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Autumn is showtime for arboretum

Autumn is a great time to visit Finch Arboretum. (Susan Mulvihill)
Autumn is a great time to visit Finch Arboretum. (Susan Mulvihill)

When we think about Spokane parks, Manito and Riverfront are probably the first two that come to mind. But there is a hidden gem that is well worth a visit – especially now that autumn is here – and that is Finch Arboretum.

Located on the west side of town between Interstate 90 and Sunset Hill, this park is situated on about 65 acres. Arboretums are traditionally collections of trees but Finch Arboretum offers so much more than that.

Visitors will also see shrubs, native plants, a street tree exhibit and a children’s flower garden. There’s even a trail for the blind, called the Touch and See Nature Trail, that features a cotton rope to follow along and Braille signs explaining the nearby plantings.

The land where Finch Arboretum sits has a rich history that includes encampments of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and tales of Chinese gardeners who grew vegetables along Garden Springs Creek in the 1880s.

In 1907, John W. Duncan, the superintendent of parks, selected the site for the arboretum. The Spokane Board of Park Commissioners acquired the land from owners John A. Finch, a mining investor, and real estate businessman Daniel Dwight in 1912. However, it wasn’t until 1949 that the planting of the arboretum officially began.

Present-day Finch Arboretum boasts 2,000 labeled trees and more than 600 species and varieties of shrubs.

What I think is great about having an arboretum is that it gives visitors the opportunity to see trees and shrubs that grow well in the Spokane area. Many of them might be uncommon, yet they have great attributes. This really cuts down on the guesswork of choosing plants for our own landscapes.

My favorite time of year to visit Finch Arboretum is the fall. If you pick a bright, sunny day when fall colors are at their peak, it is a wondrous place to behold. The best colors will be on maples, crabapples, yellowwood, mountain ash and oaks. You’ll see families assembling under colorful trees for holiday photographs. Kids will be jumping into piles of crispy leaves or playing hide-and-seek behind low-hanging branches.

Those of us who love capturing images of the beauty of this time of year will be snapping photos left and right, trying to find just the right angle to reproduce what our eyes are taking in.

Finch Arboretum will host the annual Fall Leaf Festival on Oct. 26, rain or shine. It will feature a huge pile of leaves for kids to play in, craft activities, conservation and educational booths, and plenty of hot cider. Spokane County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and the Master Composters will host a compost fair. This involves a series of stations where participants learn the components of composting and Spokane County residents can earn a free compost bin.

The arboretum is open to the public year-round and there is no admission charge. Park hours are from dawn to dusk. At the information board next to the main parking lot, there is a brochure that includes a self-guided walking tour. For more information, call (509) 624-4832.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@ Visit her blog at for more gardening information, tips and events.