Green Sanctuary Ohme Gardens An Enchanted Retreat Above Wenatchee
Like soft frosting on a chocolate cake, the creeping greenery of the Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee drips over a rugged promontory of solid rock that looms above the Wenatchee River.
In 1929, orchardists Hugh and Herman Ohme stood on the bluff that edged their orchard and decided to create a small private garden for their family to use as a hideaway.
One shovel full of dirt led to another, and for 10 years the Ohmes carried in enough soil to nurture a variety of ground covers and thousands of trees.
Piece by piece, flagstone was laid into winding paths and stone stairways. Plants native to the area were introduced to soften the gray of the flagstone. Huge rock outcroppings did not stymie the gardeners. Instead, they incorporated them into their landscape plan and today visitors are greeted with a different scene each time they round another rugged boulder.
By 1939 the Ohmes were so involved in making their garden grow that they leased their orchard and devoted all their time to expanding the garden. They opened it to the public, and the number of visitors has increased each year.
I visited the gardens when the temperature in central Washington was 95 degrees, and entered an unbelievably cool green world. A darkly shaded path overhung with trees and bordered by ferns led onto a grassy area.
I was warned not to expect splashes of blooming flowers in the Ohme Gardens. Instead, the emphasis on the entire nine acres of plantings is subdued. Pools of blue-green water filled by trickling waterfalls lie peacefully amid the green, irregularly shaped lawns that are shaded by evergreen trees and gray rock outcroppings.
I was glad that I wore my walking shoes. The rock steps lead steeply up and down to each new vista, and I found myself panting for breath on several occasions. Fortunately, the Ohmes realized that the climbs were vigorous, and provided stone benches at strategic points.
It was a pleasure to rest at spots that overlooked the river, the valley or the distant Cascade mountains. I looked in vain for garden caretakers and decided that elves must pull weeds and sweep pathways after the garden gates close at dusk. The casual, wild look of the plantings bespeak the hours that must be spent manicuring the plants and lawns.
In the early 1970s, the Ohmes’ children, Gordon and Carol, took over the responsibility for the gardens. However, illness and a lack of family resources to perpetuate the garden for future generations forced the younger Ohmes to make some changes.
The Washington State Parks Commission came to the rescue and purchased the gardens in 1991. Today the gardens are managed by Chelan County, but the Ohmes continue to advise the park administrator.
If you dream of wandering down a garden path with nothing more important on your mind than breathing cool fresh air and gazing at drifting clouds, the Ohme Gardens beckon you.
Allow a couple of hours for your stroll. The pathways add up to about a mile overall. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to wander lazily in a green enchanted world.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: If you go Ohme Gardens are located three miles north of Wenatchee near the junction of Highways 2 and 97. The gardens are open April 15-Oct. 15, seven days a week. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; spring and fall (after Labor Day) hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 7 to 17. For more information, call (509) 662-5785.
This sidebar appeared with the story: If you go Ohme Gardens are located three miles north of Wenatchee near the junction of Highways 2 and 97. The gardens are open April 15-Oct. 15, seven days a week. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; spring and fall (after Labor Day) hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 7 to 17. For more information, call (509) 662-5785.