Like a museum of living landscape paintings, The Dawes Arboretum combines the delicate beauties of a Japanese garden, a cypress swamp, and an azalea glen, creating a colorful haven of native plants. But this 1,800-acre wonderland wasn’t always so expansive. In 1929, when nature lovers Beman and Bertie Dawes first transformed their woodland property into an arboretum, it was just a 293-acre swath of Licking County. This stretch, with its rolling hills and mature trees, was so calm that it drew visitors from across the state and instilled a love of nature in the Dawes’ children.
Today, many of the arboretum’s more than 16,000 labeled trees and shrubs are representative of types native to central Ohio, such as the 17 Ohio buckeyes planted to form the number 17. Elsewhere, more than 100 bonsai trees adorn the courtyard by the visitors’ center. Along with plants, the grounds entice explorers with more than 12 miles of hiking trails and a 4-mile auto tour. Antiques and memorabilia from the 19th and 20th centuries adorn the Daweswood House Museum, and the Discovery Center enthralls youngsters with bird watching, crafts, and fun facts about honeybees and frogs.