Lunch With Hope Taft, A Chelsea Flower Show Designer And Topiary Animals? Count Me In!

Who wins your award for congeniality? I would bestow the honor on two people.

One is Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the jovial clergyman with the gift of the gab, a taste for hot dogs, baseball and Donohue’s Steakhouse, and an obvious love for his job. The other is Hope Taft, the former First Lady of Ohio, whose down-to-earth ways and delightful personality make strangers feel like her special friends.

So when Mrs. Taft issued an invitation to join her on July 26 for a lecture by award-winning English garden designer Amanda Patton, 160 people responded. After all, this special event supporting the Friends of the Ohio Governors Residence and Heritage Garden just wouldn’t be any fun without us!

As the throng gathered in the conservatory’s toasty Palm House, we lined up to feast on a buffet lunch that began with lemon-and-basil-dressed greens topped with peaches, candied walnuts and goat cheese; continued with grilled chicken, vegetable soup and a side of summertime couscous salad; and finished with bite-sized coconut macaroons and lemon bars.

After lunch, Mrs. Taft introduced Amanda Patton, who not only has designed over 150 gardens from her home base in Storrington, West Sussex, but also leads garden-themed trips for the Friends. Patton was stateside for the Friends’ “Natural Gardens for the 21st Century” event at Lakeside, Ohio, for which she gave lectures on European influences in the development of natural gardens, new garden trends in Europe, and new approaches to gardening with native plants.

Amanda told us about designing a garden for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, the prestigious annual event that attracts millions to see the latest in flower and landscape design. In fact, the Prince of Wales has designed two award-winning Chelsea gardens. In 2001, he created an Islamic garden, filled with colorful flowering plants found in early Islamic gardens, to replicate the geometric patterns on Middle Eastern rugs at Highgrove, his country home. His 2002 Healing Garden, dedicated to the Queen Mother, was symbolically filled with medicinal herbs, shrubs, culinary plants, structures and hidden symbols to remind people of what has been lost in nature.

A professional illustrator with a degree in textile design, Amanda relies on natural plantings in garden designs to create an atmosphere and inspire feelings. In 2008, Walter de la Mare’s poem The Listeners led her to design “The Traveller’s Garden” for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

That same year, she also designed “Somerset Revival,” her first entry for the Chelsea Flower Show. Inspired by the idea of rural regeneration, she transformed a 10-by-22-meter space into a blue-and-yellow-themed garden with wildflowers and cultivated species alike, an upturned milk churn planted with Phlox Chattahoochee, and a cider apple tree. She used old bricks and roof tiles to create paths and edgings and turned a Somerset cider press into a water feature. Her entry won a silver-gilt medal.

She then described her travels to a land beyond the forest, where Jack Goes To Bed At Noon, Veronica flourishes, and hay rattle and peonies bloom. “Count me in,” indeed!

As my Brooks Brothers “Indian Garden” look wilted in the heat, Mrs. Taft displayed her characteristic cheerfulness as she presented Amanda with a copy of The Prairie Peninsula, a new book in which naturalist Guy Denny and nature photographer Gary Meszaros describe the millions of acres of tallgrass prairie that once covered Ohio, but today is an endangered ecosystem.

After we said goodbye to Mrs. Taft and Amanda, we hunted for 10 topiary sculptures of endangered animals who have made themselves at home in the conservatory.  You can too, in Topiaries at the Conservatory: Wild Wonders, on view through October 29.

In this exhibition, each animal topiary is covered with plants that mimic the colors and textures of fur, skin, scales and feathers.  Some nest in their native environments. 

A trio of flamingos, all crafted from Begonia semperflorens “Cocktail Mix,” stand outside the visitor center.  A Green Peacock in the north courtyard is composed of Ficus pumila ‘Variegata’ for the body, plus seasonal bedding plants for the tail.

A Green Sea Turtle and the Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterfly blend into their habitats in the Pacific Island Water Garden. In the bonsai courtyard, the West African Lion topiary is made of 773 plants of Carex flagellifera and Lysimachia congestiflora “Variegated Lemon,” while over 1,000 plants of Lysimachia nummularia “Goldilocks” and Ajuga reptans “Golden Glow” create the West African giraffe topiary.

