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Showcasing rare and uncommon trees, Klehm Arboretum encourages families to take a closer look

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden offers scenic trails to spend quality time with family and friends. It's not only a staple in Rockford, serving families for generations, but it's also a place full of outdoor resources.

"This place is truly unique. It was never meant to be an arboretum and botanic garden from the start," said Executive Director Alex Mills.

Before Klehm Arboretum got its name, it was originally a tree nursery owned by William Lincoln Taylor, a landscape architect, in 1923.

"They [William Lincoln Tayor and his two brothers] ran a nursery into the 1960s when it was sold to the Klehm family, who ran it into the 80's as a tree nursery," said Mills. "Many of the trees you see here were grown because they were so beautiful and they were grown to be sold."

The Klehm family wanted to put the rare tree collection to good use. They donated the land to the Winnebago County Forest Preserve in 1985 where it stays today.

"The magnolias and the crab apples are starting to open," commented Education and Programming Director Sam Burbach when thinking about the gardens in the different seasons.

Whether splashing in the fountain garden, jumping in the Nancy Olson Children's Garden or taking pictures with the hippo, families and visitors can spend the day in the thick of nature and gain outdoor resources.

"A new platform with this is to do scavenger hunts. So we will really be able to tailor that towards mostly youth so they can explore the grounds, look at things a little closer instead of just walking by a tree. Really appreciate the flowers on it or the leaf shape," said Burbach.

Visitors can let nature heal while learning about horticulture and different species of trees.

Mills says the arboretum is a resource for the community and he's looking to bring solar power to all the buildings starting at the end of this year.

"We think that it's something that not only makes environmental sense, financial sense; but really we think our members and visitors will appreciate it. We can lead by example with that," said Mills.

Serving the community as a resource and a reward.

Klehm Arboretum is hosting an Arbor Day Celebration on Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. All guests can enjoy free admission and free trees will be given away while supplies last. To learn more about the event click here.

If you are interested in volunteering for events or to help garden and plant on the arboretum and botanic garden grounds call 815-965-8146.

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Cassandra Bretl

Cassandra is the morning reporter for 13 News Today.
She joined the WREX team in July of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a major, minor and a certificate.
She is excited to bring her skills back to the 815 where she is originally from.
You can contact Cassandra at

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