Aullwood Gardens

This past Friday I had the opportunity to tour two historic Ohio gardens; Aullwood Gardens in Dayton and the Adena houes and gardens in Chillicothe. Of the two, Aullwood was by far the most impressive. Both have a rich history and are worth noting, but it was Aullwood that made me want to linger the entire day in the woodland gardens, stroll along the gravel paths and soak in the sun in the prairie garden.

The history of both of the gardens, along with garden photos, will appear soon in The Historic Midwest Garden. For now, I thought I would share a few close looks at Aullwood gardens.


Ginkgo, the Living Fossil

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Ginkgo is my favorite tree. There are many trees I hold in high regard and would eagerly include in a landscape. But it is the Ginkgo that holds the top spot with me.

The Ginkgo’s ancestors date back to the Paleozoic period, 225-280 million years ago. Common in the landscape, it is believed to be extinct in the wild. Once there were several species. Today, only Ginkgo biloba remains. (There are many cultivars to choose from.)
Buddhist monks cherished the tree, preserving it in their temple gardens for generations, saving the tree from extinction.
It is also called the Maidenhair tree for its 2-4 inch fan-shaped leaves look much like the maidenhair fern’s leaflets. The female produces edible nuts that emit a very off-putting odor once they fall. One is well advised not to plant female trees around pedestrian areas.

The best way to experience a Ginkgo is to stand beneath one and peer up into its canopy. In the spring and summer, the sun turns the fan-shaped leaves a bright, clean, green color. To me, it looks as if the leaves capture and then glow from the sun’s light.

In the fall the leaves put on a spectacular display of crisp, pure yellow color. Enjoy it while you can, the Ginkgo drops its leaves in a flurry, as if a giant shiver ran up its truck and out its branches, shaking the leaves to the ground.
Don’t be deceived by juvenile trees which appear awkward and a bit weak in appearance. This majestic tree gets better with age.
80 ft. tall, 30-80 ft. wide. Massive, horizontal branches create a light, airy feel. Full sun, deep well drained acid or alkaline soil. Will tolerate road salt, pollution, drought and heat, but cringes when placed in poorly drained soils. Zone 4-8. Native to China and according to Dirr, North America at one time as well.


More from the Zoo Garden Tour

Potted to Perfection
Bisark Palm; Aztec Blue Vevet Verbena; Silver Fox
Dalina Tampico, Dahlia P.W.
Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica

Abyssinian Banana, Ensete ventricosum
& Diamond Frost Euphorbia
Prince Purple Fountain Grass,
Pennisetum purpureum 'Princess'


Fabulous Foliage and Tempting Textures

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a gem of the Queen City, and the country. The Zoo's botanical garden expertly blends annuals, perennials, native plants as well as trees and shrubs. And of course, the show stopper in the spring, 80,000 tulips!

 I recently visited the Zoo for a tour of the annual plantings. We just skimmed the surface, which is to be expected with over 20,000 annuals on display.


Why I Adore Garden Books

Or, How a Tree has a Spell Over Me

I want to share with you why I adore books and all things 'garden.' I began reading Restoring American Gardens, An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants 1640-1940 by Denise Wiles Adams and as I skimmed the pages, I saw an entry for Magnolia grandiflora, one of my favorite trees (Ginkgo being the top pick in my book), but I digress. I was struck by this because a Magnolia shades the steps leading to my gardens at Ault Park- a lovely sight that makes me smile. It is my portal to my garden life. Work and house chores are on one side of the tree and as I pass underneath, I enter my garden world- gardens, weeds to pull and relaxation (isn’t weeding and relaxation one in the same?). According to the book, the earliest American citation for the tree was made by botanist and nurseryman, John Bartrum, ca.1760.

I was introduced to John, and his son William Bartram while studying early American history, another interest of mine. I was researching a paper, Jefferson's Gardens, or, what my classmates referred to as the shrubbery paper, when I read about Jefferson visiting Bartram’s nursery.

Another rabbit trail. A Magnolia grandiflora also shades the parking area of my 1940s condo in Hyde Park. When I was searching for a new home, one to replace the house infused with bad vibes, I saw this beautiful building with its southern magnolia which conjured up memories of my trips to Savannah and Charleston- nice. I was quite smitten with the place already. Then, I climbed the steps to the slate walkway to find myself in a charming courtyard garden complete with a fountain. In an instant, I felt at home.

So you can see, this tree has a bit of a spell over me!


Coffee- what keeps me from being beige…

Or, the divine reason why I drink coffee

If it wasn’t for coffee I would be beige- a dull, lackluster, humdrum lady. At least that is what I believe and I am not willing to risk giving up coffee with that potential side effect.

I am sure you heard the legend of how a goat discovered coffee. Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder witnessed his goats behaving with a bit more energy than usual (have you ever seen a lethargic goat?). Kaldi surmised that his goats were acting thusly because they had been grazing on the berries of a shrub. Well, long legend short, Kaldi the inquisitive goat herder snacked on the berries and he too became quite giddy.
And here is where our legend takes a very serious turn. A monk who had witnessed this transformation, also tried the berries and discovered that he, along with his fellow monks, were more open to divine inspiration.

As gardeners dedicated to our craft, we are in constant pursuit of inspiration. We are on a relentless quest to learn all we can and incorporate that knowledge into our gardens. So, logically, if we want our gardens to be divinely inspired, then coffee we must drink

The Rose Garden at Spring Grove

I do not know how things are where you live, but here in the Ohio River Valley, the heat has been a bit excessive. Hot and humid sums it up. So, you can imagine I was not too heart broken to find the garden area I maintain at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum looked pretty good. Twenty minutes of weeding and it was good to go.

