Travel and Design - Wegerzyn Gardens

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A quiet bench to enjoy the view of the Arbor Garden.

A quiet bench to enjoy the view of the Arbor Garden.

Here it is, our first Travel & Design posting. The title of this new feature sums up what we want to share with you quite nicely. All gardens have something to share, something to teach us. From estate gardens rooted in history to city "pocket" gardens, they all have words of wisdom to pass on.

Whether we are searching for new plants, new trends in garden design or wanting to experience a garden unlike anything we can create on our own patch of earth, there is a common thread that runs through us all; we travel to learn more about that which brings us much joy. We travel to gardens to become better gardeners. 

Our first garden destination is Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton, Ohio. Wegerzyn Gardens is part of the Dayton Five Rivers MetroParks system, an amazing collection of gardens, parks, walking and biking trails, even a farmers’ market. I visit Wegerzyn a few times each year for I am drawn to its beautiful setting in the scenic Stillwater River corridor and its collection of gardens, including a playful Children’s Garden.

Dock and small pond in the Children's Garden.

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The gardens are nestled between the Stillwater River, a prairie and a swamp forest. Wegerzyn has the feel of a garden that should be part of grand manor house with its classic garden designs. Wegerzyn consists of nine distinct gardens plus the Children’s Garden. The Garden Green, a lush expanse of lawn with an allee of 'Shawnee Brave' bald cypress, is bookended by the North and South Plazas, both wonderful places to sit and enjoy the view of the lawn.

View of the Garden Green from the North Plaza.

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To the east of the lawn you will find three distinct gardens: the Victorian Garden, English Garden and Federal Garden. The often photographed Memory Garden, east of the North Plaza, is a study in woodland shade plantings.

Entrance to the the Victorian Garden

Entrance to the the Victorian Garden

But perhaps what draws the most attention is the Arbor Garden, with is painter’s palette of colors. Light and airy, with a symphony of buzzing bees and singing birds, the Arbor Garden is anchored by roses complimented with annuals and perennials. A generous stone stairway offers a nice place to sit and enjoy the Arbor Garden before strolling along its garden paths.

Approaching the Arbor Garden

Approaching the Arbor Garden

Wegerzyn pays equal attention to its younger visitors. The Children’s Garden is a little wonderland complete with a waterfall, stream, pond, sensory garden, play areas and a way to peek under the soil. The Children’s Garden does an excellent job at encouraging kids to dig in and have fun. On a hot day, this garden trekker is not above taking off her shoes and enjoying the feel of the Children's Garden's cool stream on her toes.

Three Lessons in Design

Create rooms within the garden

An arch of European beech

An arch of European beech

Almost any garden has space for garden rooms. Wegerzyn’s generous garden rooms are in proportion to the grounds. In your own yard, the garden rooms may be a bit more modest. Garden rooms are an excellent way to create private sanctuaries within the garden. When each garden room has a unique design and feel, ease your guests’ transition from one room to another with foyers or neutral spaces. Now, if the intent of the rooms is to show a sharp, edgy contrast in styles, skip the foyer element and perhaps go for a quick turn in the path or a doorway that leads to a new garden experience.

Design with scale in mind

As much as we may covet an allee of majestic trees for our own garden, many of us simply do not have the space to accommodate such a land-hungry design element.

The gardens continue behind the Arbor Garden.

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Gardens that are in proportion to their grounds put the viewer at ease. A tiny garden in the middle of an open field would feel insignificant and will likely make the visitor feel dwarfed by the setting. On the flip side, a garden with massive plants and garden ornamentation in a tiny urban lot very well may feel claustrophobic and intimidating.

While touring gardens and green spaces I've found that if I notice the scale of the garden as it relates to the space—before I notice the garden itself—the garden and setting are often in conflict and I am not at ease.

A quiet spot to rest in the Federal Garden.

A quiet spot to rest in the Federal Garden.

Stop and Stay a While

Throughout Wegerzyn Gardens are places to rest and enjoy the gardens. Seating in the garden can be as formal as a wrought-iron bench or as casual as a simple folding chair. Paths through woods or a field of prairie flowers should include a place to stop and enjoy the setting, if only a wider spot in the trail to allow visitors to pause without disrupting others on their journey along the path.

Click here for more pictures from Wegerzyn Gardens.

Plan Your Trip—This information is accurate as of this article's posting date. Be sure to confirm open days, times and admission fees before you go.

Wegerzyn Gardens, Dayton, Ohio

Parking and Admission: Free

April 1 – Oct. 31: 8am – 10pm

Nov. 1 – March 31: 8am – 8pm

Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day

Wegerzyn Gardens website

Jenny Koester, AKA The Landless Gardener, is the Garden Blog Editor for Horticulture magazine and the author of The Garden LifeandA Year in the Park.