CCDS part of Cincinnati Nature Center native garden tour June 29
CCDS part of Cincinnati Nature Center native garden tour June 29

Cincinnati Nature Center presents its first-ever garden tour featuring ten private gardens, in addition to native gardens at Cincinnati Nature Center and Cincinnati Country Day School. After picking up a tour booklet in the morning, guests will have from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to drive to each location and tour the various gardens located in Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Indian Hill, Terrace Park, Loveland and New Richmond.

As part of Cincinnati Nature Center's Plant NATIVE! initiative, the garden tour focuses on native plants and how home owners use natives in their landscapes and gardens. Jeff Sperry, Cincinnati Nature Center Director of External Relations, says, "When people purchase native plants at a local garden center or specialty plant sale, it is often difficult to imagine how the plant will fit into a garden when mature. This is especially true for shrubs and trees. Our tour will allow people to see mature native plants in home garden settings. It is always interesting to see how individual gardeners incorporate natives into their landscapes."

Why Plant Native

As undeveloped wilderness areas worldwide continue to vanish, it becomes critical to provide food, shelter and breeding grounds for native pollinators and other wildlife. By furnishing mini havens or 'safe routes' for animals to move from one habitat to another, our towns and cities – via your urban garden - can provide the vital stepping stones on their journeys. This can be accomplished simply by planting more pollinator-friendly flowers.

Five Great Reasons to Plant Native Flowers, Shrubs and Trees

  1. Native plants are more likely to survive and thrive in our local climate.
  2. Once established, native plants are easy to maintain, require less water and look gorgeous.
  3. Native plants provide food and shelter for butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife.
  4. Your yard can become a much needed natural space for urban wildlife and a safe resting spot for migrating animals like birds and Monarch butterflies.
  5. Your native garden will become an important part of saving our local, natural beauty by stopping invasive plants from taking over our lands.

Brief Garden Descriptions

Garden 1 – Hyde Park

This gardener has whole-heartedly embraced the teachings of Doug Tallamy, native plant guru and renowned author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. She and her husband have been part of a decades-long process of rescuing a former formal garden, which had been overtaken by non-native invasives. The family loves to see the annual return of insects and reports that when they stop mowing the lawn, the fireflies go crazy!

Garden 2 – Mt. Lookout

If you've ever considered going lawn-free, this is the garden for you! The gardener has been working on his property for 25 years and was inspired by various natural areas such as Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains, landscapes created by influential Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, Central Park in New York City, Cincinnati's Ault Park, and native areas along highways and bike paths. The garden peaks in summer with brilliant color from native, Midwestern plants which enjoy the sunshine and long days.

Garden 3 – Indian Hill

Surrounded by abundant gardens on every side, the original 1916 farm house and barn were probably connected in the late 1960s. The gardener has been working on the property since 1986. Some of the garden's special features include sun and shade decks, a wood arbor with stone steps to the lower lawn and stone patio, and a fenced area with raised beds for vegetables. The property contains a generous mix of native plants and traditional favorites like peonies, daylilies and hostas.

Garden 4 – Indian Hill

This formally-designed property includes a stunning home built in the style of the Trianon, a favorite estate of 18th-century French queen, Marie Antoinette. The garden areas near the home are classically structured with two identical courtyards on either side of the residence. The home also features tiered terraces and four tapered, circular columns on the front porch. A variety of garden areas include the courtyards, terraces, dry creek beds, serpentine walls and a newer, more natural area referred to by the gardener as "The Back 40."

Garden 5 – Indian Hill

The gardener of this four-acre property has been working to incorporate native plants into a naturalized environment since moving to the home in 1988. The 100-year-old Dutch colonial has a traditional south-facing front, but most of the gardening takes place on the west side of the home and in the rear on the woodland border. The gardener says the property lends itself to a multitude of gardening approaches, as there are inherent bio-regions: pine forest, hardwood forest, meadow and shade gardens.

Garden 6 – Native Gardens at Cincinnati Country Day School – Indian Hill

Two native garden areas are included on the tour—the Native Hillside behind the Early Childhood Center and the Native Play Yards nearby. Both installation projects were student-driven and received "Taking Root" funding from Duke Energy. Children enjoy playing in nature, and the incorporation of a water feature and a rock garden makes these gardens a creative hub of activity. The gardens peak in late summer, which is perfectly timed with students' return to campus at the end of August.

Garden 7 – Terrace Park

Built in 1985, this home was highlighted in the newspaper for having a low-maintenance yard—very little grass to cut, but lots of perennials! The current homeowners took over in 2008 and added a water feature with koi and a back patio. The home is surrounded by gardens and landscaping on all sides and features a nice mix of native trees, shrubs and perennials in addition to other beloved garden favorites. A unique, sunken well in the front yard contains two native maple trees.

Garden 8 – Loveland

This gardening couple had the opportunity to plan and establish their own landscaping at the time of construction 30 years ago. Gardens surround the home, and a number of plants were started as seedlings by the couple, including a majestic sweet gum tree. The two eastern red cedars, original to the property, are now some of the largest specimens found in the neighborhood! One of their garden's most distinguishing features is a koi pond surrounded by native stone. The relaxing sound of cascading water on the sloping hillside creates a peaceful and serene atmosphere.

Garden 9 – Loveland

This imaginative garden highlights the landscaping possibilities of a typical suburban lot. The front and side areas of the house feature deer-resistant plantings because of the daily parade of several of these ravenous, four-legged creatures. After strolling down a pine bark path to the back of the home, you will enjoy a true horticultural showcase. Native plants are generously incorporated into swaths of daylilies, astilbes, hostas and colorful annuals.

Garden 10 – Loveland

After purchasing their home in 2014, this creative husband and wife team got to work, turning their huge expanse of lawn into a native plant paradise! An incredible 1.7 acre native prairie surrounds a one-acre pond with a cantilevered gazebo. A grass path meanders through the prairie, which includes nearly 50 varieties of native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. An outer grass path surrounds the perimeter of the prairie. The front yard contains an orchard with plum, pear, pawpaw, and persimmon trees, in addition to hazelnut shrubs and blackberry canes.

Garden 11 – Native Gardens at Cincinnati Nature Center -- Milford

Three native garden areas are included on the tour—the Native Backyard Habitat, the Alicia & Lothar F. Witt, Jr. Family Pollinator Garden, and the Native Gardens at the Center for Conservation.

Garden 12 – New Richmond

This expansive natural landscape features four acres of woods, two streams and native plantings surrounding the home, which is built into a hillside. Plants are chosen with an emphasis on butterfly host plants, and the garden feels "wild" with many snags, brush piles, downed logs and leaf litter. Summer is one of the best times in this garden with all the pollinator activity; and the gardener loves observing and hearing all the wildlife on sunny days. And he never gets upset seeing leaves with holes!

Reservations: $40 per person

Rain or Shine

Garden locations open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You will have all day to visit as many of the locations as you wish after picking up your program book in the morning in the parking lot of Madeira Silverwood Presbyterian Church (8000 Miami Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45243) from 8:45 am until noon.