The Eastern Lowland Gorilla topiary in the conservatory’s tropical rainforest room is made of 348 plants from two cultivars of Ajuga reptans: “Metallica” and “Chocolate Chip.” About 225 plants went into the making of the Slender-horned gazelle topiary in the conservatory’s desert. Vibrant chartreuse-green Sedum rupestre “Lemon Ball” forms the body, while reindeer moss creates the gazelle’s hair.

In the Himalayan Mountains area of the conservatory, a red panda topiary is made of 368 plants, including two cultivars of Sedum album: “Red Ice” and “Coral Carpet.” Preserved reindeer moss was used to replicate the animal’s white fur.

Posted in Columbus, England, Gardens | Leave a comment

Forget Thee, Dr. Rogers? No!

It was July 2008, and I was having a really rough time.  For encouragement, I carried around two emails I had just received that made me feel better whenever I read them. One was from Dubliner. The other was from Dr. Perry Rogers, my Upper School history teacher at Columbus School for Girls.

“You were always appreciative of the past and careful with words and ideas that have continuing meaning for life,” Dr Rogers wrote. “It’s so fitting that you are a librarian! I know that your teachers and classmates here at CSG always benefited from your insight (dare I say wisdom?) and that you have given so much to so many people. You are a constant reminder of the value of a CSG education and we are proud of you!”

Leave it to my favorite teacher of all time to know just what to say.  After all, this was the same person who had convinced a shy Anglophile that much could be gained from reading a book written for a Prince other than Charles; researching a lord, not of an English country house, but of Panamanian drugs; and playing a game about a crisis, rather than thinking that playing a game was a crisis.  

Dr. Perry Rogers, 1986 CSG Topknot

Last month, Dr. Rogers retired after 35 years at CSG.   Now that his classroom days are history, it’s time for an independent study in the Dr. Rogers Experience.

Dr. Rogers arrived at CSG in 1982 from a professorship in history at The Ohio State University. His colleagues in OSU’s history department who had daughters at CSG told him to anticipate great things from these students who were serious about education, had big expectations for their futures, and would challenge him to be his best every day.

We could say the same thing about Dr. Rogers. We arrived in his classroom for English History our freshman year and started heeding the mantra from Martial, the Roman poet, printed on a wooden plaque sitting on our new teacher’s desk: “He lives twice who enjoys both the past and the present.”

We solved one of his first “History Mysteries,” his now-famous mindbenders with titles like “The Salisbury Stake.” Wandering the halls, muttering “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred,” we memorized “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. We chose an English cathedral to study – mine was Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried. And we cringed over the thought of our frequent map tests, where we painstakingly placed dots and symbols on a map noting the exact location of British cities and landmarks. Those legendary tests led me to Northumberland, England to see Hadrian’s Wall not once, but twice, come September, for myself.

Dr. Rogers with the Class of 1987, April 2017

To teach us how historians combine detective techniques with research, Dr. Rogers assigned The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey’s award-winning crime novel blending contemporary detective work with the historical mystery of King Richard III and the murder of the Yorkist princes, Edward and Richard, in the Tower of London. We were still talking about it at our 30th reunion; I promptly checked out Josephine Tey: A Life, by Jennifer Morag Henderson, with a foreword by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid.

In sophomore year, we tackled political science with Dr. Rogers. We held debates in front of the Upper School, read Machiavelli’s 16th-century political treatise known as The Prince, played “The Crisis Game,” managed revolutions, analyzed public opinion polls and political campaigns, and tracked current events like the 1984 election of Manuel Noriega.

Praising me for my “intense and meticulous research,” Dr. Rogers also pushed me to contribute more to class discussions. “I need your fire and your knowledge!” was a familiar refrain. Mentally, I still enter a challenging conversation like Katharine Hepburn did on her barge, as we watched her play Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, a favorite Dr. Rogers film.

When we parted company to study history with other teachers, we knew we had a refuge in the classroom at the end of the hall. The man who bears a striking resemblance to the great classic film star William Powell was always there to support us.  (Click here and see if you agree.)

And then it was time to graduate. At our end-of-the-school-year awards ceremony, Dr. Rogers presented me with an elegant engraved silver urn known as the the Mary Jane Rodabaugh Trophy for being the Upper School’s top student in the subject of history.

