Kinetic Sculptures at Dawes Arboretum

The Dawes Arboretum is an especially perfect fit for Lyman Whitaker’s kinetic sculptures, and for that matter, Whitaker himself. The artist, having been sculpting for more than half a century, is also a gardener and gentleman farmer. His work reflects his deep appreciation for nature, as well as his interest in permaculture—the development of sustainable agricultural ecosystems.

Created by the Dawes family in part to serve as a place to nurture trees and plant specimens from around the world, The Dawes Arboretum is “enriching lives through the conservation of trees and nature.” Beman and Bertie Dawes founded The Arboretum in 1929, inspired to do so by their mutual love of trees and nature.

Bertie Burr Dawes was a self-taught naturalist who enjoyed gardening, fishing, shell and butterfly collecting, bird watching, and photography. A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, her father was an attorney who served as Mayor of Lincoln and State Senator.

Beman Gates Dawes was the son of a Civil War Brigadier General who operated a lumber business in Marietta, Ohio. Although Beman’s business interests would lead him away from the family business of lumber, he passionately studied trees throughout his life. Beman and Bertie were married on October 3, 1894. The Dawes Arboretum is the nearly 2,000-acre embodiment of their zeal for nature that you can enjoy today.

Daweswood, the oldest section of The Arboretum, provides a peek into the lives of the Dawes family. In addition to beautiful gardens and large maple trees, you can also admire the charming Italianate-style architecture of Daweswood House and view the Dawes Memorial. Depending on the season, perennials, flowering trees, and shrubs fill the well-groomed gardens. Nearby, The Arboretum’s towering maple trees impress beyond words. Plan a fall season visit to witness them at their most spectacular.

Many longtime visitors to The Arboretum return again and again to enjoy the much-loved Garden Gateway. Here you’ll discover the All Seasons Garden, Japanese Garden, Azalea Glen, Learning Garden and Cypress Swamp. “Serene” and “tranquil,” often used to describe Whitaker’s kinetic sculptures, are just as aptly fitting for the Japanese Garden. A pond, gravel, hills, trees, shrubs, and a stone path that crosses a reflecting pool evoke a natural ambience of soothing calmness.

Azaleas, rhododendrons, and other shrubs with vibrant flowers fill the nearby Azalea Glen, where eye-popping hydrangeas steal the show in late summer. The heavenly scent of the naturally perfumed air will linger in your memory long after your visit.

The Learning Garden, a newer installation at The Arboretum, features an arbor, tables and chairs, raised beds of vegetables, an accessible walkway and breathtaking plantings in the surrounding areas.

One of the more unusual natural features of The Arboretum is The Cypress Swamp, not so much for what it is, but for where it is. This swamp is one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America. Visit in late winter through early spring and you’ll likely spot Jefferson and Spotted Salamanders. No matter when you come, a stroll down the swamp’s boardwalk will reward you with fascinating, close-up views of the trees’ “knees.” For a truly unique perspective, take in the view from Glacier Ridge and witness the sweeping valley below which was home to a glacier 10,000 years ago. The magnificent tree collections here include hollies, oaks, boxwoods, beeches, and buckeyes.

The Woodlands section of The Arboretum boasts deep woods, a hike through which provides glimpses of native plants alongside the Woodland Garden Trail. Relax in the gazebo and take in all the sights, sounds, and scents of this lush natural setting. The Woodland Garden, a path and area created through a community collaboration, is home to an array of native plants including buttonbush, foamflower, wild geranium, large-flower trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and more. Nearby is one of the oldest cemeteries in Licking County. The Beard-Green Cemetery is owned by and named for the families of Revolutionary War soldiers John Beard and Benjamin Green who were early settlers of the area.

Dawes Lake, located at the southern end of the Main Grounds, features trees and shrubs, deciduous and evergreen conifers, an eight-acre pond with an island and amazing Hedge Lettering. Fall and winter seasons are an incredible time to visit the Conifer Glen; miniature, dwarf, compact, intermediate, and full-size specimens of conifers appear in abundance throughout this exceptionally landscaped collection. Bridges and boardwalks guide you through this breathtaking 14-acre area. Take a climb up the 36-foot Outlook Tower and enjoy the four-season splendor of incredible views, as well as the best view of the 2,040-foot-long Hedge Lettering, spelling out “Dawes Arboretum.”

The Red Barn Reserve is a natural outdoor classroom for all ages, offering meadows, a pond, boardwalk, wetlands, wooded areas and a charming rustic barn. Stroll the trails to explore the many ecosystems. You may even see the tracks of a coyote or red fox crossing the path in front of you or catch a glimpse of a water snake winding across the pond’s surface.

Arboretum East, a vast natural area of unique cultural history, comprises woodlands, a pond, agriculture fields, and a gorge overlook. If you’re a little more adventurous, you’ll love the East Trails with uneven terrain and seasonally wet and muddy areas.

A short drive from the main grounds will take you to the Dutch Fork Wetlands. This diverse ecosystem is home to six pools, a meadow, observation deck and shelter house, as well as a variety of plants, birds, insects, and mammals. The restored 70-acre wetland and grassland ecosystem serves as a successful mitigation site.

Your visit to The Dawes Arboretum will be an enlightening, enriching, and educational experience you’ll never forget. The rare opportunity to see Lyman Whitaker’s kinetic sculptures thoughtfully placed to create a striking contrast between art and nature will likely never be repeated at The Arboretum. But no matter when you visit, you’ll be immersed in a fascinating landscape that changes with each season and is never the same place twice.

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