Get Out And Grow
By Valerie Beerbower
Whether you enjoy observing plants, photographing beautiful plant specimens or getting your hands dirty in the name of gardening, Five Rivers MetroParks has much to offer botanical buffs. We have an array of native species and work to maintain healthy Ohio habitats. We also create inspirational seasonal displays of specialty beds, container gardens and landscapes. Trained horticulturists also offer specialized programs for every gardener, from the flora maven to those whose green thumbs are a bit brown around the edges.
Special Garden Parks
Although each MetroPark boasts diverse native plant life, three parks are known for their beautiful displays and unique gardens:
• Aullwood Garden MetroPark: This 31-acre garden situated on the edge of Englewood MetroPark is the former home of John and Marie Aull, whose world-wide travels inspired this luxurious shade garden. Through the years, the Aulls interlaced wildflowers such as Virginia bluebells, blue-eyes Marys and celandine poppies with other favorites, such as daffodils in spring, magic lilies among ostrich ferns in summer and witch hazel and lenten roses in winter.
• Cox Arboretum MetroPark: Mature forests populate this 189-acre park, along with succession areas containing an abundance of dogwood and redbud trees, planted tall-grass prairie and created wetlands. Cox Arboretum’s diverse gardens include the Edible Landscape Garden, clematis arbor, crab apple allée, shrub garden and the popular Butterfly House, which features an assortment of plants you can incorporate into your landscape to transform your home into your own private native butterfly paradise.
• Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark: The formal gardens are a pleasure to walk through year-round. Enjoy color beginning in winter with almost 75 varieties of witch hazel blooming into spring, accompanied by hellebores and early bulbs. Throughout summer and fall, a diversity of gardens, beds, borders and container plantings create a lush atmosphere. Be sure to take the little ones to the Children’s Discovery Garden, where the young and young at heart can explore the world around them through habitats and gardening.
Since 1986, the Grow With Your Neighbors (GWYN) program has been helping urban residents in Montgomery County develop and maintain community gardens and green projects, transforming vacant lots into productive open spaces. Community gardens are managed, maintained and owned by neighborhood residents and organizations. Gardeners cultivate vegetable gardens, care for community-managed parks and beautify their neighborhoods with flowers and trees. The gardens provide many benefits: reduced crime rates, improved mental and physical health and a greater sense of community! To learn more about this program, reserving a plot or starting a community garden in your neighborhood, visit MetroParks.org/gwyn or call (937) 276-7053.
Develop Your Skills
Gardening is fun as a solo project and can be a great way to meet new people and develop lasting friendships. Here are a few ways you can get involved in the Five Rivers MetroParks horticulture community. Check the current issue of ParkWays for locations, times, dates, fees and other up-to-date information. ParkWays is mailed to all residents of Montgomery County and can be obtained from park visitors centers and kiosks as well as the main office lobby at 1375 E. Siebenthaler Ave. (next to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark) or downloaded at MetroParks.org/parkways.
• Compost Kitchen: Find out easy ways to make your garden healthier with compost. Classes take place at Cox Arboretum MetroPark.
• The Plant Doctor is In: Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark staff will be on site at various community garden locations to answer any plant-related questions.
• Lunch & Learn: Enjoy speakers who will give new meaning to the term “power gardening” during this brown bag lunch series at Cox Arboretum MetroPark.
• Aullwood Garden MetroPark Tours: Enjoy this historic estate garden featuring majestic trees and specimen shade plants.
Native Plants and Habitat Management
Prior to settlement, Montgomery County and the Miami Valley, while dominated by forests, contained a wide variety of other habitats. This made for great diversity in plant and animal life. Today at Five Rivers MetroParks, the conservation staff has crafted land stewardship plans designed to protect, manage and restore examples of plant and animal communities native to the Miami Valley and provide park visitors with an opportunity to experience and learn about their natural heritage.
In general, there are five broad habitat types that are managed for: forest, succession (including controlled and natural), grassland, wetland and aquatic. In addition, MetroParks also manages habitats for conifers. Each habitat type has its own management philosophy and techniques. Visit MetroParks.org/conservation to learn more.