Welcome to English Garden Farm!


This has been quite a year. Many, many changes including a family
death, some 
personal health issues (under control), a stretch of nearly 3 months dealing with the consequences of major poison ivy reaction, retirement as a hospice RN and, as a result, an opportunity to fully consider the garden, its present needs and future planning.

I must say that it is a daunting prospect to realize that, almost overnight, one has become a full-time gardener! For the past 13 years, it has had to take a back seat to my nursing career and the demands of my musical involvements. The latter claims remain albeit a bit less demanding. So what do this mean for the garden?

For starters, the level of maintenance should increase dramatically! First-class maintenance practices are essential for a really successful garden and we will have our hands full attempting to reach the level I believe should be normative.

The development of several large areas which have been in the planning stages for several years – the allee, the balance of the lower garden’s borders, the borders surrounding the rose garden itself – are under way and, the rethinking and renovation of the rose garden itself.

All this is to say that 2019 looks to be shaping up as a perfectly normal year, with many changes in the works and many that will occur, unanticipated.
I am hopeful that we will not have a repeat of the worst examples of badly behaving weather but admit to being guarded in that optimism as the winter thus far has already demonstrated aberration: we have yet to experience temperatures in the single digits (Zone 7!). While this may seem preferable to days and nights of less than zero (and in many ways it is, but cannot be counted on), it is too encouraging to the tougher perennial weeds and especially to irritating and bothersome insects to wish for it to last. It appears, as of this writing (the evening of 12/30/18) that with rain in excess of 1” that is forecast over the next 24 hours, that we may well have a record high year for rainfall. A shame we can’t ship some of it to California, because much of this has come during late fall and early winter. The ground is positively spongy with standing water in many places that never demonstrate that except for a few hours after a ‘gully washer’ downpour in the spring and summer. In my experience, these conditions will kill more plants than a stretch of -15 F. I specifically recall the winter of 96 – 97 while living and gardening in Columbus we experienced a low of -27 F in the city (where, due to the concentration of housing, we truly had a micro-climate). It was the coldest winter in my memory. We lost an in-ground rosemary. I recall no other losses. The following year barely broke below zero but during the month of January, the rain and wet were relentless and the plant losses that year were wholesale!

Given the clay soil that predominates throughout our area, the wisdom of adding compost, compost, compost and more compost only takes on additional import when faced with such extremes, which could easily include a two month stretch with nary a drop come the following summer! Soil improvement which means improving drainage as well as proper moisture retention must be a given if one expects to garden successfully here.

The truth be told, what is being done is simply restoration of what industrial agriculture and rampant development, sometimes one after the other, have created. I had the pleasure of gardening in two locations in Columbus where the homes dated back to the 1870-90s era. The topsoil had never been removed and was two feet deep in some areas! This was the way it all was before our ancestors arrived: deciduous, temperate forest with centuries if not millenia of recycled plant detritus on the floor. Wow! Was is fertile? You betcha! Did we ruin it? You betcha! Can we fix it? With effort, yes to some degree if the other consequences of our heedlessness to the laws of nature don’t get us first. I hope, for the sake of my nieces and nephews and the rest of the several generations who are younger than me, that we do so and quickly. The universe doesn’t actually care if we’re here or not and if we’re not wise enough to live within the governing laws of our surrounds, we will be replaced with beings who can. They may not be human. End of sermon.

The View from above (2015)


Notes: the above was taken by Bill Gardner, photographer aided by Tom
Esper, pilot. The obvious line of tall trees on the left side, parallel to the road, is gone: victims of the emerald ash borer. They have not been replaced but the plants there were under them have stepped to the fore and are fulfilling their new role admirably.

1) a private garden which is now open to the public on Sunday afternoons from noon to five during growing season, roughly mid-April through mid-October (and at other times for small groups of five or more by appointment);
2) a place in which one looks at plants;
3) home to over 500 different kinds of trees and shrubs, including about 120 different kinds of conifers and over 80 different roses and nearly 500 different kinds of perennials including over 150 kinds of hosta and 50+ different daylilies.
4) a place for wandering, chatting, looking and generally immersing in a garden which, we hope, is full of interest, beauty and inspiration.

