White House man lives dream at arboretum

Bamboo canes are grown at the arboretum, which is one of Allen’s favorite plants. CHERI REEVES

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Randy Allen speaks of his tree collection like a boy showing off his baseball cards.

Each one is special for different reasons and he can share pictures, names, positions and stats of each and every tree planted in his six-acre piece of property in White House.

Allen, who owns the White House Arboretum, says he has more tree species on his land than all of the species of trees on the grounds of Cheekwood or the campus of Vanderbilt University.

He frequently opens his acreage to the public for free tours, educating scouts, home schooled children and garden clubs.

Allen brought a collection of bamboo, wood and tree photos and shared his passion for trees at the Wednesday, March 20 meeting of the Springfield Rotary Club.

Allen and his wife Carolyn have spent the last decade or more creating a Level 4 arboretum on the property where they live, which has become a certified arboretum by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. It is filled with more than 150 species of trees and thousands of bamboo canes growing around their home.  

“I’ve got it packed with so many species, it’s really cool,” Allen said.

Allen said he’s been fascinated with trees since he was a boy and began planting tree on his parents’ property in the mid-60s. He has built several arboretums through the years before acquiring the land in White House.

When he was young, Allen’s father purchased some acreage near Land Between the Lakes and would bring trees and seedlings down to Inglewood from the property.

“One of the trees that still stands in Inglewood is a 1979 Big Dawn Redwood,” Allen said. “It’s now getting close to 100 feet tall. They turn a rusty-red color.”

Allen shared photos of his collection at the arboretum, which includes a Blue Ice Arizona Cypress, a Red Horse Chestnut, the Norway Spruce, a Silver Korean Fir tree, Mimosa, Weeping Cherry and even a China Fir, just to name a few.

What really fascinates Allen is bamboo. He began studying bamboo as a boy in the 1960s and found out what species are easier to maintain.

“My favorite species is Vivax from China,” Allen said. “You don’t have to manage this bamboo like you do other species. It doesn’t even have a limb for 30-feet, or three stories high.”

They grow quickly, becoming their total size in a month or two.

Allen has created several groves of bamboo at the arboretum in White House. There are thousands of bamboo canes at the arboretum. He said the bamboo located at the Nashville Zoo is the Yellow Groove bamboo.

The White House Arboretum is located on Rolling Acres Drive.

Appointments for free tours can be made by through his website at: WhiteHouseArboretum.com

“We don’t have the 10,000 tulips found at Cheekwood, or the dinosaur exhibits,” Allen said. “But we have trees.”

This article originally ran on robertsoncountyconnection.com.