trees, some not seen anywhere else, including an American Chestnut, an endangered breed that’s nearly extinct. The one at Klehm is one of a few hundred that live outside of northern Michigan.

“A blight came through this country and wiped them out,” said Klehm Arboretum’s Executive Director, Alexander Mills.

On a typical wooded forest in the Midwest, there might be 50 woody plant species, but Klehm is home to over 300.

Outside the hundreds of species of trees, there are 75 different hostas, 90 different daylillies, and 72 varieties of peonies.

“We’ve got a calendar online that tells you what’s in bloom. We’ve got miles of unpaved trails. It would take about one-and-a-half to two hours to see everything,” Mills said.

Mills says Klehm acts as an oasis for all ages.

“We get, I call them love letters. We get notes all the time, cards sent to us. People enjoy the peace, the tranquility. They can come out in the morning or in the afternoon, and spread out,” Mills said.

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