The Parklands

What is happening in the Woodland Garden?

Projects are always rewarding when breaking ground to build the first feature. On March 20, 2017, we broke ground on the Woodland Garden in Broad Run Park as work began on the first significant feature, the Kentucky Tree Rondel. The rondel will be the gateway into the Woodland Garden, offering a dramatic entry with a stone circular foundation and 10 young—yet still large—trees set in a circle. The collection of trees will form a natural room with the trunks and branches forming the walls, window frames, and ceiling.

This namesake tree of our state (not our state tree as the Tulip Popular has that distinction) is a character out of a comedy sketch. Kentucky Coffee Tree (scientific name: Gymnocladus dioicus) has awkward thick branches angling in unpredictable directions. Leaves are compound—one leaf hosts a series of smaller leaflets. As it grows larger, the canopy forms a mound that hosts cream-white flowers that hang as pendants from the branches. In autumn dark, chestnut colored seedpods form, providing us a clue that this tree is a relative to peas!

Over the next several months, we are planting hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennial groundcovers to define garden “rooms” within the Woodland Garden. In addition to the plantings, work in Phase 1 includes moving small amounts of soil to set the foundation for both of the Rondels, plus construction of trails that will eventually give access for visitors to walk through the garden spaces. This first phase focuses on about half of the overall space set aside for the garden.

Visitors using the Louisville Loop between Woodland Pavilion and Big Vista Overlook in Broad Run Park should prepare for occasional detours and closures from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, from March through June.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience; however, the end-result is a fun, new place for all ages to explore!

Please visit to see the latest updates.

Photo at top: Gymnocladus canopy by Rick Darke
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About the Author

Picture of Tom Smarr

Tom Smarr

Tom is a seasoned professional with two decades of experience in horticulture, botanic gardens, conservation, and organic landscaping. He holds a master’s degree in urban horticulture from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. He has worked for established institutions such as the University of Washington Botanic Gardens in Seattle, WA and New England Wild Flower Society in Framingham, MA. Tom’s most notable work has been leading the management of horticulture at newly urban designed parks starting with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway opened in 2008 in downtown Boston, MA built on top of the infamous “Big Dig”. Most recently, Tom served as Horticulture Director at the High Line, a public park in New York City along unused, elevated train rails. He recently joined 21st Century Parks in Louisville, KY as Horticulture Director involved in the newly-built model urban park at The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He is committed to the preservation of our cultural landscapes through sensible design, horticulture practices and public education.