More than a century ago, a Kansas doctor set up a sanctuary for nature lovers, but over the years, the Bartlett Arboretum became overgrown and unruly.
That is, until it was rescued by a free spirit from Texas and her team of volunteers!
That garden is our next stop on Main Street Kansas.
Ablaze with autumn colors, the Bartlett Arboretum is what the owner calls “her church of the trees”– a religious experience in nature.
“I’m a spiritual person,” said Robin Macy, owner of Bartlett Arboretum. “But I feel like it was the one time in my life when something else that was a greater power was at the wheel of my life.”
Divine intervention perhaps, as singer Robin Macy took a wrong turn from the bluegrass festival in Winfield and ended up at the Bartlett Arboretum. A for-sale sign and a gut feeling made her buy it.
“I walked in here, and I’ve never looked back,” said Macy. “I mean my parents thought I was crazy.”
Especially since Robin knew nothing about trees and had never owned anything, but she soon found her mentor.
“It’s strictly a labor of love,” explained Mary Bartlett Gouray, former owner of Bartlett Arboretum. “Never was very profitable.”
Mary Bartlett Gouray is the granddaughter of Dr. Walter Bartlett who created the arboretum in 1910 to grow trees and provide a haven for water fowl. It also became known for its tulips in the spring, but over the years, taking care of it all was just too much. The family closed the arboretum two years before Robin showed up.
“It means a lot to the whole family that Robin has kept this place going,” said Bartlett Gouray.
“It’s 108 years of stewardship, three generations of Bartletts, and now, a tribe– i call them,” said Macy. “These soil sisters and brothers that come here. That’s why the place looks so good because nobody’s punching a clock.”
Robin even wrote a song about her army of volunteers who prune, weed and plant on their own time.
“I think the Bartlett Arboretum is paradise,” said Diana Duncan, soil sister from Winfield. “It’s beautiful over here. Robin has done so many things. A lot of people have planted trees, lots of trees, over 30-thousand tulip bulbs every year.”
“Many of these folks are retirees, not all of them. A couple are whippersnappers, my 30-year-old ya-yas. They come here and glean the wisdom from the older generation,” said Macy.
Robin has also learned. She’s now a trained arborist, and together, she and her helpers have restored the arboretum.