The Landless Master Gardener or …

How the Third Time is the Charm

I am embarking on a rite of passage, a pilgrimage many devout gardeners take at some point in their life; the quest for their Master Gardener Certification. This journey begins with an exhilarating rush: meeting classmates for the first time, receiving your binder- let me introduce you to your reading material, AKA your new garden bible, for the next ten weeks- the courting of project coordinators looking for new volunteers and the anticipation of the final exam. It is thrilling. I should know. This is the third time I have started this endeavor.

I will save you the details of why the first two treks down the path hit a dead-end… just think relocation and then a major life changing event.

So here I am, again, in the beginning of the process, third week to be exact, and I am loving it. My classmates are quite diverse. We have younger gardeners to gardeners that are in the thick of their retirement. There are those who have lived here all their lives and those who are new to Cincinnati and our lovely clay soil. Sorry, master gardener instructor. I know you say it is not clay, but man, when you try to plant a shrub, even small annuals, sure feels like clay! I digress …

The first night togeher we shared a bit about ourselves, which was all garden related of course. As we did this, I was a reminded of how diverse gardening can be. From container gardeners to those reclaiming a ten acre plot, it all comes down to grownups love to play in the soil and create something bigger than ourselves.

What is not apparent to you, yet, but already revealed to the class, is I am a landless gardener- not even a square foot of land do I own. But, all is well in my garden world. I had a rather large garden with a pond and woodland trails. But now I am in a condo. Do I despair, being the landless gardener? Why no!

Remember the two aborted attempts at Master Gardener classes? The events that caused that set the wheels in motion that brought me here, to a place in life where I can embrace and indulge completely, without distractions, in this experience. A place where I take horticulture classes at the university and garden in my two favorite places in Cincinnati- a local park and an historic cemetery and arboretum.

Not to be too philosophical, but things happen for a reason. Some plants fail, some become aggressive. Some garden designs inspire and others disappoint. And, sometimes accomplishments are postponed, to when we are ready to really appreciate the experience.



The Conservatory Garden

“For many New Yorkers, the Conservatory Garden is the most beautiful place in Manhattan,” opens Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry authors of the book, Garden Guide: New York City. With an opening statement like that, I had to see for myself.  Of course I cannot speak for all New York tourists not to mention New Yorkers, but after visiting the Conservatory Garden, I hazard to guess Nancy and Susan are pretty much spot on. 

Located in the northeast corner of Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is a jewel of unspoiled garden decadence. Its lush plantings, fountains, sculptural features and distinct garden style rooms show little if any hint of the thousands of visitors it receives each year.

The Conservatory Garden is named for the collection of glasshouses built in 1898 used for raising plants for the city’s parks. The financial crisis of the depression led to the removal of the houses and the new Conservatory Garden was installed, as part of the Work Projects Administration. And as many stories go, from large cities to small towns, financial and community support waned and the gardens fell into disrepair.

In the 80’s and 90’s a series of events and new designers breathed life into the garden.

The Conservatory Garden is divided into three distinct styles – French, Italian and English.

The center Italian garden features a wisteria pergola with a wonderful view of the garden's lawn and a quiet place to relax with a friend or escape with a book.

The large lawn is surrounded by clipped hedges of yews, a 12-foot-high jet fountain, and two crabapple allées. I can only imagine how enjoyable it must be in the spring to stroll under a canopy of pink and white blossoms!

The northern French-style garden features meticulously trimmed boxwoods that create year-round structure as well as the perfect backdrop for the garden’s spectacular seasonal displays of tulips in spring and chrysanthemums in autumn. In the center is the whimsical Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor Walter Schott.

My favorite of the three, the south garden, is designed in the style of an English perennial garden. You may hear this garden referred to as the Secret Garden. The reason being, the statue and pool within this garden is dedicated to Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden.