When we did a lot of traveling one of my favorite things to do was visit botanical gardens. I think there is something so amazing and awe inspiring when you visit a space set aside as a special garden, lovingly cared for, and meticulously planned out. Over the years we have seen some gems, and i have learned so much about the minds of people who were professionals at designing gardens.
Frederick Law Olmsted, most famous for his work planning out Central Park, had a unique gift for designing surprises, gems tucked in just the right spot. We first realized how wonderful a garden designed by him could be when we visited Biltmore Estate, located in Ashville, NC. Driving in through the gate you felt like it was a private forest, with no sign of the house visible. That was intentional. As the road meandered around and about you still had no view of the house until that last turn as you crested the hill and “BAM” there it was. The design of the trees, the road, the plants and the landscaping was intentional. It took the visitor in to the mystery and sense of surprise.
When we were in Florida years ago we visited another of the gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted for the publisher of the Ladies Home Journal (circa 1920s) known as Bok Tower and Gardens. The tower, a unique structure depicting native florida flora and fauna, looked much like the tower of an old castle. Hidden inside is a carillon and a peddle organ that is played hourly during the day. On the first and second floors of the tower were the study and refuge for Edwin Bok. A mote filled with water, and coy surrounds 3 sides of the tower, and like Biltmore, you do not immediately see the tower from the entrance of the garden, but instead you walk meandering paths past a small pond, filled with swans, stands of orange and grapefruits, large cypress trees, and plants common to the central florida area. Ah, and just like Biltmore as you make that final bend in the path there it is, gleaming against the sky. Bok tower is a collection of wonderful skilled artisans and skilled botanical specialists.
And there was my visit to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco that renewed my love of Japanese culture, and the beauty of simplicity. Walking those gardens there was such a deep sense of peace, of reflective quiet, of a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the big city only feet from the gate. Tranquil Japanese arches, and large lanterns anchored the space and transported our minds away from the here and now. Anf the barrel bridge was a challenge to cross while maintaining a sense of female dignity! Each step up (or down) grows in distance, requiring the traveler to crawl as though cliff climbing. It is quite a site to watch others travel over the bridge… only reminded me that the japanese architect of this garden had a humerous side of life, wanting to see people and view their creativity with climbing it.
And we visited Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and this was my first introduction to gardening for purposes other than growing food or flowers, such as natural air conditioning. Yes, large bushes were grown in tense parallel rows, and allowed to form arches 6-8 feet above. Colonial folks set benches under the bushes, in the “tunnel” that formed because the sun was shaded and the temperature inside the tunnels were at least 10 degrees cooler.
Gardens have been a place of inspiration. And they have been a source of our botanicals, and some of our essential oils.
Saturday we are heading to Shedel Botanical Gardens near Toledo for the first annual WoodsStock Fest. Shedel garden is 17 acres of beautifully planned, and artistically kept garden, including a rose garden and a japanese garden and so much more. WoodsStock fest is a juried fine art show, a 60s car show, and a non stop line up of music from 10a to midnight.
Shedel Garden is located at 19255 W Portage River South Rd. Elmore, Ohio 43416, just off the ohio turnpike and just south of Toledo. The gardens Here is what the gardens write about their history:
The land was originally owned by Elmore’s “founding father,” Israel Harrington, but was never developed by him. The property was acquired in the late 1800′s by Frederick Von Vultee, a local businessman who owned a butcher and dry goods shop in town (in the building currently occupied by Attorney Kent Weiss). A nephew of the Von Vultee family, Frederick Steiffler, was occupying the home and land when Joe Schedel was a border there. Mr. Schedel took a 99 year lease on the house and land from Mr. Steiffler in the late 1920s and eventually purchased the estate outright in 1969.The original property was significantly larger prior to construction of the Ohio Turnpike beginning in 1955. That dramatic change, however, prompted the Schedels to create the Japanese garden in the floodplain and also construct the “Shack.” (The Schedel’s summer home adjacent to the lakes in the lowland area of the grounds.)Not only were the Schedels proficient in landscape and horticulture, but Joe Schedel was also an award winning ornithologist. He and his wife Marie raised dozens of rare birds and waterfowl on the property — some of which had NEVER been bred and reared in captivity. (the Australian Shell Duck is one example). Mrs. Schedel had a couple of “pet” birds that were trained to “play ball” and would come to her like a dog when called!Upon the passing of Joe Schedel in 1981, Marie stopped actively maintaining the grounds, and between his passing and hers in 1989, the estate fell into a state of disrepair. Upon Marie’s death the Schedel Foundation took possession of the estate and began the task of restoring the estate to its once grand condition. The gates opened to the public in 1991.