DSC_0400 (Small)HISTORY

Since 2003, Ashdowne  (which is the garden name,  English Garden Farm is the location) has been a work in progress and like any good garden, always will be. Prior to 2002, the property was approximately 2.5-3 acres of grass with a few ‘weed’ trees scattered about and a line of mature (50-70′) ashes along the roadside. There is also a 6 acre hayfield which we use as ‘borrowed landscape’. Otherwise, we are surrounded with industrial corn, soybean and some wheat farming.
(Comment on Ashdowne – the garden was originally named Ashgrove as a nod to the 18 very large, as noted above, ash trees which formed the northern border of the property, parallel to the highway. There were also several others, much smaller, scattered around in the grass surrounding the house; they were removed early on. In winter of 2017, all of the large ash trees had to be removed as the emerald ash borer had been doing its thing and these trees were either going to end up across the road or in the garden – neither a welcome development, so they were turned into firewood before they fell on their own. It completely changed the look and feel of the front of the garden as well as appearance from the road. If you had been here when the ash trees reigned and came now, you could easily drive right past it. It will be interesting to see how the plants which were formerly in the ‘rain and food’ as well as light shadow thrive now that such a huge source of competition has been removed. The absence of shade created some minor issues in another section of the garden, but the plants there seem to be adapting and the new, smaller shade trees that have been added for sun-protection seem to be doing just fine as well. The spelling of the garden’s name is just an affectation – what the heck.)

So-called ‘anchor’ trees were planted first, walk-ways outlined, and general overall shape determined. Over the course of the next 6-8 years, smaller trees and shrubs were added, areas between plants were made larger and, ultimately, large beds (we call them borders now) were established and the grass restricted to pathways. That process continues, with addition of many perennials with many, many more to come and several ‘hardscape’ projects in the works. Nearly all of the planting is in a mixed style for year-round interest and the pathways meander and wander in ways to pique the eye’s interest while presenting different views of each section.


Our approach to the garden has been governed by a number of principles to which we have tried to remain true:

1) if you can see dirt, there’s room for another plant;

2) if it doesn’t want to live here, we won’t try to force it;

3) every plant needs to earn its own keep, and each plant should play well with others;

4) we plant things because we like them;

5) every view of the garden should be visually pleasing, there should be a surprise around every corner; and you should never be able to see everything from any single vantage point;

6) we work in the dirt because it feels good and keeps us grounded (no pun) in reality;

7) the whole effort should be as sustainable as possible and function, except in emergencies, with the moisture provided by nature;

8) pesticides will not be used unless absolutely necessary to save a valuable plant (and then only in a very limited amount and space);

9) we need to share the results because that’s how we learned and it’s fun!

And lastly (not a guiding principle but a truism):

10) the size of a garden is inversely proportional to one’s distance from the ground (Craig’s maxim).


HOURS: The garden is open to the public on Sundays,

from 12:00 – 5:00 PM.

(Please see Garden Clubs and Workshop sections for other arrangements)

We have never charged a fee for visiting the gardens on Sunday afternoons when it is always open to the public; HOWEVER, beginning with 2017 we are asking for a contribution of $5 per person to visit the garden and $10 per person if you join one of the scheduled and guided tours (at 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM). 

We welcome you to come and visit.

You are welcome to wander at your leisure.

We are also happy to walk along, answer questions, and hold forth on gardening during guided tours that are available at 2 and 4 PM.

Please plan to visit when you can take the time to look at details as many of our plants are rare and unusual and deserve more than a cursory glance.

We ask that you keep animals in the car park area and small children under control.

We ask that you not smoke on the property (except downwind, on the periphery).

The grounds are not level and all the pathways are grass or gravel and therefore uneven.

Most of the garden is not wheelchair accessible although we will make every effort to assist anyone who wants to see it to do so.

We ask that you keep to the pathways; you never know what may be waiting under the soil in the blank spot you were ready to step on.

Most of the plants are not labeled; this is neither a botanic garden nor do we want to resemble a pet cemetery, but we do provide plant lists and are happy to identify plants for you.

The garden is, we hope, as any decent garden – a work in progress and planting, replanting, moving, trimming, etc. are happening throughout the season.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a bottle of water for yourself, and some mosquito repellant is not a bad idea (they are usually not bad, if at all, but you never know).

We ask that you respect the privacy of the home.

Thank you in advance for visiting and your cooperation.