[NOTE from Deborah: Guest blogger Sandy Conner wrote back in September about Monet’s gorgeous gardens in Giverny, France. This new post is also about a beautiful garden area, albeit a bit hidden, here in the States. Enjoy!]
Over three decades ago, the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kansas touched my heart and soul and left a residue of longing to live in a place of such serene beauty.
We first discovered this once-upon-a-time “Kansas prairie recreated into a Versailles-inspired French garden” during a weekend adventure when we lived about 25 miles north of it, in Wichita.
It was spring and 40,000 tulips painted the landscape with impossible color and artistry. We were young and knew little about trees and plants, but this place of Japanese Maples, Native Cottonwood, Linden, a Bald Cypress planted in 1917, a Pin Oak planted in 1913 and, of course, thousands of tulips pulled us into a lifelong love of plants and landscape design.Jump ahead three decades. I learned that our friend Bill Mohr spent a good portion of his retirement energy volunteering at the Bartlett Arboretum, or “the Arb.” Soon after, we spent an afternoon touring the refurbished gardens that by comparison to my first visit were even more vibrant and beautiful than I thought possible. And I was introduced to the blonde powerhouse of a musical personality, Robin Macy.
She is the motivating force of nature who, since purchasing the property in 1997, has inspired dozens of volunteers (Soil Sisters) and donors (Arb Angels) to create today’s Bartlett Arboretum. In addition to being current steward of the Arb, Robin is best known as a singer and a founding member of the “Dixie Chicks.”The current gardens are reminiscent of the ones I saw years ago but with a renewed energy of imagination and creativity. Robin’s inspiration is seen in the concert venues, like the tree house stage, the meadow, and stage near the pond used for outdoor concerts; the educational trail of historical trees; the old train station moved onto the arboretum grounds and rebuilt for weddings and parties; and, of course, renovation of the unsurpassed gardens.
The story of Robin’s love for the Arb is apparent in the sign above the front door of her house located on the grounds of the arboretum that reads, “At Last, Home.”
If you are in the vicinity, don’t miss the Concerts at the Arb. Upcoming concerts include the September 14 Winfield Warm Up, Driven and the October 19 Eliza Gilkyson.
Tours of the gardens at the Bartlett Arboretum are currently only available to folks attending concerts, weddings, parties, or large group pre-arranged tours. Check out their website for information on upcoming concerts as well as volunteer opportunities and general goings on at the Arb.
I also highly recommend watching part or all of the 17-minute video, “Uncommon Ground,” a history of the arboretum:
NOTE: Because the Arb’s website relies on volunteers, it hasn’t been updated in a while. However, the upcoming concerts mentioned in this post ARE still on.