The Bartlett Arboretum
Today is the birthday of the physician, naturalist, and civic leader of the south-central Kansas town of Belle Plaine - Dr. Walter E. Bartlett. In 1910, Bartlett started the Bartlett Arboretum By purchasing 15 acres of land on the edge of a town called Belle Plaine - about 20 miles south of Wichita. The property had good soil, and it also had a little creek. One of Bartlett's initial moves was too dam up the creek and create a lake for waterfowl. In the flat expanse of Kansas, Bartlett was tree obsessed. He planted them everywhere - lining walkways, drives, and Riverbanks.
Bartlett was all so civic-minded, and he added a baseball diamond complete with a grandstand to the arboretum and a running track and a place for trap shooting as well.
After Walter died, the park was managed by his son Glenn who was a landscape architect. Glenn had studied the Gardens at Versailles - noting that they were transformed out of sand dunes and marshes. Back home, the Bartlett Arboretum had similar challenges.
Glenn married Margaret Myers, who was an artist, a magazine fashion designer, a floral designer, a Garden Club organizer, and an instructor. Combining their fantastic skillsets, Glenn and Margaret turned the Arboretum into something quite beautiful.
Together, they Incorporated tree specimens from all over the world. Using dredged dirt from the lake, they created the Islands. At one point, the Bartlett Arboretum was the only Arboretum between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Known for its beautiful spring tradition called Tulip Time, the Arboretum featured a tulip bed with over 40,000 bulbs.
In 1997, the Arboretum was sold to Robin Macy. Macy was one of the founding members of the Dixie Chicks, and she is the current steward of the Bartlett Arboretum. Naturally, Robin incorporated music into the Arb.
The Facebook Group for the Arboretum recently shared a register page from April 7th, 1929, and across the top of the register, Bartlett had quoted Wordsworth, “He is the happiest who has the power to gather wisdom from a flower.” The folks who tend the flowers and trees at the Bartlett Arboretum make people happy all year long.