To accompany my prize, he gave me an inscribed copy of Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself.

CSG honored Dr. Rogers and three other retirees at an open house on June 13.  

Dr. Rogers asked his former students to share with him their memories. To accompany mine, I made him a personalized replica of a 19th-century bookmark. After posing for a photo, we compared notes about Durham Cathedral and Lindisfarne. See what it’s like to share interests with Dr. Rogers?

Besides being chair of CSG’s history department, Dr. Rogers also taught World History, Honors United States History, AP United States Government and Politics, AP Comparative Government and Politics, and AP European History. He also served as the coordinator of CSG’s summer school program and was assistant head of the school.

Dr. Rogers earned his Ph.D. in Roman history from the University of Washington, and his M.A. in ancient history and his B.A. in history and music from San Jose State University. He continued to teach several courses at Ohio State as an adjunct professor and at the Pontifical College Josephinum through 2010. He was awarded a seminar fellowship with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at Cambridge University in 2003 and at the National Endowment for the Humanities “Worlds of the Renaissance” seminar at Columbia University in 2004. He is also a consultant for the College Board Advanced Placement program in World History.

For the complete Dr. Rogers experience, check out Aspects of Western Civilization: Problems and Sources in History, Aspects of World Civilization, and The Human Spirit: Sources in the Western Humanities, all of which he edited.

Posted in Books, Columbus School for Girls, England, History | Leave a comment

High On Stress? Bring It Down On Dublin’s Irish Fairy Door Trail

As I staggered out of Dublin Methodist Hospital for the second time in a week, I decided that my wardrobe is sorely lacking without a “High On Stress” t-shirt like Dudley “Booger” Dawson wore in Revenge of the Nerds.

While I dodged the bullet until my next visit, just the thought of a potential repeat performance of my “significant medical event” called for some mind-diverting retail therapy.  I got it together and headed straight for Ha’Penny Bridge Imports of Ireland, my source for Irish clothing, accessories, giftware — and my Celtic tattoo — in Historic Dublin, Ohio.

It was high time to pet Mr. Gleine’s Belleek pig, a classic Irish symbol of good luck. In 19th-century Ireland, the family porker was often sold to pay the rent. A healthy, thriving pig — known as the “gentleman in the corner” — ensured against eviction.

But something different at Ha’Penny caught my eye this time. The store is a stop on Dublin’s Irish Fairy Door Trail.

Fairies, a favorite subject of Irish folklore, are invisible “wee folk” who bring good luck wherever they go. The fairies on the loose in Dublin are said to be trooping fairies. Fun facts about these fast-flying fairies are that they look like little people, wear pretty clothes, and they love to dance, sing and play their harps, fiddles, pipes and drums. They live on pancakes and honey. Raisins are their favorite snack. If you spot a cloud of dust, hear rustling leaves or detect the buzz of a swarm of bees, it could be fairies passing by. On moonlit nights, fairies dance in rings, those circles in the grass outlined by mushrooms. Toadstools appear wherever a fairy has set up a home. Leave a little milk out for them on the windowsill overnight and they’ll do their best to keep misfortune at bay. But watch out! They can always see you, and they enjoy playing pranks on people they like, such as tangling your hair.

Hawthorns, oaks and mountain ashes are trees with fairy connections. People often tie ribbons to the branches of these trees, hoping that fairies will bring them good luck. At Ha’Penny, I closed my eyes and made a wish at a Wishing Tree bedecked with green Irish-themed ribbons.

Then I got busy on the Irish Fairy Door Trail. Here’s how this clever activity works.

Pick up an Irish Fairy Doors of Dublin Trail Guide at the Dublin Visitor & Information Center, at 9 S. High St in Historic Dublin. First, snap your photo in the enchanted fairy garden and see how you look with fairy wings. Tag your pictures with #FairyDoorsofDublin to share your posts with Dublin’s fairy fans.

Then, put your hand on a Worry Plaque and turn your troubles over to the fairies. The plaque glows red when you place your hand on it and think about what’s bothering you. When the fairies have heard it, the plaque glows green, reassuring you that your worry has been heard and everything will be just fine. Talk about perfect for habitual worriers like me!

