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Columbus Ohio: A Midwestern Garden Getaway

One advantage of having an agricultural college in close proximity to a large urban setting is that horticultural hot spots abound and they are designed for pedestrians. This is an apt description of Columbus, Ohio.  The city plays host to Ohio State University, which has one of the midwest's foremost agricultural / horticultural curriculums, and there are a number of sites around the city that showcase excellence in the breeding of ornamentals. Gardening aficionados with the yen to travel would find Columbus to be a delightful destination.

Two specific sites that are must-sees for gardening fiends are the Chadwick Arboretum and the Columbus Rose Garden. Both of these sites are free to tour, making them very friendly to the budget-minded traveler. The Rose Garden also offers free parking; Chadwick is on the campus of Ohio State University, so there  is a fee to park, but the campus offers a flat-fee rate on the weekend. Both sites also have the plant varieties labeled which makes it easy to compile a wish list. Visitors will come away with ideas and inspiration for their next garden project.

The Rose Garden's main feature is the Memorial Garden, in which thousands of shrub, hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses are planted in beds that are coordinated by color. Most of the bushes are dedicated to individuals; the memorial fees help to offset the cost of maintaining the beds. The beds are arranged in large, concentric circles and interwoven with a brick path that allows for a mile or so of wandering.

The garden ends with a bed of heritage and heirloom rose varieties. This area was done flowering during my visit, with only the most rugged rugosas bearing two or three bee-laden blooms. This garden is at its best during the month of May, as most heritage and heirloom roses bloom once during the late spring and early summer.

There is also a small herb garden to one side that contains culinary and medicinal herbs, along with placards explaining the uses of each. There's more to herbal lore than the lyric, "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" - beebalm, catmint and wild ginger are just as valid in the herbal realm.

Chadwick Arboretum is a woodsy enclave that has the Olentangy River as a boundary. The trail through the arboretum is dark and steamy, but the environment is hardly menacing. Among the numerous evergreen and deciduous trees are beds of hydrangeas and hibiscus with flowers as large as the head of a Buckeye linebacker. There are also hosta beds galore. These beds are a great way to gauge the final size of a variety that a gardener is contemplating adding to a collection, and it's also better than a catalog for discovering hosta varieties that offer unusual leaf color, shapes and grow well in the Midwest.

Beyond the Arboretum are the Learning Gardens. These showcase the latest innovations in ornamental hybrids, many of which have not been introduced to the marketplace. Across the road to the south is the Cancer Survivors' Garden. The paths here are lined with vivid floral displays and end at the water feature - a stone sphere in put into perpetual motion by a flowing stream of water. The garden whispers serenity while affirming the exuberance of a life that is rich and abundant.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must for a visit to Columbus. The terrain is gently rolling, and it's quite easy to walk 5 to 7 miles during a visit to just one of these places of interest. Luckily, both gardens have benches judiciously placed along the paths. Come prepared with a map of the city and of the OSU campus, however. Signage tends to be sparse and getting directions from residents is sketchy. Hotel and motel accommodations are abundant and range from the one-star extreme budget variety to five-star luxury types. Public transportation is available for traveling within the downtown Columbus area and the Ohio State campus, and there are taxis available for negotiating from downtown to the airport.


Columbus Ohio Memorial Rose Garden


One of the hibiscus on display at the Chadwick Arboretum

Water feature in the gazebo of the Cancer Survivors' Garden

One of the hosta beds in Chadwick Arboretum