Yesterday afternoon, a fedora-wearing pharmacist and a barefooted pioneer who needed a shave mingled with over 100 people at the Ohio Governor’s Residence for the dedication of the Lloyd Medicinal and Johnny Appleseed Memorial Garden.
The newest feature of the Ohio Heritage Gardens at the Ohio Governor’s Residence honors the achievements of John Uri Lloyd, Nelson Ashley Lloyd and Curtis Gates Lloyd, three accomplished brothers who started a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Cincinnati in 1885. While John Uri’s research of the medicinal properties of plants earned acclaim, the Lloyds’ enduring legacy is the Lloyd Library and Museum in downtown Cincinnati. What began as a three-volume reference library grew to become one of the most important private libraries in the United States.
Gathering inside for the ceremony, we sipped apple cider and snacked on candy corn, lavender shortbread, cookies and bite-sized spice cakes. First Lady Karen Kasich and Paige Minor, president of the Friends of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden, welcomed us. Then, Ashley Lloyd Ford, a descendant of Nelson Ashley Lloyd, assumed the persona of John Uri, talked about his ancestors and tipped his hat to all those who had been planning the garden for years.
Suddenly, a boisterous fellow dressed in 1840s-style pants, a checked shirt, a burlap vest, an unbecoming wool hat, and a satchel swung over his shoulder hollered from the back of the room. John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, made his entrance.
Darting back and forth, Johnny introduced us to himself, entertaining us with tales about his travels through Pennsylvania and Ohio during the early 1800s, selling apple seeds and planting apple tree saplings to help settlers start a new life on the frontier. Tasked with talking about his horticultural influence on Ohio, this gifted storyteller explained how apples grown from seeds are inedible, described how apples from ungrafted trees are suitable only for hard cider, and provided us with a catchy demonstration of how he traversed the countryside chanting “Poke a hole, plant a seed and cover it up.” Then, mistaking his assignment to discuss sustainability for talking about “stainability,” he launched into natural dyes and how you can create a shade of brown that’s “as shiny as a wet beaver in sunlight.”
Those who know me well know that during living history performances such as these, I usually slouch in my chair so I can’t be seen or dodge into the nearest powder room until it’s over. But Hank Fincken’s energetic portrayal of this historic figure was so engaging that I actually found myself laughing, smiling and hoping that he wouldn’t stop talking!
But we were inside, the garden was outside, and we needed to see it. John – “not Johnny if you please,” he reminded us – commanded the situation, cleverly steering us outside in an orderly, efficient way that teachers and docents love. He invited us to ask him one question, then follow him outside to the garden, where he’d answer two more questions.
“With all that walking you do, why aren’t you wearing shoes?,” a man asked. Mr. Chapman launched into a soliloquy about how he didn’t wear leather because he respected animals, but he resorted only to mismatched pairs of discarded shoes or boots when it got too cold or snowy to go barefoot.
Carrying a souvenir print of Ohio medicinal plants by Cincinnati botanical artist Dianne McElwain that Anna Heran, the Lloyd Library and Museum’s exhibits curator and education and outreach coordinator, gave to us, we walked over to admire the garden.
The garden is planted under an apple tree that is a direct descendant of a tree in Ashland County, Ohio that is known to have been planted by John Chapman around 1837. It features some of the medicinal plants John Uri Lloyd worked with, such as Echinacea, Indian Tobacco, American Ginseng, Mad-dog Skull Cap, Black Haw, Bloodroot, Wild Yam and Common Lavender.
Signs in different shades of green are situated around the garden. They describe the legacy of the Lloyds, convey the history of plants as medicine, provide a guide to identifying the 17 varieties of medicinal plants in the garden, and summarize John Chapman’s efforts to plant apple trees in Ohio. A stone memorial at the foot of the tree commemorates yesterday’s dedication ceremony.
The garden also features a pair of benches made by Larry Owen, a Dover, Ohio pharmacist who works wood for a hobby. In 2011, a cabin was torn down on his family homestead, “Iron Point,” on land in Saltlick Township, Shawnee (Perry County), Ohio that was purchased in 1828 from the U.S. Land Grant Office with a deed signed by President John Quincy Adams. Mr. Owen made the benches from the original cabin’s beams, making the benches symbols of Ohio’s pioneer heritage.
The Lloyd Medicinal and Johnny Appleseed Memorial Garden is made possible through the support of several individuals, nurseries and groups, including the Friends of the Lloyd Library and Museum, the American and Ohio Pharmacists Associations, Meisner & Associates, GreenScapes, and the Friends of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden.
But the greatest thanks are due to former Ohio First Lady Hope Taft, who was instrumental in creating the Ohio Heritage Garden. Mrs. Taft was on hand not only for the dedication, but also for the luncheon that took place earlier in the day to recognize the volunteers who conduct tours of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and work in the Ohio Heritage Garden. As an extra-special thank-you for docents and “Wednesday Weeders,” Mrs. Taft made angel Christmas tree ornaments from a buckeye, leaves, and a seed pod from the magnolia tree that her mother had planted at the residence. If you’re interested in volunteering at the Ohio Governor’s Residence, click here.
You can see the Lloyd Medicinal and Johnny Appleseed Memorial Garden during tours of the Ohio Governor’s Residence, which are given most Tuesdays. Click here for more information about making an appointment for a tour.