Take an international walk through small park in mid-town Concord

Take an international walk through small park in mid-town Concord

Take an international walk through small park in mid-town Concord
Concord artist Kara Bonsteel sits in a hidden spot in Markham Nature Park to paint spiky shrubs from Australia. (Photos by Lisa Fulmer)

Editor’s Note: This is the ­second in a series of features on parks in Concord and Clayton.

CONCORD, CA—When a group of garden lovers formed the Markham Regional Arboretum Society in 1981, their mission was to create something special with the land where Ira and Bea Markham first made their home during WWII.

The society developed it into the lasting legacy of natural beauty that the Markhams had envisioned when they retired and sold their property to the city of Concord.

The Markham Nature Park and Arboretum is a 16-acre, walkable nature sanctuary that borders both sides of Galindo Creek, situated off Cowell Rd. right in the middle of Concord. The arboretum is filled with more than 600 trees from dozens of different species, many of which are more than 50 years old. Some trees are native to California and others come from parts of the world with similar climates.

International Garden

The jewel of the park is the International Garden, which began taking shape in 1987. Planting and construction continued until the spring of 2002, when the garden’s stunning wisteria arbor was finished and dedicated to Bud Hanson, a local builder and lifelong resident of Concord. His father, John Hansen, had built an 800-foot wisteria pergola around Todos Santos Plaza back in the 1930s, and Concord held annual wisteria festivals there until the 1950s. The tradition continues, as residents (we hope again soon) can reserve the wisteria arbor for their own celebrations.

With plenty of green lawn in the center, the garden features a perimeter with lovely pockets of shrubs, flowering plants and small trees from around the world. A walking path takes you on a landscape journey through South Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and South America, as well as all four corners of the USA. Educational signage greets you at every continent, and each plant is marked with a ground stake that tells its name and origin.

Kids love running around the trees and across the wide-open space. Artists appreciate the flat rocks, benches and border walls to sit and sketch the striking scenery.

Hidden gem

“I can’t believe I’ve lived in Concord all these years and never knew about this place,” says Kara Bonsteel, a local artist.

“Getting out of the house to come to a beautiful place that inspires me to paint is exactly what I need right now,” she continues. “But I also can’t wait to bring our kids out here next time.”

Families picnic together and couples walk hand in hand, yet the garden also feels like a spectacularly secluded place for quiet solo time to read, meditate or watch the squirrels and hummingbirds dart about. With every visit, no matter what time of year, you’re sure to spot something wonderful that you missed before.

The International Garden at Markham Arboretum also offers water conservation tips in a special demonstration area filled with a wide variety of low-maintenance grasses and ground covers.

Visit markhamarboretum.org for maps and more information.

Related story: Concord’s Hillcrest Park holds a treasure trove of hidden gems