Upper Arlington News

Thompson Park garden earns national acclaim

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A Thompson Park garden established to memorialize three Upper Arlington residents has earned a national landscape design award.

At an Aug. 1 symposium held in Cincinnati, the National Perennial Plant Association, based in Hilliard, honored the Thompson Perennial Garden with its Merit Award for Landscape Design.

Award recipients were chosen from entries from the PPA's seven regions, which span the U.S. and include Canada.

The Merit Award for Landscape Design annually recognizes exemplary use of herbaceous perennials to help create balanced and beautiful landscapes.

"I was thrilled to see Thompson Garden win the Merit Award from the Perennial Plant Association 2014 Landscape Design Contest," city horticulturalist Lisa Metcalf said. "I'm humbled and proud. It's quite an honor.

"While our sponsorship-based beautification program has received numerous grants, this is the first time I've entered one of our city gardens in the PPA design contest," she said. "Therefore, this is our first garden design award of its kind."

The Thompson Perennial Garden was established at the park in 2008. It was the dream of Jenny Lou Renkert, and honors her late husband, George F. Renkert, and Jane and Jack Heintz, former Upper Arlington residents who died in 2006 and 2003, respectively.

The garden was funded by the George F. Renkert Memorial Fund of the Upper Arlington Community Foundation.

Situated in the southwest corner of Thompson Park, near the intersection of Woodbridge and McCoy roads, the garden was designed around the wishes of Jenny Lou Renkert, Metcalf said.

It features 11 species of long-blooming perennials that are massed and repeated "for maximum drive-by appeal," Metcalf added.

"Many species in the garden have fragrant flowers or foliage as well as superior textural elements," she said. "(The city's) Parks and Forestry (Division) installed much of the garden, bench, boulders and limestone wall.

"A landscape contractor was hired to install the paver patio and path. The garden was installed and dedicated in 2008. The garden is a favorite of park visitors and a colorful highlight for the busy intersection."

After its installation, the garden was maintained by the parks and forestry staff.

However, the division's staff has been reduced by 60 percent over recent years and now the garden is cared for as part of a yearly maintenance contract the city finances.

"I handle contract specifications and supervision for private landscape contractors that now do a bulk of the maintenance," Metcalf said. "The most time-consuming garden chores occur in early spring, when all the perennials are cut to the ground.

"Some time is spent cleaning up and rejuvenating perennials mid-summer," she added. "Supplemental watering is only necessary in very dry weather. Otherwise, weeding is the main maintenance task."

While Metcalf has long envisioned entering the Thompson Perennial Garden in the PPA contest, she noted it took several years for its flowers to fully grow and bloom in order to compete with gardens around the U.S. and Canada.

She said the PPA award is special because it confirms the quality of the design that she and Jenny Lou Renkert developed, and she hopes it's the first of many awards Upper Arlington's city gardens receive in the future.

"It's great recognition for the city, Parks and Recreation and our beautification program," she said.

The public is invited to celebrate the garden and its PPA award during a Sept. 8 Garden Party, slated for 4:30 p.m. at Thompson Perennial Garden. Light refreshments will be served.

"The upcoming garden party is a fabulous way to celebrate the success of the garden," she said. "Jenny Lou Renkert is not just the sponsor of the garden, she was the visionary and she is very proud of the award.

"Those that enjoy the garden and even those that have never seen it should attend the party and get to know our quaint little garden at the southwest corner of Thompson Park."

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