Next, visit eight different Historic Dublin businesses to hunt for a tiny, glittery fairy door at each location. Besides Ha’Penny, other participating businesses include Boho 72 Boutique at 72 N. High St.; Chelsea Borough Home at 54 S. High St.; Creatively Stated at 28 N. High St.; Our CupCakery at 16 N. High St.; Terra Art Gallery at 36 N. High St.; and Winan’s Fine Chocolates at 52 S. High St.

Remember, the fairies are watching, so look high, low and right in front of you.

After you’ve found the fairy door at any of these locations, write the name of the resident fairy on your trail guide. 

When you’ve found six of the eight fairy doors, return your completed passport to the Dublin Visitor & Information Center for a free “Fairy Doors of Dublin” t-shirt. Dublin-area residents can stop by the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau office on the second floor to redeem the passport for the t-shirt Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Visiting out-of-towners can get their shirts by either stopping by the office or mailing in their completed passports.

It’s not Booger’s style, but it’s perfect for a worrywart who has to play the waiting game for the next few months.

If you’d like to attract an Irish fairy to your home, Ha’Penny sells fairy doors and dozens of miniature fairy accessories from The Irish Fairy Door Company. My homemade fairy door attracted a tomte, Scandinavia’s answer to the luck-bringing fairy, but that’s a different story.

For more on Irish fairies, check out Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland, edited by William Butler Yeats; The Book of Celtic Myths, published by Adams Media; Leprechauns and Irish Folklore: A Nonfiction Companion to Leprechaun in Late Winter, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce; and Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale, retold by Margaret Read MacDonald.

Posted in Columbus, Ireland | Leave a comment

Kale Caesar At Harvest Pizza, Do You Hail From Wheatland Farm?

It might afford a picture-perfect view of the Columbus skyline, but the poor little Hilltop is in need of some tender loving care. 

The West Side neighborhood has had its share of challenges, but better things are starting to grow at a place called Wheatland Urban Farm.  Located on the site of the former Columbus State Psychiatric Hospital, the five-acre farm at 116 N. Wheatland Ave. is now home to a thriving initiative that not only provides needy neighbors with fresh produce, but also offers job skills training, education about healthy lifestyles, and community engagement.  

After the hospital was demolished in the 1990s, the site sat vacant for over 20 years. Last year, Urban Farms of Central Ohio, an initiative of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, began transforming the disregarded property into its second urban farm where low-income residents can have their fill of fresh produce.

The soil was of such poor quality that over 20 truckloads of compost and fresh soil had to be brought in. Raised-bed gardening and a seed-starting greenhouse were key to building this farm from the ground up.

It was a similar story in 2012, when Urban Farms of Central Ohio turned a closed elementary school property on Groveport Road that sat vacant for more than six years. The Marion-Franklin neighborhood on the South Side of Columbus was known as what the United States Department of Agriculture called a “food desert” — a place where low-income residents have equally low access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Today, Clarfield Farms, the first Urban Farms of Central Ohio initiative located at 3220 Groveport Road, yields over 25 varieties of produce on its five-acre plot.

Last year, both farms yielded over 40,000 pounds of produce. Low-income neighbors are invited to help with harvesting, and with reaping the rewards of those harvests at pay-what-you-can farm stands at both locations. The stands are open for business at Clarfield Farms on Tuesday evenings from 5:00 to 7:00 and Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 11:00, and at Wheatland Farms on Wednesday mornings from 9:00 to 11:00. Cooking workshops offered by the Ohio State University Medical Center teach food-desert residents how to make the most of what their neighborhood farm yields. And, since the entrance to Wheatland Farm is from the back parking lot of PrimaryOne Health Center’s West Broad Street location, health center patients can also benefit from the produce.

The farms also supply produce to the South Side Roots Cafe & Market at the Reeb Avenue Center. Local restaurants like Acre, Skillet, Harvest Pizza, Little Eater and The Table help the cause financially by buying the farms’ produce.

