Mercer Arboretum is located very close to Spring TX. In all honesty the mailing is Humble but it is on the border of Spring. After living in Spring TX for 11 years we finally decided to visit the Mercer Arboretum. I don't have a clue why we waited so long. Actually I take that back all this time I thought there was a charge and I guess I didn't want to pay. Well guess what it is FREE!!! With the price of gas I know we are all looking for ways to save money and it doesn't get much better than free. Free and you can enjoy nature at its best it doesn't get much better than that.
The history of Mercer Arboretum goes back to 1949 when Charles and Thelma Mercer bought 14.5 acres of piney woods along Cypress Creek. They cleared the land and created a beautiful garden oasis. Prior to the purchase of this land in Thelma's words it was "a wild, wooded, burned out area." They built their first home in what is now today's Volunteer Cottage. They began clearing the land to make room for more trees such as dogwoods and hawthorns. Thelma planted large camellias that still bloom throughout the garden. She also introduced several exotic trees and plants that are still growing; including gingko and bauhinia.
Charles was a decorated World War II soldier, recognized engineer and dedicated civic worker. Thelma kept him busy in their garden. When she decided that they needed a pond Charles had her lay out the design with a garden hose. Charles then used his engineering skills to build it for her. It is still there and is known as Thelma's pond. It is one of the favorite places at Mercer Arboretum for photographers and children. It still has Koi and large goldfish. Considering how long Koi can live who knows some of the original Koi may be in there; if only they could talk.
When the Mercers decided to retire back in 1973 Thelma wrote to the Harris County officials asking the county to purchase their site. She could have sold it to a developer for a larger profit but the Mercers chose to offer the property to Harris County at a price far below market value. The stipulation was that it must be used as a garden and horticultural education facility. This was a grass roots effort and with the help of many garden clubs and community leaders Harris County bought the property and it became Mercer Arboretum.
The vision of Thelma a Charles Mercer became a reality. Mercer Arboretum has become a nationally recognized Botanic Garden. It is an oasis of serenity with over 250 acres of East Texas Piney Woods. We went there on a hot Sunday afternoon and it was actually quite refreshing walking through the trees. We passed a couple on a swing who told us this was the ultimate in laziness.
Mercer Arboretum is a living museum. From the ferns to the majestic oaks all the plants have a story. After living in several different states we have learned that it is important to use plants that are local to the area when you are landscaping. We love working in the yard and this would have made our gardening so much easier as the plants are labeled. There is an abundance of animal life sometimes slithering through the garden. We saw a beautiful snake. I really have not thought of snakes as being pretty but this one had some gorgeous coloring.
The funds for the Mercer Arboretum come from Precinct 4 and the Mercer Society. If you would like information about becoming a member to the Mercer Society click here. Friend's memberships range from $25 to $50. Friends of the society enjoy discount coupons to plant sales, discounts for classes, invitation to special event etc. The funds from Precinct 4 and the Mercer Society provide for educational programs, plant collections, capital improvements and conservation efforts. You don't have to join the Society to enjoy the Arboretum; did I mention it is FREE!!!
Since opening to the public in 1974 the Arboretum has thrived using a base of volunteers. Volunteers work with the staff in the gardens and greenhouses, lead educational tours, improve the Mercer library and catalogue plant specimens for the herbarium. Volunteers might be doing such things as building benches, propagating plants and organizing special events. The volunteers include plant and nature enthusiast of all ages and skill levels.
This just goes to show what a local citizen can do with a little ingenuity. Charles and Thelma were not wealthy but Thelma did not like the idea of a bulldozer coming in and destroying the work of nature they had preserved. In a letter to Harris County back in 1973 she wrote:
"The idea of bulldozers coming in here and destroying the work of nature that we had tried to preserve and learn about and learn to love and enjoy is hard to take."
Thelma was a conservationist before her time and her vision still lives at Mercer Arboretum. Don't wait 11 years to visit. All ages can enjoy the arboretum. I saw retired couples and families with young children out for a Sunday stroll. It doesn't get much better than FREE either!
Mercer Arboretum is located on Aldine Westfield just to the north of FM 1960 (on the east side of the road). Their summer hours are from 8:00AM to 7:00 PM and from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sunday. Winter hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
In actuality Mercer has a Humble address but it is so close to Spring I am including it in my Spring TX information.