Seven Reasons to Attend This Years’ Luminary Walk

Over the years, the Winter Luminary Walk at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains has become a tradition for many people.  Here are my top seven reasons to be part of this unique event:



The south bridge is one of our favorite spots along the path during the luminary walk, especially on a magically snowy night. Photo by Ken Raney.


  • Enjoy the natural beauty of the gardens in winter.  Thousands of lights bring the arboretum to life, highlighting the pure, organic forms of the trees, shrubs and prairie plants.
  • Relax and stroll the pathways with more than 900 jars and candles lighting the way.  No commercial glitz – just the simple, soft light of candles.
  • Roast s’mores.  Warm yourself by the fires and roast a marshmallow.  Sticky fingers, but oh so good.
  • Drink hot almond tea with Christmas cookies in the Visitor Center.  This drink is perfect on a cold winter night along with cookies from the Hesston Women’s Civic Club and other volunteers.


Luminary Walk 2008 Bonfire

Walkers gather around the fire to roast marshmallows.


  • Make memories at the Arboretum.  It is great to be with family and friends spending an evening together.  Forget about the hustle and bustle of the season, slow down and enjoy together everything this time of the year has to offer.
  • Be creative. Each night children will make crafts that relate to a different culture’s holiday traditions.
  • Learn about other cultures.  With the theme “Joy to the World: A Multicultural Celebration”, this year’s luminary walk will include performers, crafts, stories and an outdoor nativity representing a variety of cultural perspectives.


Crafts at Luminary Walk

Stop in to the buildings to warm up and be creative during craft time.


We at the arboretum enjoy hosting this special event.  It is unique because it invokes fond memories of Christmas’ past while making new memories with the special people in your lives.  Come, relax, and enjoy this one-of-a-kind Christmas celebration.

For this year’s Luminary Walk schedule and line-up of performers, click here.

Five Things You Should Do Now to Prepare for Winter

This is my favorite time of the year.  I love autumn.  You can see and feel the changes of the seasons.  Prairies turn from green to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow.  Trees light up the landscape with vibrant fall color.  Asters dot the landscape as pollinators search for the last remaining nectar in the garden.  There is so much to enjoy this time of the year.  We don’t want to think about the real big change coming when winter arrives, but that change is coming all too soon.

I like to spend some time in the fall preparing our landscapes for winter.  By dedicating some time now to your landscape, you will be rewarded with healthier, more beautiful plants next spring.

Here are some things on my checklist for the fall:

#1 Mulch

Fall is a great time to mulch all your plants.  Mulching now will help protect roots from extreme temperatures while also helping the soils to retain moisture in a typically cold, dry winter.  We apply 2-3 inches of new mulch around perennials, trees and shrubs.  Be careful!  Don’t allow mulch to contact the stem or trunk.  We leave a halo around the plants to aid in air exchange and drying.  Too much mulch can cause more harm than good.

Table Rock Maple

Table Rock Maple

#2 Lawn Care

This is the best time of the year to plant a new fescue lawn or overseed an existing fescue lawn.  I overseeded my back yard last week.  It is just starting to germinate.  I used clean, weed free seed and watered it daily.  I applied 3-5 lbs. per 1000 square feet.  If you are planting a new lawn, apply 5-10 lbs. per 1000 square feet.  You have until October 15 to get your seeding finished.  It is usually too late to seed after October 31.  The cool nights, warm days, beneficial rains and less weed competition make this time of year ideal for seeding grass.

Seeded Grass

It is also the best time to fertilize your fescue lawn.  We apply one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.  Fall fertilization promotes root growth.  The roots of the fescue absorb and store the nutrients for the winter.  This stored energy will make for a thicker, healthier lawn next spring.

Remove leaves from lawn and place in compost pile.  Falling leaves block sunlight to the grass inhibiting growth.  Leaves can be shredded and composted into the lawn, but often this causes more problems.  It is usually best to completely remove them.

#3 Fall Clean-up

Remove Annuals and Cut Perennials: After the first frost, annuals can be removed from the landscape.  Prior to the first hard freeze, tender annuals need to be dug up and stored for the winter (i.e. cannas and elephant ears).

Coneflower Seedhead

In certain gardens, we deadhead spent blooms on plants such as gray-headed coneflower and coneflowers to prevent seeding.  Other seedheads are left through the winter as food sources for birds.  We leave ornamental grasses through the winter.  They provide texture and movement in the winter landscape.  These beds will be cleaned up in the spring.

Keep in mind that fall is NOT the best time to prune trees and shrubs.  It encourages new growth that will not get hardened off before winter, making it susceptible to damage.  Prune trees in the winter after they have gone dormant.  Shrubs can be pruned in the winter as well but only if they bloom on new growth.  Pruning spring blooming shrubs in the winter will remove next year’s blooms.  Prune these after they have finished blooming in the spring.

#4 Water

It is vital that perennials, trees and shrubs are adequately watered throughout the fall.  Newly installed plants don’t have a fully established root system and would benefit from periodic watering.  If the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry, the plants need water.  Evergreen trees continue to need moisture in winter, so irrigate thoroughly before the ground freezes.

Arizona Cypress

Arizona Cypress

#5 Take inventory and Think Spring

In the fall, I analyze the landscape.  This is the best time to determine what your needs will be next spring.  What plants did well in the landscape?  What plants need help or need to be moved next spring?  Are there any plants that would benefit from dividing such as grasses?  What areas need to be filled next spring?  Does the canopy of the trees need to be thinned to allow more light into the landscape?  Install spring blooming bulbs before the ground freezes.

This is a great season of the year.  Take some time to appreciate the beauty of fall.  There is so much to enjoy, but set aside some time to prepare for the winter.  A little work now on your landscape will pay big dividends in the spring.