You can also support Urban Farms of Central Ohio by subscribing to its Veggie Box program. Every week, you’ll receive an assortment of seasonal produce grown at Clarfield and Wheatland Farms. Summer subscribers are receiving beets, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, melons, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. Fall boxes will include harvests of butternut squash, carrots, cabbage, fennel, lettuce, melons, sweet and hot peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

What?  Wait!  I read about this at Mass on Sunday. “Where have the weeds come from?…Let them grow together until harvest….” (MT 13:24-30)

Or, lend a hand as a volunteer at Wheatland Farm on Wednesday mornings from 9:00 to 11:00, or at Clarfield Farm on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 to 7:00 or Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 12:00, through October.

Want to see more urban farms in central Ohio? The Franklin County Office of Ohio State University Extension and the Columbus Urban Farmers Network are offering three more tours of urban farms this summer. This Saturday, take a commercial market garden tour of Heirloom Produce in Groveport, a garden on a two-acre residential lot that grows root crops and leafy greens for restaurants and local farmers’ markets. See how “lasagna layering” is being practiced at a backyard garden on Saturday, August 5. And discover techniques for vertical gardening and extending the growing season at Over the Fence Urban Farm in Clintonville on Sunday, August 20. Click here for more information.

If you’d like to become an urban farmer, consider registering for the Franklin County Office of OSU Extension’s Ohio Master Urban Farmer Workshop Series. Held on Thursday evenings from September 14 through November 16 (plus a Sunday field trip), the workshops will teach how to produce and market all kinds of food products in urban settings. For more information, contact OSU Extension Educator Mike Hogan at 614-866-6900 or by e-mail at

Posted in Columbus, Food, Gardens | Leave a comment

There Are So Many Doorstops To Make. I Am Impatient To Begin.

Ohio Village portrait, September 1974

Ohio Village has everything I need to live a very contented life. I’d reside in the house at the end of the boardwalk, across from the schoolhouse. There’s a study club where I could participate in book discussions, a newspaper I could write for, an emporium for shopping, and a place to keep my bicycle in good working order. I’d frequent the pharmacy, the bank and the church, all conveniently located around the village square, where I’d listen to concerts on summer evenings. I’d treat myself to a meal at the American House Hotel. And I could sit for another photographic portrait to feature on my Christmas card.

Since 1974, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached every time I’ve visited the Ohio History Connection’s Ohio Village. Recently, I’ve added something to my very clear vision of what life would be like there.

In my spare time, I’d make doorstops.

The doors to many of Ohio Village’s homes and businesses are propped open with a spectacular lineup of textile-covered brick doorstops handmade by volunteers. Here are a few of my favorites.

Murphy’s Lodging House celebrates the Irish heritage of its owner with cross-stitched shamrocks.

At the Burton House, where I’d live, there’s one with needlepoint butterflies.

Find this crewel one at the Taylor House, where I also tried some tasty hand-cranked ice cream during the village’s July 4 celebration.

There are two at the Schmidt House and Garden: a quilted one at the door leading from the bedroom to the side yard…

and one with cross-stitched roses at the front door.

Best of all is this bicycle-themed one at Barrington Bicycles.

There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin,” Daniel Keyes wrote in Flowers for Algernon. In my case, there are so many doorstops to make, I’m impatient to begin.

If, like me, you’re interested in creating your own Ohio Village doorstop, volunteer Joby Easley says they’re really easy to make. First, she covers the brick with something thick, like leftover quilt batting or an old mattress pad. To make small, even stitches when sewing, use a curved needle and a regular hem stitch. Make the first seam along the long bottom side of the brick at the edge so there isn’t a bump running down the center of the bottom of the stop. Then sew up the ends like you’re wrapping a package. You might have to cut off extra material at the ends to make them less bulky. The cover fabric is put on the same way, only you can put that first seam in the middle if you want; it’s thin enough, so it won’t leave a bump.

This summer, it’s a whole new era at Ohio Village, as it portrays what life might have been like in Ohio during the 1890s. This is the decade that saw Ohioan William McKinley defeat his rival, William Jennings Bryan, in becoming president of the United States, and the University of Michigan defeat the Ohio State University with a humiliating 34-0 in the first football game between the schools.

Visit Ohio Village to try “fairy floss” and ride in a replica 1903 Ford Model A, but I’d suggest keeping an eye out for “Columbia.” Inspired by this image from the June 15, 1898 issue of Puck, this symbolic character representing the United States was most often portrayed as wearing a classically draped garment decorated with stars, red and white stripes and topped off with a headdress.

