In the 1930s, Van Wert, Ohio became known as The Peony Capitol of the World, due to the large number of commercial peony farms in the area. Each year, a festival was held, with a major parade and the crowning of Queen Jubilee, so named for the 'Jubilee' peony that was grown in the Van Wert area.
During World War II, the festival was discontinued, but was resurrected in 1955 and held annually on the first weekend of June until it was once again discontinued in 1960. While peonies are no longer produced commercially in Van Wert, the festival was begun again in 1992.
Today, I met my girlfriend Jane in Fountain Park to partake of a couple of this year's festival activities. We walked up Jefferson Street to tour three gardens that were opened to the public for their annual Home Garden and Landscaping Tour.
We started with the gardens of Dave and Janice Kirchenbauer, which I have toured previously. I'm not sure how old their home is, but the original owners planted a Chinese Tree Peony, the first in Van Wert County, in 1917. The peony still grows there today! Their gardens are young, but very pretty, and I especially liked the shade garden.
The second home on the tour was that of Jeff and Diane Hood.
The first floor of their 1901 home was open for visitation as well, and it had much of the original beautiful wood trimmings.
The gardens surrounding the home were some of the most manicured I've ever seen. While I could never accomplish this in my own gardens, just seeing these gave me a sense that all was right with the world. I'll bet the insides of their drawers and cupboards are just as neat. There's something calming about seeing such neatness and order like that.
Third to be visited was the home of Deb Lehman. I attended high school with Deb at Wayne Trace in the early '70s and had not seen her in many, many years.
She lives in a brick house that I've always admired and she's cultivated the grounds in a way that's very complimentary to the style of the house. We chatted for some time and she mentioned that she'd like to come see my gardens, so maybe I'll see her again this summer.
Jane and I then walked back to Fountain Park, where Artrageous! was being held.
This is a high quality art fair and I could have spent a month's worth of pay with very little effort. Watercolors, pottery, jewelry, and unique garden decor items were all tempting me. I did succumb to a pair of dragonfly earrings, as well as a set of raku refrigerator magnets and a pottery bowl with a small wooden spreader that I'll use for dips or a cheese ball.
Jane needed to leave, so we parted with a hug and I headed out to the Extension Office at the fairgrounds, where the flower show was being held at 1:00. It was just a little after 12:00 and the judging was still taking place, so I wasn't able to see much. Mom is an accredited judge and she was doing her thing. I glanced around a bit, but didn't stay long, as I didn't want to disturb the judging.
There were two other homes on the garden tour, but they were located in northern Van Wert County, so I went to those on my way home. I first stopped at Lincoln Ridge Farms, which are owned by Jeff and Cathy Thomas.
This is also home to Lincoln Candle Company and I bought their peony-scented one called "Van Wert Peony Festival." I've given one of these to several out-of-town guests as a memento of their visit here. The candle company and the farms are so named because they're located just off of historic Lincoln Highway, the first highway to cross the entire United States.
While the candle barn and the surrounding area are charming, what I really enjoyed was the Serenity Garden. Cathy took me on a personal tour of this peaceful woodland treasure that she and Jeff have created as a little hideaway. Cathy likes to see things growing in a natural type setting and this accomplishes that in a wonderful way. If I lived here, I'd spend lots of time in this garden, as Jeff and Cathy do.
Before I left for the final stop on the garden tour, I picked out a Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguineus) plant to take with me. Every time I ever see this plant in a garden center, I contemplate purchasing it and never do. To prevent this from happening again, today I bought it. Now I don't have to worry about that anymore!
A few miles away was the home of Tom and Leann Gordon. In their back yard is seven acres of an abandoned stone quarry.
This makes a beautiful pond/lake setting for them, as it's wooded all around. There is a woodland trail leading to a restful lookout over the water with a bench for sitting. Today, there was a nice breeze blowing there, which felt great, considering the temperature was in the low 90s.
They have several small gardens around the property, each named for their grandchildren. An absolutely gorgeous waterfall is named Bailey Falls because it was constructed for and used during the baptism of their granddaughter, Bailey. Tom has large bins where he grows things like strawberries, onions, and gourds which he hopes to use to make Purple Martin houses.
I ran into my cousin Vickie and her daughter as I was leaving for home. I haven't seen her in a long time and we had a nice chat. I continued out the driveway and around the south end of the pond, where I stopped to take a picture of the stunning Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria) plants in full bloom. I hope mine look like that someday!
Once I got home, we had to get ready to go to Adam's brother's graduation party over near Defiance. We went to Lowe's to pick up a few things and of course, I had to go through the garden center. I found an absolutely gorgeous variegated lacecap hydrangea that was screaming "Buy me!" so I did. I also got a Purple Bell Vine (Rhodochiton atrosanguineum) that I'd seen a couple of weeks ago. It's Jodi's fault that I bought that one, since she mentioned it in her blog that it was one of her favorite vines shortly after I saw it the first time.
So that was my wonderful day, and it had a pretty good end to it, too. WE GOT RAIN.