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A Kansas Land Ethic: Celebrating 35 years of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains

Can you imagine what Hesston would be like without the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains?  Over 35 years ago, Harold and Evie Dyck had a dream to create a garden that reflected the Kansas landscape they loved so much.  They wanted it to be close to Schowalter Villa and Hesston College.  They wanted it to be a “…setting for educational opportunities for the community and a place where visitors may come to enjoy nature or sit in quiet reflection.”

This Arboretum, dedicated with the first tree planting on October 10, 1981, has matured into one of the premier native plant gardens in the country.


Julia Dyck, representing the Dyck family, had the honor of the first shovelful of soil around the new Bur Oak tree. October 10, 1981.

Today, as we celebrate our 35th anniversary, most visitors to the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains never knew Harold or Evie Dyck.  That is unfortunate because they were gracious, generous visionaries ahead of their time.

The idea of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains came about after Harold and Evie visited the Barlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kansas.  They talked about an Arboretum that would benefit the community, region, and the state of Kansas.

“Even though we have been many places,” explained Evie, “we have always appreciated Kansas.  If we develop an arboretum in Kansas, we feel it should reflect the character of Kansas.”  They left this place as a legacy for future generations to enjoy.  It was their way of saying “Thank You” to the community they lived in and served all their lives.  They had a Kansas land ethic.


Harold and Evie Dyck

In many ways, the Arboretum has exceeded even Harold and Evie’s expectations and the impact they wanted it to have.  Each year, over 20,000 visitors experience the Arboretum through educational programs, engaging events or interactive discovery. Our mission, “to promote, through education and stewardship, the conservation and use of plants native and adaptable to Kansas,” has become mainstream.  The most important component of our mission has always been to connect people to the prairie.  Native landscaping, enhanced biodiversity, and increased awareness of the prairie are important ideas within our mission that guide much of our efforts.  It is our goal to provide a setting where visitors can experience native and adaptable plants in attractive displays.  It was Evie’s dream to provide not only a beautiful place for community recreation, but also a place to pause for a little while, enjoy nature and hopefully gain a deeper appreciation of the simple beauty of Kansas.


Kansas Earth Partnership for Schools native planting on school grounds


Orange Butterfly weed in the Bird Watch Area

4-25 photo 17

FloraKansas Native Plant Sale


Wedding at the Arboretum


Luminary Stroll


Prairie Window Concert Series-Red Molly

We who live in Hesston often take the Arboretum for granted.  It seems as if it has always been here.  I certainly take for granted being able to work at the Arboretum, and am reminded of this privilege each time I talk with a visitor.  There are not too many communities the size of Hesston who have a garden for the citizens to enjoy.  In my short time as director, I have come to realize how vital it is for our success and growth, that those who utilize the Arboretum support us in many different ways.  These gardens wouldn’t exist without that original dream and the support of many people who volunteer and give generously each year.


Cliff Bitikofer-Long-time volunteer on new mower donated by Excel Industries, Inc.

I wish you could hear the stories of people who have come to our plant sales and transform their landscape by using native plants.  How others love this place and have seen nothing like it.  How they appreciate what we do here and want to support our mission.  To see extended families, including multiple generations, frequently come through the Visitor Center, walk the grounds, and feed the fish and turtles.  I wish you could see the faces of the children and hear the conversations we have with those who are seeing the Arboretum for the first time or rediscovering its beauty.  This place is unique and special.

Water Garden

Bearer of the Ammonite (by Paul Friesen)

Help us celebrate 35 years of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains.  We have many exciting events scheduled over the next year starting with the Anniversary Kick Off on October 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.  On that day, there will be a ceremonial oak planting and screening of the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time.  Refreshments will be served during the show.  Come enjoy an evening at the Arboretum as we reminisce about the past and look forward to the future.  Click here for the full schedule of events.