The next time I dress up for Halloween, it will be as Columbia.

Visit Ohio Village for some 1890s family fun all summer long. Try on 1890s fashion on July 22; indulge your sweet tooth on August 12; and experience Ohio’s military history on August 26. Hear live music, explore the village, play games on the green, and bring a picnic or enjoy dinner from a local food vendor for two Thursday-evening concerts at Ohio Village: Irish folk music with The Drowsy Lads on July 20 and folk music with Bohemian Highway on August 17. Ohio Village is open on weekends until Labor Day.

If you go, pick up a copy of the Ohio Village scavenger hunt at the Ohio History Center’s welcome desk and let me know if you can answer these two questions. What animal can you find in The American House Hotel? If you found the Ohio State Fair poster from 1895, what days will the fair be in Columbus?

Posted in Columbus, Crafts & Hobbies, History, Needlework, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) | Leave a comment

Pick Pinks And Blues, Shells And Peacocks For The Bertie Look

Do you have a special place to picnic? Beman Dawes and his family did.

The Dawes family packed their picnic basket for excursions to a favorite wooded spot near Newark, Ohio. When they noticed lumbermen preparing to cut down some large trees there one day in 1917, Mr. Dawes approached the Brumback family, owners of the land, to purchase 140 acres of their “Woodland.”

Born and raised in Marietta, Ohio in 1870, Dawes served two terms in Congress, then returned to Ohio to become a leader in the gas and petroleum industry. He presided over Pure Oil Company, known for its blue-and-white English-cottage gas stations. He, his wife, Bertie, and their five children lived on East Broad Street in Columbus, but also spent time at their homes on Jupiter Island, Florida and in Canada. “Daweswood” was their family retreat where they pursued their horticultural interests.

In the years that followed, the Dawes family planted over 50,000 trees on the grounds that they christened “Daweswood” and acquired additional neighboring farmland. In 1929, they established an arboretum for public pleasure and education that would preserve trees native to central Ohio, collect and study trees from all over the world, and inspire people to plant trees.

Today, Dawes Arboretum is the place to go to admire conifers, beeches, oaks, buckeyes, redwoods, magnolias and more. Its collection includes nearly 5,000 different kinds of woody plants. It keeps records on more than 30,000 individual plants, occasionally selecting, naming and introducing new cultivars of plants like “Dawes Emerald Tiger,” an ornamental tree with green-and-white-striped bark and yellow flowers, and “Silver Ghost,” an evergreen conifer. It works with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ohio State University on tree trials and identifying tree species and diseases. Its attractions include a Japanese garden, woodlands, a 12-acre freshwater lake, a cypress swamp, a log cabin where maple syrup is made in the spring, and an heirloom apple orchard planted on the spot where Mrs. Dawes planted her orchard in 1926. Its most noteworthy feature is a 2,660-foot-long planting of American arborvitae spelling out “DAWES ARBORETUM.” Designed by Mr. Dawes, each individual letter measures up to 147 feet wide and 186 feet high.

I’ve been visiting Dawes Arboretum for decades, but by far my best visit there was for “100 Years in Bertie’s Garden,” a recent program honoring the 100th anniversary of the garden Mrs. Dawes planted at Daweswood House.

When the Dawes family purchased the farm, they also acquired its circa-1867 Italianate-style brick farmhouse. 

In 1928, they added a Colonial Revival-style porch and a first-floor bedroom and studio for Mrs. Dawes.

The home’s most unique feature may be the “Rathskeller.” Its ceiling bears the initials or signatures of over 100 notable people who have planted trees honoring them at the arboretum. The tradition began in 1927 with Ohio Governor James M. Cox; others include Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens (1973), John Glenn (1968), The Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Billy Ireland (1928) and explorer-author Osa Johnson (1940).

But everywhere else, the home is a showplace for the interests of Mrs. Dawes, a self-taught naturalist who collected shells, peacock representations and butterfly specimens. A hummingbird nest she found on the Daweswood grounds is displayed under a glass cloche. Bedspreads she crocheted cover the beds. Pink and blue, her favorite colors, are featured in the home’s decor.

Gardening was another favorite hobby. In 1917, Mrs. Dawes designed a garden northwest of the house, featuring her favorite annual and perennial flowers. Other features of the garden include a decorative well and retaining wall, both made of stone.

