The Ohio Heritage Garden
The idea of the Heritage Garden was first conceived in 2000 as a way to showcase Ohio's natural history and environment to the thousands of yearly visitors to the Governor’s Residence.
Then First Lady Hope Taft secured the donated services of a landscape architect and garden designer who developed a master plan that not only highlights the five physiographic regions of the state but also enhances the Jacobean revival architecture of the home and highlights Ohio botanists and hybridizers. The AIA award-winning design of the garden now creates areas in the yard that in true Tudor fashion look more like natural habitats the greater their distance from the residence. With the help of master gardeners, arboreta, nurseries, universities, state departments, garden clubs and many friends, implementation began in the spring of 2001.
The front fence line is now home to plants from the Allegheny Plateau region of northeast Ohio. An old white pine in the front yard is the basis of a woodland wildflower garden that represents what the vast majority of Ohio looked like when man first arrived. Meadow plants have been planted in a formal English border garden design. It is filled with the flowers of transitional areas where prairies change into forests. Prairie plants fill the formal beds off the terrace and stand for the prairies that covered two-thirds of the state after the last glacier.
The sand dune holds plants from the shores of Lake Erie that came into Ohio with the rise and fall of the bedrock of the state’s northern coast under glacial pressure (for example, Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve). A cranberry bog fills a renovated fishpond and, with nearby bog shrub plants, mimics the kettle lakes dug by the retreating ice. Un-glaciated Ohio is featured in the Appalachian garden, that hosts many plants brought to the state by the ancient Teays River. Vines with southern roots cling to the house walls and pergola. They are native to the small part of the interior low plateau that has crossed the Ohio River. A formal water garden frames the patio and showcase native wetland and water plants. The vegetable garden highlights the importance of agriculture to the state.
Since many well-established plants were already in the garden, homeowners learn how to add native plants to their current landscapes. Differences between native and exotic varieties in the same plant family are pointed out.
Docent-guided tours stress the importance of using native plants for economic, environmental, and aesthetic reasons. Visitors are introduced to early Ohio botanists and hybridizers and to plants that grow naturally in the state that they may have never seen or considered using before. Guests are linked to nurseries in Ohio that grow native plants and are encouraged to consider alternative energy by observing the operation of the all Ohio-made AIA award winning solar array on the carriage house roof. A tour of the public spaces inside the residence adds to their knowledge of the political, industrial and artistic contributions of Ohioans. With the addition of a website about the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden, the educational potential and ability to encourage homeowners to create an Ohio sense of place on their property will be greatly expanded.