I come from a long line of people with green thumbs, so when my wife and I bought a home a few years back, my first thoughts were about what we could do with the backyard. We have a pretty clear division of labor: I grow the food, she grows the flowers (though she gets the tomatoes and herbs, too). We’ve made a big difference in the all-grass yard, thanks in large part to the huge variety of plants available at Ohio’s specialty nurseries.
The nursery industry in Ohio is big business, with the largest concentration in eastern Lake County, east of Cleveland. Chances are, if you’re in the eastern U.S. and have bought a shrub or tree, it came from this small strip of sandy soil on Lake Erie’s south shore.
Bluestone Perennials, in my hometown of Madison, is the giant among these nurseries. Shipping more than 3 million plants a year, Bluestone has the ability to bring an unmatchable variety to market. My yard doesn’t get a lot of sun, and I’ve found a lot of interesting shade plants at Bluestone that I’ve never seen elsewhere. Japanese anemones are a favorite for fall blooms. Best of all, every year, the nursery has a end-of-spring clearance sale than brings people from hundreds of miles away.
When I’m getting ready to plant my vegetable garden, Baker’s Acres, in Alexandria, northeast of Columbus, is my go-to nursery. Because my yard is small, I tend to grow things I can’t buy at the store. Baker’s Acres never disappoints with its variety of veggies. This year, I found purple tomatillos, ground cherries, Bulgarian carrot hot peppers, Jarrahdale blue squash, green eggplant and tons more. The atmosphere at Baker’s Acres is very relaxed and casual – you’ll definitely have fun here.
Quailcrest Farms in Wooster is right on the edge of Amish Country. On beautifully manicured grounds among rolling hills, Quailcrest has an enormous selection of herbs. Before I visited, I had no idea that there are more than 40 kinds of mint – but you can be sure I smelled every one of them. Their Spring Garden Fair lines up nicely with Bluestone’s sale, and is a great place to pick up garden art while browsing the plant selection.
The great thing about these nurseries is that they do mail-order business in addition to their on-site sales. You do really need to visit to find exactly what you need, but if you’re planning on taking a longer trip, the nurseries can ship your plants back home to you while you enjoy the rest of Ohio.
What’s your favorite thing to grow, and what nursery do you find it at?