Mrs. Dawes documented in journals what she planted in her garden, how much it cost, how well the plants did, and other anecdotes about their progress. She described planting roses in circular patterns, tulips by the stone retaining wall, and hollyhocks by the Brumbaughs’ smokehouse that she used as a gardening shed. She also recorded some of her gardening rules, such as letting things grow where they want to, not where you want them to, and that you should be able to enjoy your garden from every room in your house.

Those journals, together with archival photographs of the garden, informed landscape architect Laura Burchfield’s renovation of the “Bertie-inspired” garden in 2014. Burchfield’s creation includes tulips, roses, hyacinths, peonies, daisies and lilies.

The east entrance to the garden features a pergola that complements the pergola in front of the house.

There are even an herb garden and a Victory Garden, which provided fresh produce for families during wartime, when the majority of commercially grown fruits and vegetables were shipped overseas to troops. Signage gives the plants’ common and scientific names.

Bertie’s Garden is reminiscent of a “grandmother’s garden,” a Victorian-era garden in which plants cherished for their fragrance and beauty — such as peonies, lilies and roses — were selected for their picturesque effect and sentimental associations.

After Leslie Wagner, the arboretum’s historian, shared archival photographs and journal entries about the garden, we snacked on floral-decorated cupcakes and lemonade, then toured the garden with Dawes granddaughters Mary Jane Dawes Bolon and Debby Dawes Fortkamp.

If you’d like to create your own version of a Bertie-inspired garden, check out American Home Landscapes: A Design Guide to Creating Period Garden Styles, by Denise Wiles Adams and Laura L.S. Burchfield. From architecture styles and landscape design to case studies and plant lists, it describes how to plan an authentic landscape for a house of any age.

Special events like weddings and teas are proving to be popular at Bertie’s Garden, but you can also stop by during regular visits to Dawes Arboretum. Guided tours of Daweswood House and its adjacent museum, are available on weekends from 12:00-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-3:00 p.m., March through October, for a nominal fee. Take a tour of the house on Saturday, July 29 and my fellow gym-goer Brian will be your guide.

Posted in Gardens, History, Ohio | 1 Comment

A Clover Nook Evokes Memories of Two Sisters

In 2003, Ohio celebrated 200 years of statehood by casting bronze bells and painting a colorful bicentennial logo on barns in each of the state’s 88 counties. Vehicles with a redesigned license plate traveled the state’s highways and byways, passing over 500 new historical markers that sprouted along the side of the road. Pioneer re-enactors crossed the state during a 24-day wagon train.

All these commemorative activities found an appreciative audience in me, but the one bicentennial memento I coveted most of all was a poster.

Preserve Ohio’s Book Heritage” was the Ohio Preservation Council’s contribution to the Ohio Bicentennial. It celebrated both the significant contributions that 19th- and early 20th-century Ohio authors made to literature, as well as the aesthetic legacy of the cloth bookbindings of the era. Over 30 books either published in Ohio or written by an Ohioan, each preserved in its original bindings by Ohio Preservation Council member libraries, were pictured.

It was a terrific teaching tool for publishers’ bookbindings, illustrating decorative hallmarks like pictorial designs stamped in black and gold, blind-stamped and patterned borders, inset vignettes, asymmetric designs, ornate lettering, beveled-edge boards, and architecturally inspired ornamentation.

It was a tribute to well-known books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whose author moved to Cincinnati when she was 21; accomplished writers like William Dean Howells, who traded his reporting talents for storytelling; and Paul Laurence Dunbar of Dayton, whose poetic gifts were cut short by his untimely death.

It also introduced me to writers like Lafcadio Hearn, a Cincinnati journalist who became entranced with Japan; Hamilton Lanphere Smith, a Kenyon College philosophy teacher who invented tintype photography and wrote The World, one of the first science textbooks written in America; and two sisters from Cincinnati named Alice and Phoebe Cary, who were mentioned in the poster in three separate entries.

