17 April 2014

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, Hesston KS

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains 
177 West Hickory ST, Hesston KS  $2 admission
FloraKansas Native Plant sale April 25 to 28 call for hours or check the website. Native wildflowers & grasses
Arboretum hours – daily from sunrise to sunset

There is no doubt that a prairie garden is the ultimate low maintenance, low water usage and environment friendly choice for gardeners. But, many homeowners assume that it would mean a messy yard and landscape to look at.


“The more examples of native plant gardens people see, the more they realize the beauty of native plants,” said Scott Vogt, Executive Director of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains.

The Arboretum was established in 1981 as a gift to Hesston College from Harold and Elva Mae Dyck when they bought 13-acres and donated it to Hesston College to be used prairie restoration garden.

Today the Arboretum is one of the largest native plant gardens in the region, featuring over a thousand varieties of native and adapted trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. Another 18 acres has been purchased and to be developed into a native plains garden. 
Scott Vogt


 “We teach native plant landscaping classes for homeowners,” Vogt said. “Participants bring drawings of their yard and we help them select native plants and explain how to prepare the site and arrange the plants to best advantage.”

When class participants complete their first native plant bed, they always come back for the annual plant sale because they found that they can have beautiful gardens with less work, less water and plenty of butterflies. Vogt said they like it because it works.

“Establishing a prairie garden is not effortless,” Vogt said.  “If it were easy it would be called growing, not gardening.”

Seeds for the gardens at Dyck Arboretum were collected from within 60-miles of Hesston so they would be indigenous to the area. The plants for the gardens are grown from seed, stem cuttings and root division in the on-site greenhouse.

Their annual plant sale April 25 to 28 will offer thousands of native woodland plants that were grown by staff and volunteers.

Two acre wildlife pond
 “We go out onto the grounds and collect seeds,” said Vogt. “Additional seeds come from companies like Missouri Wildflower Seeds (www.mowildflowers.net) where seeds are also hand collected.”

At the Arboretum website there are many educational resources. Specifically, the Spring 2014 newsletter, “Prairie Window” link provides garden layouts as well as lists of recommended perennials, ferns, and grasses. Each entry lists the Latin and common name, flower color, plant height, bloom time, sun and soil preferences.

In addition to being a beautiful place to enjoy seeing plants and pollinators, Dyck Arboretum’s mission is to involve the community.  They offer a class in Gardening with Insects, art shows, and music festivals. Over 150 volunteers and a staff of 4 keep the arboretum and its activities going.

Art along the path
There are paths to walk, a two-acre pond where visitors can watch wildlife, and butterflies to enjoy.

 “Earth Partnership for Schools Summer Institute” in June brings teachers from all over the region who learn to engage K-12 students in prairie gardening on school grounds. An outline of their Multiple Intelligences curriculum is available on the website.

“When visitors see the spring native plants blooming from the end of April to mid-May, they say it was not what they expected,” said Vogt. “They are surprised by the beauty.”

Spring-blooming native plants include: Penstemon, Echinacea pallida and Zizia aurea. Summer flowers include Asclepias tuberosa, Rudbeckia fulgida and Monarda fisulosa. Fall color comes from Solidago, Asters, and Sedum (a non-native adapted plant). In the winter the arboretum is dominated by grasses such as Panicum virgatum Northwind, Schizachyrium scoparium Blaze, Andropogon gerardii Pawnee, and Sporobolus heterolepis.
Native grasses add winter interest

Although Hesston is 30-miles from Wichita KS, Hesston’s population is only 4,000.


Vogt said, “Very few cities with our population embrace an arboretum. We are unique to have one this size with so much community involvement.”

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