What Is An Ohio Garden Like?

If you visit public gardens and parks you get an idea of what will grow in Ohio and how our gardens look. There are historic and tutorial gardens, and many more types, available to visit. I have made a page on the public gardens of Ohio which may interest you, as well as the general gardening information that is on this page.

Gardens to see in Ohio

Weather and Soil Conditions in Ohio

If you look at the topography of the State of Ohio, you are seeing a range of situations: rolling hills, and flat-ironed fields, river valley and lake coast, woodland, grassland, and lot of cropland! For most of Ohio you can expect regular amounts of rainfall and as we like to remark about the weather here: “Don’t like the weather? It will change soon”. The official (PDF file) proof.

I have personally gardened on two types of Ohio conditions.

  • My first garden was in the capitol city, Columbus, on what was woodland when pioneers arrived to the area. Clay soils over a shale base, my city street was shaded by the deciduous trees common to many landscapes of Northeastern USA.
  • My rural garden is a little different. Quite different to me, was the very flat horizon of the land as you venture west on I 70.

    Originally prairie, the grasslands dotted with Burr Oak savanna eventually gave way to the corn and soy bean farming that Ohio is so famous for. The story of my gardens are here, and my comments on Midwest gardens.

Broadly speaking, the lands of most of the western parts of Ohio have a neutral to alkaline pH, while as you move east into the hillier parts the soils will register more neutral to acidic. You can see this plainly on the soil survey maps. It is a great state to garden in because of the responsiveness of the soil to amendments and the dependable rainfall; even if you are so unlucky to have a garden area of subsoils that the developers sometimes leave behind, a little layering of leaf molds, manure, and compost into the garden soil will reward you. That isn’t to say we don’t experience drought, because we do. I’ve been through some doozies.

Our Gardens

It used to be, at least to my memory of the 1950’s and 1960’s, that gardens were relegated to the back yards, often a patch of vegetable or fruit and maybe a strip of perennial flowers along the fence. The front yards were robotically planted with a patch of lawn, some evergreen foundation plants, and probably a shade tree out front, sometimes in the ubiquitous “hellstrips”. Not too different from many parts of the nation at that time. Although such sensibilities are slow to change, I see much more diversity today.

The great thing about many established neighborhoods is the chance for gardeners to produce a personal, yet community, feeling through the plantings of their yards. The gardens of many have moved into the front yard, although I haven’t seen many food gardens out there quite yet.

The front yard truck garden is, however, the traditional style of the farms (including the Amish farmsteads of Holmes county), often situated right next door to the kitchens. Old fashioned and practical, these gardens are often neat rows of edibles with some equally neat rows of flowering plants.

The Governor’s Mansion has a garden highlighting native Ohio plants:

An Ohio garden is not any one style, climate zone, or topography, since we are a large state with many types of communities, but the possibilities of a nice garden are available anywhere within our boundaries. It just takes some willingness on the part of the owner.

You can find some gems of gardens in inner city neighborhoods, in suburban developments, and along rural roads. Public parks often display some fine gardens and are place to discover wildflowers.

Arboretums are dotted around the state and give visitors an inspiration for possible plantings in their own landscape. Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio is one of my favorites.

Dawes ArboretumLearn from an Arboretum

In the Columbus Metro Park system the Inniswood Garden is an example of the garden and nature reserve that was once a private residence, and will give an example of what is possible for most homeowners in this state. On a grander scale are the estate gardens of Stan Hywet in Akron, Ohio.

Inniswood | Stan Hywet

A very interesting account of the Seiberling family and history of the building of Stan Hywet hall.

Stan Hywet