Ohio Blooms Have Deep Roots

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Ohio is a place that grows all sorts of flowers very well, and this is the best time of the year to see many of them. And there is nothing new about the horticultural predilections of many of the people in the Buckeye State.

Ohio was first and foremost an agricultural state in its early history. And despite the growth of industry and commerce over the past hundred years, it still is.

The people who came to Ohio in its early years brought with them agricultural traditions that were already centuries old when America was young. And with the growing of corn and wheat and livestock came a horticultural tradition as well.

Many of the original land grants in the Ohio country stipulated that the owners of the new land were obliged to not only clear the forests away. They had also agreed to plant orchards and gardens as well.

Much of southern Ohio was settled by people from the South who brought their favorite fruit trees with them – not realizing that life is often a little cooler north of the Ohio River. One early settler remembered riding through an orchard of peach trees whose fruit had not survived the vagaries of Spring in Ohio and now lay rotting on the ground. He said later that he would never forget the smell of peaches in a new place.

Eventually it became clear that apples were a fruit that could thrive quite well in Ohio. A lot of this was due to the efforts a man named John Chapman who came to be called “Johnny Appleseed.” Preaching equally the benefits of apple cultivation and the Swedenborgian religion, Chapman was probably the most persuasive single proponent of popular pomology in early Ohio.

But he was not the only innovator.

Alexander Livingston of Reynoldsburg was convinced he could produce a tomato of consistently good quality. After fifteen years of experimentation he succeeded in 1864 and transformed America’s vegetable preferences,

In order to share information one with another about both floriculture and horticulture, a number of men – and gardening was a masculine undertaking in those days – gathered together in 1845 and formed the Franklin County Horticultural Society. In the next year, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill permitting counties to hold a county fair if they wished to do so. In 1851, a Franklin County Agricultural Society held a fair on the State Fairgrounds in what is now the Franklinton neighborhood west of the downtown.

In 1852, the Society bought eight acres of land of its own along Alum Creek and held a second county fair. Although their fairgrounds became the state fairgrounds as well for a time, the Franklin County Fair began a tradition of horticulture, floriculture and agriculture that continues to the present day.

Over the years, Columbus and central Ohio have seen a large number of groups interested in growing better flowers, fruits and other vegetation. They gather together for all sorts of reasons – but among them continue to be a few simple truths – Peonies are pretty and Apples don’t taste bad at all.