When I arrived at the Toledo Botanical Gardens I saw buildings that looked like little houses and my first thought was, “I would totally live in a botanical garden!” It turns out, they are for the resident organizations. There are 19 independent associations housed in the gardens focusing on the arts, horticulture and conservation.
Then I was thrilled to find out that I was visiting the Toledo Botanical Gardens during ZimSculpt exhibition. According to the website, ZimSculpt is a Harare Zimbabwe – based organization that “showcases the creative and cultural work of local sculptors in exclusive exhibitions around the world”. I try to find something artsy in every city I visit. So, honestly, I was surprised at how moved I was by this exhibit. It was very special for me, to see African Art brought to the Americas in an exhibit and the artists appreciated not exploited. Plus many of the sculptures reminded me of the full-figured renaissance images. In a world of double zero models and mannequin-like shapes it was nice to see these real-life size figures. One section seemed to be devoted to women with names like “Creation” depicting a pregnant woman, “Widow” and “My Beautiful Children” There was also abstract art. My favorite piece was “Change of Plan”.
There were several artists in residence. One of the artists was there working on a piece when I arrived. There are also pieces available for sale benefiting both the artists and Toledo GROWs. The exhibit runs from September 2 – October 30, 2017. The exhibit travels. If you miss it at the botanical gardens check their website for the next location: https://zimsculpt.com/
As I walked further into the 66-acre property I realized how easy I could be to get lost. It seemed like there were gardens with in gardens. At one point, I felt like I was in a maze and then I come across these sculptures that appeared to be floating on water. It took me a minute to see the base on which they were resting. The pieces were delicate, quite lovely and I suddenly I was not worried about whether I was lost or not I was just enjoying the moment (in all honesty I think getting lost is half the fun, but if you don’t they have maps).
There is gazebo on the grounds and it is no surprise that while looking through the website I learned that the gardens are available as a wedding venue and event rental. Near the gazebo is the Grand Allee which was installed in 1995. These trees surround a large grassy area on the south side of the garden that ends at the gazebo.
I liked that there were signs to identify most of the plant life. Some of the names were fun, like the “double knock out” rose (roses are my favorite, of course). Unfortunately, those roses were not blooming on the day I visited. October may not the ideal time of year to see everything in bloom. It looked like things had trimmed back for the winter, which made me a little sad, but then I come across some beautiful mums and these awesome Monarch butterflies. The Monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico every winter and back north in the spring. I love flowers and butterflies, especially Monarchs, so seeing them together made my day!
As of this post the Toledo Botanical Gardens are open daily and FREE to the public, you can’t beat that! The gardens include:
- a visitor center
- public sculpture park
- water fountain
- a rose garden
- a community garden
- a research and demonstration green house
There are also a variety of activities available such as art and environmental classes, concerts and family oriented weekend activities. The annual Crosby Festival of the Arts is Ohio’s oldest (over 50 years) outdoor juried art festival. The two day fine art show takes place in June.
I am not sure if you could see everything the gardens have to offer in one day. I certainly could not cover the whole park in the few hours I was there. I think you could visit over and over and each experience would be unique.
Harrison Franklin would certainly agree. I met Harrison while I was taking pictures of the mums and the butterflies. He has been photographing the gardens for 43 years and he’s taken over 100,000 pictures. When he saw my excitement over the butterflies, he stopped to tell me about another place he thought I would enjoy, The Butterfly House. Part of Wheeler Farms, The Butterfly House is located about 20 miles away in Whitehouse, OH. As it turns out it does not fit into my itinerary for this trip, but it’s one to add to the list if I come through the Toledo area again. Since Harrison was using a digital camera, he also shared some of his favorite images of the day, which were beautiful. I love chatting with locals. It’s always interesting to meet new people. They often have suggestions for places to visit that I would not have thought to look for on my own.
The Toledo Botanical gardens continue to grow, no pun intended, and evolve. This year, 2017, they created The Garden’s Discovery Trail. Per the website, “the Trail invites children and their families to explore the garden through ‘playable places’ and playable moments.’ Using natural materials and the garden’s everchanging landscape, emphasis is on encouraging hands-on-experiences and discovery through play.” I went to many hands-on kid friendly exhibits when I was growing up. It was one of the things that developed my curiosity and appreciation for art and science. So, I think this is a great addition and the gardens are definitely worth going to see the next time you are in the area.
For more information on the Toledo Botanical Garden check out their website: http://www.toledogarden.org/