May 2008 Issue
Dawes Arboretum invites visitors to view its stellar collection of trees and gardens.
Visitors to Dawes Arboretum don’t have to worry about forgetting the name of the 1,789-acre property in Newark. Hedges cut in the shape of letters spell it out and stretch 2,041 feet in length, longer than six football fields.
Children and adults weave in and out of the 4- to 5-foot hedges almost as if the letters were part of a huge maze. Those who start at the “D” and walk to the “M” will arrive at the Observation Tower, which they can climb to get a bird’s-eye view of the literary topiary and to see for miles.
American arborvitae was planted in the 1930s to create the letters as a unique
attraction. But a relative of the arboretum’s founders is said to have also used the large letters as an aerial guide, helping to direct his private plane over the site and toward Columbus, 35 miles away.
Over the years, the original hedges became difficult to prune and lost much of their beauty. The plants were removed and mulched in the early 1990s and replaced with 1,178 Woodward American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis‘Woodwardii’) plants. The compact plant grows to about 8 feet tall and wide.
“One hundred and fifty volunteers were scheduled to help replant over a weekend. But we had to ask Saturday’s volunteers to stop working because there would not have been any plants left for Sunday’s group. Those people would have been disappointed. That’s how much everyone wants to help here,” recalls Dawes Arboretum’s Head of Horticulture Michael Ecker.
The hedge lettering remains extremely popular, and the volunteers’ reaction is exactly what Executive Director Luke E. Messinger encourages. He wants visitors “to feel as if this is their back yard, to feel at home.”
Messinger’s sentiments echo the goals of the arboretum’s founders. Beman G. Dawes, the founder of the Pure Oil Co., and his wife, Bertie O. Burr Dawes, bought 140 acres in Licking Township in 1917. The couple named the farm Daweswood and decided it was the ideal location for their country home and nature studies, according to the arboretum’s historian, David A. Vermilion.
The hope was to inspire others to respect and plant trees. By the time the arboretum was founded in 1929, the property had increased to 293 acres and more than 50,000 trees were added to site. Today Dawes Arboretum is a private, nonprofit charitable trust, governed by a board of trustees that includes four great-grandchildren of the founders. An endowment fund provides major support.
The Dawes’ brick house, built in 1867, is open to the public at limited times. It features a spiral walnut staircase, and furniture and accessories that belonged to the family. Bertie Dawes was a self-taught naturalist, and portions of her shell, butterfly and abandoned hummingbird nest collection are on display.
A master plan for the arboretum was unveiled in 2007 and focuses on making the experience of the more than 200,000 annual visitors “more relevant, more educational and more ecologically significant.” Traditionally, an arboretum is mainly a tree and shrub collection. The impressive buckeye, oak, crab apple, beech, conifer, maple (including a 250-year-old Black Maple) and ginkgo specimens give Dawes a nationwide reputation. Hollies, spraea and viburnum add to the botanical richness.
The grove of lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) was planted in the early 1940s. One of the trees shows an exceptional silvery gray bark, according to Ecker. Its uniqueness earned its registration with the Royal Horticultural Society and it was named Silver Ghost by the Dawes Arboretum.
More than 15,000 plants representing more than 4,500 types call Dawes Arboretum home.
But the master plan also calls for the continued development of the arboretum’s Dutch Fork Wetlands and additional wetlands on the adjacent former Davis Family Farm, now part of the arboretum. Visitors learn that wetlands act as the earth’s natural water filters and about their vast importance to endangered plants, waterfowl and insects. Look for Canvasback and American Black ducks, Violet Dancer dragonflies and Ohio River Valley plants in the 70 acres of wetlands.
The bordering Holman Farm is also part of the master plan, focusing on conservation agriculture.
“We didn’t want to do 1800s farming. Others around the state do that well. We want to show today’s farming and its relevance to Ohio, including planting alternate crops and organic gardening,” Messinger says.
While the major components of the master plan are unfolding (including a new environmental education center and a new Butterfly Trail), visitors enjoy favorite existing features.
The Japanese Garden was designed in 1963 by Makoto Nakamura of Japan and was inspired by his country’s Katsura Detached Palace Garden, completed in 1662. The Dawes interpretation is a beautiful and tranquil landscaped garden created with reflective rocks, boulders, ponds and bridges. The roji (path) contains raised stepping-stones, traditionally used so that women’s kimonos would not become soiled. The path takes visitors to a teahouse, truly one of the most romantic places in all of Ohio.
Those who time visits to match the flowering schedule of the arboretum’s trees and shrubs should always consider variable weather conditions. But generally, spring wakens the blooms of the Japanese cherry trees, forsythia, crab apples, rhododendrons and some magnolias. In summer, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), Bush Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) with buttercup yellow flowers andHydrangea paniculatawith white flowers that mature to pink, are garden highlights.
Fall foliage includes Ohio’s more common deciduous trees, as well as the bright colors of Trumpet vines (Campsis radicans). The stark winter landscape is an effective background for the character of tree bark and limb structure. Also in winter, yellow, orange and red blooms of witch hazels (Hamamelis) “magically” decorate the arboretum.
“No matter what time of year they are here, we want people to plan their next visit before they leave,” Messinger says.
Living Large in Licking County
Licking County, the second largest county geographically in Ohio, celebrates its 200th birthday this year. To mark the occasion, pick up a Bicentennial Passport at the Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau (740/345-8224, www.lccvb.com
), 455 Hebron Rd., or at any library in the county. Those who have their passports stamped at participating attractions are eligible for prizes and discounts.
While in the county, drive by or tour theLongaberger Company’s home office in Newark (740/322-5588, www.longaberger.com
), the world’s only seven-story “basket” building. Longaberger collectors will recognize it as a Medium Market Basket, only 160 times larger. The Longaberger Homestead in nearby Frazeysburg offers basket-making tours and a factory store. The banjo-pickin’, overall-wearing 2008 Gathering for collectors is Sat., May 3.
TheNational Heisey Glass Museum (740/345-2932, www.heiseymuseum. org) in Newark holds more than 4,500 pieces of hand-wrought glassware made by the A.H. Heisey Co. from 1896 to 1957 when the factory closed. You are a smart collector if you know the colors Flamingo, Moongleam and Marigold. Glass is also important toThe Works in Newark (740/349-9277), www.attheworks.org
), which features a kid-friendly art gallery, glass-blowing demonstrations and a museum.
Don’t confuse The Works with Newark Earthworks (740/344-1919, www.ohsweb.ohiohistory.org
). The latter was built by the prehistoric Hopewell culture. The geometric earthen enclosures provided a ceremonial location for religious, burial and astronomical purposes. The Octagon Earthworks Open House is Sun., May 4.
TheGreater Buckeye Lake Historical Society (740/929-1998, www.buckeyelakehistory.org
) maintains a museum with memorabilia from a popular, but now closed central Ohio amusement park. (Skee Ball, anyone?) The society also offers boat tours ofBuckeye Lake and Cranberry Bog. If thinking of amusement parks makes you miss summertime treats, head toYe Olde Mill, Home of Velvet Ice Cream (800/589-5000, www.velveticecream.com
) in Utica. Visitors enjoy hourly factory tours Monday through Thursday, an ice cream museum and an 1817 ice cream parlor. Think flavors like Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Crème Pie.— JS