Remembering Our 2014 Prairie Garden Weddings

As Arboretum Rentals Manager I am privileged to work with our couples and families who choose this prairie garden as the location for their wedding celebrations. This year I have been particularly amazed at the ways in which each couple, with the help of talented friends and family members, dressed up the gardens and buildings to personalize their big day.




As we draw close to the end of a great year at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, I wanted to thank all of the couples who made this prairie garden their own for a day.  I also want to highlight some of my favorite ideas and decoration themes from the past year.  May all of these couples and families have a wonderful holiday season, remembering the loveliness of their special day and making new memories during this wonderful time of year!

For those of you planning or dreaming of a prairie garden wedding in the future, find more ideas and photos from real weddings at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, visit our Facebook and Pinterest pages, or take advantage of the vast wedding planning resources available at and



Ashli & Tim • 5.24.14

  • Colors and theme: mint, peach/coral, white roses, baby’s breath, old books and sheet music, burlap
  • Decoration idea: Drapery hung with command strips along the full wall of windows in the Prairie Pavilion gave an elegant, at home feeling to the reception hall.
  • Favorite vendor: Sweet B. Revival out of Wichita did the flowers, including an arch hung from the willow branch at the ceremony site.  We Love This Vendor! So easy to work with and her arrangements are spot on!





Lena & Anthony • 5.31.14

  • Colors and theme: Lavender and white with orange accents, lavender, baby’s breath, gaillardia, lace and lavender tulle
  • Decoration idea: Hang string lights across the center of the ceiling to create a “canopy” effect and add a little drama to the reception hall.

 May31.2014 Lena&Anthony (12) Adjusted

May31.2014 Lena&Anthony (8) Adjusted



Andrea & Matthew • 6.7.14

  • Colors and theme: Royal blue, white and lavender, floating candles in mason jars with submerged flowers
  • Decoration idea: Throw lavender buds instead of rice or birdseed. It fits perfectly with the prairie garden setting and is an organic material that requires no clean-up.




Erika & Joe • 6.14.14

  • Colors and theme: Blue, green and cream, “Love Birds” theme
  • Decoration idea: This couple really chose and theme and stuck with it – birds as the cake topper, birdcage for collecting cards, feathers in the decorations and birds nests in the centerpiece displays.
  • Favorite vendor again: Sweet B. Revival!!


birds on cake.adjusted

Feather fluff decor adjusted


Christa & Ryan • 8.16.14

  • Colors and theme: Black, white with pink accents, rustic, aged-wood accents
  • Decoration idea: To create an altar at the outdoor ceremony site, this couple made a platform from old pallet wood and placed potted plants on pedestals on either side of the platform.  In addition, they used a pallet for a sign at the entrance to the seating area to direct guests.
  • Highlight: This couple was also engaged at the arboretum on the previous Christmas Eve! They marked the proposal site with a sign to share their story with guests.






Lindsay & Ryan • 9.20.14

  • Colors and theme: Eclectic fall color theme using natural elements including coffee, kernel corn, rust and orange colored berries with foliage
  • Decoration idea: Have an artistic friend paint an old, unwanted headboard for signage
  • Highlight: If you have a gifted carpenter in the family, like the father of this groom, homemade garden benches to be sold or given away as gifts really add a fall tone to the outdoor ceremony seating


sign arrow adjusted

aisle candles adjusted

headboard close up adjusted


Nicole & Daniel • 11.1.14

  • Colors and theme: Bright orange, blue, yellow, rust; burlap and iconic Kansas accents of yarrow, wheat and milo
  • Decoration idea: We saw mason jars all year long, but they fit ESPECIALLY well with this fall wedding decoration theme, wrapped in burlap and blue raffia and filled with wheat, milo and some pops of yellow from purchased flowers. GREAT DIY centerpieces!




Cheers to a wonderful new year of weddings in 2015!


Holiday Greetings from the staff at Dyck Arboretum!

Holiday Greetings from Brad, Brett, Janelle and Scott

2014 has been good to us here at the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains.  As we take a rest from our labors over our winter break (Holiday Hours: the grounds are always open from dawn until dusk – the Visitor Center is closed December 24 to January 4), we sincerely wish for all of our members, supporters and visitors happiness, health and quality time with family and friends in all of your festivities.  And may you all have full and vibrant native plant gardens in the New Year!

Arb Staff Holiday 2014

Photo by Larry Bartel



Winter Garden Checklist

Last week, in early December, I did some work in my yard.  The day was warm, which made the work more enjoyable.  While I was working I made a checklist of all the things I need to get done in my yard before next spring.  My daughter Allyson is graduating from high school and we are having her graduation party in our backyard.  So the pressure is on to get it ready for the big event.



It may seem strange to be thinking about spring when it’s cold outside, but in March and April, when things start blooming, you’ll be glad you planned ahead. Here are some things you should definitely include in your winter garden checklist:

Leaf Collection

It is critical this time of year to continue removing leaves so they don’t smother your grass.  Fescue lawns need sunlight even during winter months and a thick layer of leaves can stunt growth or kill the lawn altogether.

Pick Up Hoses and Drain Irrigation System

Unhook hoses from the faucet, drain them, roll up and store inside.  Hoses can deteriorate if left out through the winter.  The sunlight can be harmful and water left in hoses can cause damage due to freezing temperatures.  I drain sprinklers and irrigation systems that can be busted by prolonged cold weather.


Winter is the ideal time to prune deciduous trees because they are dormant.  Prune dead branches and shape trees.  Step back and look at the tree as a whole before pruning.  Envision what the tree will look like after the branch is removed.