Frontispiece, Clovernook; or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West, 1852 (Ohio History Connection)

When I landed at Miami University Libraries and started working with its special collections, I recognized one of the books pictured in the poster: the 1884 edition of Alice Cary’s Clovernook, a collection of fictional stories based on her life in Ohio that was first published in 1851. The binding’s elaborate design was classic-1880s style, depicting images from the stories within, but with a unique twist: The author’s last name was misspelled “Carey.”

So began my interest in discovering more about the inseparable pair of poets who died within six months of each other and whose work remained popular for decades after their deaths.

In 1814, Robert Cary bought 27 acres of woodland about eight miles north of downtown Cincinnati, in a neighborhood known as Mount Pleasant, later called Mount Healthy because its clean air helped it to avoid the cholera outbreaks that plagued the city. Naming his property Clovernook Farm, he built a three-room cottage there, where his nine children were born, including Alice (1820) and Phoebe (1824), were born. In 1832, he replaced the cottage with a two-story brick house with a frame porch.

Cary Cottage, courtesy of Jessica Salyers, Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

When Alice and Phoebe were teenagers, they started secretly writing poetry after the rest of the family had gone to bed, hiding their work in a cupboard under the stairs. By the late 1830s, their poems started to be published in Cincinnati newspapers and church publications. “I did not care any more if I were poor, or my clothes plain,” Phoebe said. “Somebody cared enough for my verses to print them, and I was happy…but I kept my joy and triumph to myself.” Alice’s “Pictures of Memory” was published in an 1848 anthology, Female Poets of America; in his review for the Southern Literary Messenger, Edgar Allan Poe praised it as “the noblest poem in the collection” and “one of the most musically perfect lyrics in the English language.”

The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary (Ohio History Connection)

After Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary was published in 1849, Horace Greeley visited the sisters in their “tidy cottage” on a trip to Cincinnati. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote them an appreciative, encouraging letter. Later, they visited him at his Amesbury, Massachusetts home.

Recalling their visit years later in “The Singer,” Whittier wrote of the “two song-birds wandering from their nest,/A gray old farm-house in the West.” About “timid” Alice, he wrote: “…A memory haunted all her words/Of clover-fields and singing-birds./…Her speech dropped prairie flowers; the gold/Of harvest wheat about her rolled.”

The sisters moved to New York City in 1850 to make a name for themselves. From their home on 20th Street near 4th Avenue, they wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and abolitionist and women’s suffrage publications. Alice was president of Sorosis, the first women’s club in the United States. Besides publishing her own poems in Poems and Parodies and Poems of Faith, Hope and Love, Phoebe wrote lyrics for church hymnals.

Frontispiece, Ballads, Lyrics and Hymns (1874), by Alice Cary (Ohio History Connection)

On Sunday evenings, the sisters hosted salons, discussing literature and current events with well-known figures like P. T. Barnum, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Mapes Dodge, and their old friends Greeley and Whittier. Phoebe often wore to these salons a necklace that was nearly four feet long, made from dozens of things her friends had given her, such as a marble, a piece of amber, and a ball of malachite.

The Carys might have left Clovernook, but their childhood home didn’t leave them. It appeared in both sisters’ poems, such as Alice’s “Of Home” (1887): “My heart made pictures all to-day/Of the old homestead far away…I hear the old clock tick and tick/In the small parlor…”

Alice died from tuberculosis in 1871; Phoebe died five months later of hepatitis. They are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. A Memorial of Alice and Phoebe Cary by Mary Clemmer, and The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary, published in 1891, both were pictured on the Ohio Preservation Council’s poster.

Detail, letter from Alice Cary, May 24, 1860 (Ohio History Connection, VFM 899)

In 1903, a Cincinnatian named Florence Trader saw an advertisement that the Carys’ cottage was for sale. Thinking that it would be a perfect home for her blind sister, Georgia, and other visually impaired women, she approached William Procter, head of The Procter & Gamble Company, about the possibility of purchasing the cottage and some surrounding land. With Procter’s help, the Clovernook Center became the first home for visually impaired women in the state of Ohio. These women were trained in weaving, crocheting, knitting, beading and basketry, and the money they earned from selling the items gave them feelings of independence and self-esteem. They also operated a printing press that was one of the country’s largest producers of Braille publications.

Today, the Clovernook Center continues to provide resources for the education, occupation and recreation of the blind and visually impaired. Cary Cottage remains as part of the campus.


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