It’s a rainy afternoon in early summer on Catoctin Mountain. The curvy road to ThorpeWood takes you to an elevation above 1500 feet. There are no city sounds up here, only the sound of the rain hitting the leaves and the trickling spring of Bussard Branch. A rainy day on the mountain is a pleasure. The air is cool and a light breeze wafting through the trees gives the appearance that the leaves are applauding. Bravo, rainy day. Bravo.
Mountain weather is not quite like the weather at lower elevations. As a matter of fact, it can be quite different. As you drive up the mountain from its base it may begin as a warm and sunny day but soon you are enveloped in a cool mist. No matter what the weather there is an ethereal beauty that can be found here, a thousand feet up. But there is more to this heavenly space. Nestled high on this mountain ridge is a gem few know about, the Hagen Arboretum at ThorpeWood.
Named after the previous owner, this Arboretum has been in the making for more than four decades. Originally owned by the Hagen family, this 40-acre garden paradise began with one tree, a Mimosa. It was a gift from Gordon Hagen to his mother and would be the first tree he had ever planted. He was 35 years old. Now over 45 years later, this impressive tree collection has caught the eye of many arborists and garden enthusiasts around the country.
As you walk through this vast collection of trees you might recognize quite a few magnolias. A favorite tree of Mr. Hagen, there are over 400 magnolia trees in the arboretum. The typical southern magnolia with its thick leathery leaves and large fragrant creamy white blossoms is represented as is a variety of Asian species that explode with pink blooms in early spring. He has collected over 20 species that range in traits of large leaves to tiny flowers and come in white, pink, red and yellow.
One of the most colorful areas of the arboretum and a popular place for wedding ceremonies is near the dawn redwoods. Entering this area from the lane you walk under a canopy of dogwoods, cypress, and firs. The path opens to a grassy pathway as you pass an impressive weeping beech. Flower gardens line the pathway with colorful blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall. The path comes to an end at a ring of five dawn redwoods where many a bride and groom have started their lives together.
The rain has finally stopped and the trees seem a brighter shade of green. Water droplets resting on flower petals reflect a clearing sky. It’s a heavenly setting. Take a deep breath and let the cares of the world slip away.