GAMBIER — Area residents will have the opportunity to savor a sense of the Orient when Ted and Ann Schnormeier open acres of Asian-inspired gardens for free, public, self-guided tours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 6 though June 10.
Ted Schnormeier said there are a number of things that contribute to making a visit to the gardens a spiritual, emotional and visual experience.
“First of all,” he said, “in the 75 acres, the elevation changes approximately 100 feet, so you have a very interesting piece of terrain.”
Water is the second major element; still water as well as moving water. “We’ve got 10 lakes, numerous bridges, running streams and a waterfall,” said Schnormeier. “We pump nearly 3 million gallons of water a day.”
The third element is structure. “We brought in 5,000 tons of stone, which is hundreds of semi-trailer loads,” he said. “The stone gives the structure, the skeleton, the backbone and the bones of the garden.”
The fourth element is the flora. Schnormeier said, “The plantings are unique. We have a world class collection of rare conifers. We have a tremendous variety of plantings, but no annuals and very few blooming perennials. It’s trees. It’s shrubs or leafy plants, like hostas, grown for their color and texture.”
Another element is the architecture. The house, in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, is the architectural anchor. Then visitors can experience structures such as a Chinese pavilion, Japanese teahouse, Japanese resting house and garden gate.
Finally, 50 pieces of unique, commissioned sculpture adorn the grounds.
Schnormeier said there is no admission charge to view the gardens and no reservations are required. Dogs are not welcome, because, he said, “this is not a dog park.”
The gardens, said Schnormeier, are probably not a good place for people who are not ambulatory: “It is very hilly and there are no hard-surfaced paths. There are no steps; the hills can be long and steep and without a hard surfaced path, it’s very difficult.”
A small army of volunteers will greet guests at the welcome center and serve as parking attendants. Last year, Schnormeier said, nearly 8,000 individuals toured the gardens during the open house.
“We’ve had people from 10 countries and 20 states,” he said. “Besides holding benefit tours for entities such as Habitat for Humanity, we’ve hosted a considerable number of national organizations. This year, the American Public Garden Association is having their national meeting in Columbus and our garden is one of the few featured tours for that national meeting. These are the pros in the business. ... We tend to get a lot of recognition for a country place of amateur gardeners.
“It’s all Asian-inspired, but we’re not trying to do anything by a strict formula. We try and give a flavor of Asia right here in central Ohio. ... We have a lot of Asian people who come through and think it’s very authentic. They get a little sentimental; it reminds them of home.”
To reach Schnormeier Gardens from Mount Vernon, travel east on Ohio 229 to Laymon Road. Turn right [south] onto Laymon Road. The gardens are 1 1/2 miles on the right.