Instead of finding an additional garden to work on, I decided to play lazy for the day and explore more of the cemetery. I found a few more examples of Gardens in Stone (which I will share later) as I made my way to one of the garden areas I do not maintain.

The rose garden is tucked within a conifer collection garden. Visiting the rose garden was a nice treat. I am not much of a rose grower. Knock-Out roses are my rose of choice and for good reason. I garden in a park, so growing roses that need diligent care is not a good fit, and my previous garden was lacking adequate sun.

Visiting the rose garden was a nice change of pace. And, as I explored the conifer garden, I couldn't help but expand my plant wish list. Now if I only had a few more garden plots to work with at Ault Park.......


All is quiet at the park.

It was a very peaceful night at Ault Park. I had the gardens to myself with the exception of few visitors including the walking lady who I see most evenings I am there. She never speaks, but recently she started to give me a quiet smile. I soaked the gardens with a hose. I could have made dozens of trips with the watering can ~~ transformed it into a meditative labor of love, perhaps another time.


The Honey Bee

The honey bee was introduced to America, like so many other flora and fauna, by European immigrants. The honey bee was shipped to the colonies as early as 1621 by the Virginia Company. Honey bee terminology or lingo, such as hive, honey and especially drone also found their way to the new world. In her book, Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped America, Tammy Horn discusses many “bee” references in colonial America. According to her book, the depressed and inactive men of Jamestown and Plymouth were described as idle drones, aptly reflecting the commercial nature of the ventures in which they were engaged. The honey bee made more than a vocabulary contribution to the settlers.

The honey bees were valued for their honey, a natural sweetener and high energy food, with perceived medicinal purposes as well as for their wax which made for more clean burning, pleasantly scented candles. The bees were also invaluable pollinators, critical to the establishment of orchards and other agrarian undertakings. The honey bee was seen as such a key part of establishing a new colony, the Dutch East India Company included in its critical supply list, skeps for the keeping of bees.

Skeps were made of woven grass, a light weight, easily available material in the deforested regions of England. Before the use of skeps, bees were housed in hollowed logs, clay pots or mud pipes. Just as in Europe, when the bees in America thrived and outgrew their home, they swarmed, creating a wonderful opportunity for settlers, honey hunting.

The thick stands of forests in eastern America were ideal for honey bees. Old trees provided hollows and crevasses for swarming bees to take up residence. Unlike in Europe, where much of the land was private, settlers were free to wander the woods, searching for wild hives. And swarm the bees did. They swiftly made their way west, in part by the migration of people to new land and in part on their own accord. According to Thomas Jefferson, Native Americans called the honey bee the white man’s fly, for its presence foretold of the advance of white settlers.

Early bee hunters have been immortalized and romanticized to some degree by authors such as James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving. The honey bee hunter was judged on his ability to find a wild hive in short order. He lived in two worlds, the civilized and the wild, following his own rules, part of society and part of the wilderness.

To be continued……….


Gardens in Stone

The following images of gardens in stone were taken at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati. An idea, wouldn’t it be interesting to design a garden based on the plants depicted in funerary art?
The acanthus leaf, an image we are very familiar with, is depicted in beautiful detail in the above stone. The acanthus leaf adorns Corinthian columns and is believed to have been used in funerary art as early as the 5th century BCE. For funerary art, the leaf's thorns and prickly texture represents the not so easy journey we experience in life and our final triumph over said life.
Grape vine and wheat. Grapes represent the Eucharistic wine- the blood of Jesus. At times, the grape image is coupled with wheat, as we see in the above stone. The wheat represents the bread, or body of Jesus- together, Holy Communion.
A grieving angel holds a wreath made of what I believe is Narcissus. In Christian imagery, the Narcissus is a symbol of triumph over vanity, death and selfishness.

The palm tree was originally a Roman symbol of victory. Christians adopted the plant, as they did with countless other plants and flowers, and gave it a refined and sometimes altogether new meaning. For Christians, the palm tree represents their triumph over death.
The Olive Tree or branch is symbol of peace, especially when carried by a dove. The Olive Tree also represents fruitfulness, purification and light.


Someone once said ...

“Destruction of beauty and vandalism are the result of ignorance, thoughtlessness, or defiance of the law and the rights of others. When perpetrated by those who because of their training and station in life should know better, despoliation of nature should be doubly censured.” E. Lucy Braun, 1931


On the Road, Marietta, Ohio

I just returned from a short trip to the Ohio River town of Marietta. I was in search of a few nice shops, bookstores, restaurants and of course, gardens.
I anticipated old, majestic homes with well established gardens that would deliver the wow factor, a downtown with overflowing planters and hanging baskets and parks with flowerbeds brimming with color.

The town is remarkably charming. Its historic homes are beautiful and there are plenty of places to help you relax and while away the day. Museums, a cemetery noted for the largest number of Revolutionary War Officers and Indian mounds makes a trip to this town a treat.

However, if it is gardens you crave, you will find more potential than inspiring accomplishments. I did discover a few charming front yard gardens and the arboretum provided a fun way to brush up on my arbor knowledge. And, best of all, a small surprise!

As we made our way to town, the roadside and fields were brimming with Milkweed, Black Eye-Susan’s and Queen Ann’s Lace as well as one flower I am not confident of its name. The generous expanses of wildflowers were beautiful and the hundreds of butterflies fluttering about made the scene divine.