Arboretum: A Museum of Trees
The grand trees in the Glen Leven Farm arboretum stand taller than many in Nashville and tell stories of the place. John M. Thompson, a Tennessee commissioner of agriculture and owner of Glen Leven in the early 1890s, planted a spectacular Dogwood on the day of the birth of his second child, Mary McConnell Thompson (Harris), who was Susan West’s grandmother. There is a Hedge Maple that came to Nashville in the 1880’s as a cutting from Kew Gardens in London. There are Magnolias on the property that were propagated by Overton Thompson in the mid-1900s – he generously planted others in the yards of his friends all over Nashville.
The arboretum includes the largest mass of American Yellowwood in the United States, a White Ash, a Basswood, an American Ash, a Dogwood, a Ginkgo, a Black Walnut, a Sugar Maple, a Chinkapin Oak, a Laurel Oak, a Pecan, a Hedge Maple and a massive Trifoliate Orange tree – all winners of the Nashville Tree Foundation’s Big Old Tree Contest.
Renowned artist Charles Brindley was so enthralled by the trees and architecture of Glen Leven that he spent a year studying the landscape. The breathtaking collection of paintings and drawings opened to the public in late 2013.
There are also at least 16 different varieties of heirloom daffodils on the property. In 1837, John Thompson ordered a variety of bulbs from Holland for his two daughters (Mary and Margaret) who were suffering from tuberculosis. Their doctor had recommended that they spend time outdoors in the fresh air, and John thought cultivating flowers would bring them great pleasure. Included in the 1837 order were twelve Narcissus Jonquilla Simplex bulbs. This diminutive flower with an intense scent still blooms at Glen Leven Farm today.
PHOTO BY: LAURA BROWN
PAINTING BY: CHARLES BRINDLEY