Landscapes can really benefit from a fresh layer of mulch.  Put down 2-4 inches of wood chips or any weed-free organic matter before the ground freezes.  Mulch keeps the soils temperatures more even, holds moisture,  slows runoff,  and controls soil erosion.  Newly planted trees and shrubs will benefit the most from mulch.

Clean Gutters

Before winter rains and snowstorms, it is a great time to clear away any leaves or debris that has collected in your gutters this fall.  Impeding flow causes ice buildup which is a safety concern when it falls from the roof.  Be careful and don’t fall off the ladder.

Winterize Equipment and Tools

I run stabilized fuel through my power equipment and then drain the fuel tanks.  Gas left in the carburetors can do damage to them by deteriorating the components and aluminum parts.  A varnish can also develop which clogs small openings within the components.  Chainsaws, hedge trimmers, weed-eaters, and mowers will be ready to go next spring.  Clean, sharpen and store hand tools.  A thin coat of linseed oil will keep them from rusting.

Take Notes

What do you need to do next spring?  What plants will you need to fill the gaps in your landscape?  What are your dreams for your outdoor space?


First plant to bloom in the arboretum next spring

First plant to bloom in the arboretum next spring – Vernal Witchhazel


Spring will come too fast.  So will Allyson’s graduation.  It is hard to believe that 17 years have passed already.  People kept telling me that she will grow up fast.  They were right.  We look forward to that graduation day with anticipation and a lot of fear and trembling.  Hopefully, my backyard will be ready, because I know I will not be ready for that day.


Winter Dreams of Prairie Gardens


We are near the longest nights of the year when your landscape is cold, brown, and sometimes snowy with few creatures stirring. But soon, if not already, you will be having visions of coneflowers and ground plums dancing in your head.

Since landscaping labor is not taking up your free time at the moment, now is the perfect time to be thinking about and planning the logistics of your spring or fall prairie garden.

Here are a few things you can be doing during the months of winter to prepare for your prairie garden:

Identify Desired Area

Identify the area you want to plant and measure the square footage. With a generally recommended planting rate of one plant/2-4 sq. ft., knowing your planting area will allow you to estimate the number of plants you need and help establish a budget (~$4/plant).

Install Edging

Edging around your prairie garden is not only aesthetically pleasing, but functionally critical to establish where you should stop weeding and start mowing. Garden center options include plastic, metal, wood, or brick, but my favorite is Kansas limestone. A good source in Central Kansas is the Florence Rock Quarry where I last acquired an inexpensive load for $20.50/ton.


Embedded limestone for a garden border.

Acquire Mulch

Mulch is essential to reduce water and nutrient competition for new prairie plants, reduce weeds, and slow soil moisture loss. Garden center mulch is always available in easy-to-transport bags but, you also have to pay for it. Many municipalities offer free self-serve mulch or a friendly request to a local tree-trimming contractor may get a pile delivered right to your desired location. A layer of newspaper under the mulch will give a bit more biodegradable weed protection in the first year.


Newspaper under mulch is a great first year weed barrier.

Plan for Bermuda Grass Eradication

Believe me, you don’t want it in your prairie garden. If your site gets plenty of sun you most likely have it; delay your planting till late summer so you can eradicate this species during its growing season. This is the one scenario for which I use herbicide and plan for two to three glyphosate treatments (e.g., Roundup) in the months of June-September to eliminate this very difficult-to-weed warm-season grass.


Killing Bermuda grass is essential before planting.

Hardscape Features

Water features and feeders attract wildlife, seating allows you to relax in your garden, and weatherproof artwork adds beauty.


Leopold Bench (


Petersen Elementary’s Artwork by Erin Dresher Dowell

Consider Sun Exposure and Other Notable Features

Sun exposure and notable features that affect soil moisture such as low spots or downspouts will affect your plant choices. Consider structures or tree canopies that will block sunlight anywhere from straight overhead to about 45 degrees off the southern horizon. Prairie plants can thrive with at least six hours of sunlight. With less sunlight you should consider more shade-tolerant woodland understory species. Water from downspouts will wash away mulch.


Consider the amount of sunlight your garden area receives (Source:

Pick Plants

Peruse our Dyck Arboretum plant library and keep an eye out for our spring and fall plant sale lists. Have fun choosing the plants that fit your preferences with regard to season of bloom, flower color, height, dormant season texture and color, wildlife attraction, and more. See our website for further tips and ideas on landscaping with native plants.

Attention to these items in advance will make your native landscaping endeavor much more successful and enjoyable. Enjoy your winter planning during the darkest days of winter and signs of spring will be here before you know it!

How to Make a Natural Evergreen Wreath

The other day I made a wreath out of Juniper branches to hang from the Visitor Center chandelier.  We needed a centerpiece for our luminary stroll open house.  It took about 45 minutes.  This natural evergreen wreath was easy to make and looks great.


Here are the steps to making your own natural evergreen wreath:

  • First, find a Juniper tree with large quantities of blue berries.  Prune branches 18 to 24 inches long.  You will need at least 12 branches this size.
  • Next, place four branches in a square overlapping each other by six to eight inches.  Make sure branches are all facing the same direction all around the square.
  • Tie the stems to the upper portion of the branch-ends with fine black wire.
  • Next, attach four more branches but rotate 1/8 of a turn.  Tie stems and tips together like the previous square. Tie these branches to the original four branches as well.
  • Now look at the wreath.  If there are exposed stems (pruned portions), cover them with the last four branches placing them the opposite direction.  Tie these branches to the wreath tightly.  All ties should be invisible.
  • I topped my wreath with some red holly berries.  They really show up well against the dark green of the Juniper branches.
  • You can finish it with some red velvet bows, pine cones or other natural elements.



The fragrance of fresh cut evergreen branches permeate the room plus you have the satisfaction that you created your own wreath from natural elements.  If I can make this, then you can too.  Good Luck.