The Ilola Arboretum in Salo is simply outstanding. The arboretum consists of about 20 hectares with a lake and few ponds, fully accessible pathways, and beautiful rhododendrons, that were in bloom in mid June. We were accompanied by a burning hot weather, +28 degrees Celcius and sunshine. For a brief moment, in the middle of all those flowers and exotic trees, I thought I wasn’t even in Finland.
The Ilola Arboretum was founded in 1989. It is a bit of a drive from the main road, but well worth a visit. There are apparently over 10 000 plants growing in Ilola, and you can also buy seedlings in there. Most of the plants originate in North America, but they have all been grown from seeds. By the look of this place you would think there is an army of people working in there instead of one gardener.
Arrival to the Ilola was interesting because there were absolutely no signs along the way. I wasn’t even sure we were on the right road. When a huge grass area that looked like a golf course suddenly opened on the left side of the road in the middle of nowhere, I knew we were about to arrive to Ilola. We drove through main yard and pass main house, which was also interesting and had me doubting the road for a second. But we found the parking area. We grabbed water bottles with us and prepared for a long walk in the summer heat. The first thing I noticed, was a barn with old gear hanging from the wall. Everything seemed to be in order, neat and tidy. That turned out the be the theme of the place. We spotted an information board with a map, and a mailbox to pay the entrance fees. We dropped coins into the mailbox and started exploring the park.
My favourite things about the arboretum were architecture, how pathways flowed and took us around the area, and the fact that it was surrounded by a forest and quite naturally connected to it. I liked the rock garden, the lake area with a birdhouse for a goldeneye couple, and of course weeping spruces, that the place is probably the most famous for. It blows my mind that this is all done by one gardener. What a legacy to leave behind someday.
Directions to Ilola Arboretum
How to get there:
- Car: Use address “Kalkkilantie 1325, Salo”. The arboretum is reached for example from highway 1 / E18 by exit 17 towards Rekijoki. It is located about 12 kilometers off the highway 1. Optionally, the arboretum can be reached from Pertteli by heading east on route 2403 and turning right to Kalkkilantie. Once you arrive to Ilola, turn towards “Taimisto” and pass the main building to the parking lot (see map below).
- Bicycle: The cycling routes are the same as vehicle roads.
Accessibility: The arboretum is accessible, and suitable for children’s prams. There are few steeper hills in the area, but most of the area is flat and there is no need to go to the highest parts in the rock garden. Families visiting with children should note that the lake is pretty deep and that there are also poisonous plants in the area.
When to visit: Summer is the best time to visit this location, and the rhododendrons are blooming on the second half of June. The arboretum is open 10am-7pm, also on midsummer.
Special to know: The entrance fee is 2€ per adult. I paid some extra as I was so happy about the fact that someone opens their private garden for public to enjoy.
Facilities: A seedling shop, a toilet, few benches to sit down.
More information: Ilolan Arboretum in Facebook
Other stunning arboretums in Finland
- Hörtsänä Arboretum in Orivesi near Tampere is a charming garden forest that once was one of the best collections of trees in Finland but then forgotten for decades.
- Alakestilä Arboretum is one of the oldest arboretums in Finland. It’s located in Liminka near Oulu.