If people hurry, they can catch Five Rivers MetroParks’ Aullwood Garden in a gorgeous sea of blues, purples and yellows as spring’s most beautiful performance is underway.
Aullwood Garden MetroPark, located at 955 Aullwood Road in Dayton, has a narrow, mile-long garden path that weaves through the gardens, woods and prairie. Along the path, visitors can wonder at the spring wildflowers and, most famously, Virginia bluebells, which are currently at their “peak,” according to Betty Hoevel, Five Rivers adult education supervisor.
The park was the home of conservationists Marie and John Aull, where they spent much of their marriage gardening in the woods in the early to mid 1900s. After John’s death in 1955, Marie donated their property to the National Audubon Society, and it would eventually be dedicated to the Dayton community for generations of resident naturalists to enjoy.
Marie died in 2002 at the age of 105. Today, many people consider her the godmother of the environmental movement in southwestern Ohio, according to Five Rivers naturalists.
“They (John and Marie) lived here year-round, and they discovered there were things they didn’t have in common,” Kimberly Ballweg, Five Rivers MetroParks horticulture technician. “John loved horses, and Marie wasn’t comfortable with that. She liked golf and that wasn’t really his game.”
However, both shared a love of gardening and wildflowers as well as a passion for conserving nature for future generations. Between their world travels and adventures, the Aulls began collecting and planting their garden.
“It wasn’t really formal or planned, they just started building the garden,” Ballweg said. “So what we have today is the life work of John and Marie Aull.”
Aullwood Garden is the only Five Rivers park that does not allow dogs. Five Rivers’ preservation of the property is deeply-rooted in the couple’s wishes for the land. Due to the fact that Marie wanted their home to be a tranquil space, the park is meant to be visited in a peaceful manner.
The vision of Aullwood as a serene place is the reason why visitors won’t find bright-red spring blooms. Instead, Marie wanted their garden to wash people in the calming presence of more cool-colored plant species.
How long the bluebells stay in bloom depends on the weather, but generally will be around for about three weeks. If it stays cooler, the blooms could be around until the end of April.
Bluebells are associated with the United Kingdom’s “ancient woodlands” where it’s said that folk tales began, according to woodlandtrust.org. For centuries, bluebells have been an ancient woodland indicator species in the UK.
Thousands of miles away from the nearest ancient woodland in the UK, Aullwood Garden’s forest floor is similarly blanketed by the bluebells — blurring the hiker’s horizon view into shades of deep blue and purple.
A closer examination of the bluebells will reveal that some of the blooms have turned pink, a signal to bees that this flower has already been pollinated.
The magic of the bluebells only happens for a short time each spring and is a sight to behold for all nature lovers.
“The diverse habitats of this intimate park along Wiles Creek make it a great place for nature study, discovering shade gardening, birding, relaxing and observing butterflies,” according to Five Rivers MetroParks website. “Today, something is in flower most of the year, with spring showcasing masses of daffodils and Virginia bluebells, followed by the fragrant and floriferous Lilac Lawn in May and red buds and peonies in June.”