Free Pass: Public Gardens Day

6-06 geranium allee 2 resizeVisit a Public Garden on Public Gardens Day

By Micheal Leach

Public gardens sparkle with enough delightful facets to rival an engagement ring.  A bona fide plant geek, such as myself, is expected to say such a thing. Other people sing praises of these treasures, too, even if they don’t  know a trowel from a trug.

Yet many people have no clue. The parks, gardens, arboretums and botanic collections are hidden in plain sight. They don’t think about them, much less visit, unless a garden geek relative or friend comes to town.

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The labyrinth at Chadwick Arboretum

The American Public Gardens Association (APGA) aims to change this by creating more awareness of these places. There’s even a day designated as Public Gardens Day, Friday May 11.

I’ll confess, National Public Gardens Day isn’t noted on my calendar, and it’s probably missing from yours as well. A press release from The Ohio State University Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens, in Columbus, was my wake-up call.  Casey Sclar, executive director of the APGA is making an appearance at Chadwick’s annual fund- raising plant sale May 10-12.

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Steven Still garden at Chadwick Arboretum

Perhaps this post will stir some interest in public gardens in your part of the Midwest and elsewhere — and inspire your support for the plant sales and other fund raisers that benefit them. Many Midwest towns, small cities and metro areas offer appealing public spaces. Check out this list from APGA.

There’s good reason to support them. In an age where more “woe is me” comes with each new day, nature connections are essential survival tools. Science keeps proving what gardeners and other “outsiders” have always known: Being in nature, working with plants and other outdoor activity is good for you.  Even a short walk in a natural setting, whether woods or park, calms pulse and lowers blood pressure.

woodland garden 2 Chadwick 4-27-18 resize

Woodland Garden at Chadwick Arboretum

 Besides Chadwick, there are plenty of cool public gardens in Ohio’s capital. As I reside in suburban Columbus, let me toot our horn on a few of the many spots to see should you come this way. There’s the Columbus Park of Roses, a popular wedding venue and one of the nation’s largest public rose gardens. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers multiple appeals to green thumbs and their friends and families. The Topiary Park downtown even charmed an English garden friend of mine. Inniswood Metro Gardens features an array small gardens. On a grander scale is Dawes Arboretum in nearby Newark. The Japanese garden there is a sure cure for stress.

Besides all these pluses, Sclar reminded me of OSU’s history of horticulture and the entire city of Bexley being an arboretum. While Columbus is only the 15th largest metro area, but it has a “depth of horticulture.” 

“The Columbus area has a rich diversity of public garden spaces and served as the site of the 2012 Annual Conference of public garden professionals,” said Joan Thomas of the APGA. “These gardens are doing amazing things and showcase horticultural excellence among public gardens in the U.S.” 

Mary Maloney, Chadwick’s executive director, invited Sclar.  She is among several central Ohio public gardens representatives active in APGA leadership positions. 

Sclar and Maloney are to appear on “All Sides with Ann Fisher”” on WOSU 89.7 FM  May 11 as part of the annual Spring Sale and Auction Fundraiser. 

Like most public gardens, Chadwick Arboretum is dependent on earned revenues for support. Such support comes from sales, weddings and other activities. About 70 percent of public gardens have corporate events, such as meetings, Sclar said.

By why should the non-gardener care about such gardens?

“They are places for wellness, health, and beauty,” Thomas said. “They provide a welcoming setting for social connection with others, whether walking, taking a class or listening to a concert; they serve as places to mark life occasions; they are a place for mental healing and peace for those needing it (whether veterans, caregivers, those grieving, or those just needing to power down).”

Plus they are excellent places to find what performs best in the local area, Sclar added.

No wonder there’s a day set aside to celebrate these places.

To learn more, check out our friend Diana Lockwood’s article from Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch.

 

 

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